Avoiding July Panic: Three Tips To Calm Down Now

“Time keeps on slipping, slipping…into the future.” In the great words of the Steve Miller Band, as the bar exam approaches time seems to slip away. After July 4, many bar takers begin to feel the squeeze of time and start to panic, fearing they are not where they “should” be with bar study. Although I can’t turn back the clock, I can offer a few tips to help you mitigate July bar exam panic.

1. Stop Crying Over Spilled MBEs

Panic comes from believing that (1) you haven’t done enough, and (2) you can’t get it all done in the time remaining. So to get rid of panic, you must first get comfortable with where you are today.

If you are a perfectionist like me, getting comfortable with your current progress probably feels about as easy as wiggling your ears. But the honest truth is that where you are is where you are, period. You can’t go back, you can only go forward.

So stop focusing on what you didn’t do or how you didn’t follow the pace schedule (which is basically impossible), and start figuring out what you will do between now and the exam.

2. Respect the Calendar

In early July, most everyone worries that they can’t get it all done in the time remaining. If this is true for you, your best friend should be your calendar. Take the fears out of your head and figure out how to mitigate them. You can’t manufacture more time, but you can plan how you will use the rest of your time wisely.

Even if you already have a schedule, create a new from scratch. List everything you still have to cover, memorize, and practice and then create a new plan of action using your calendar. Make your plan realistic and include breaks and days off. Plan everything up to the first day of the exam, including when you will stop memorizing new information, stop quizzing yourself, and what days you will take off.

Then once you have your plan of action, stop judging yourself about it. You will probably never feel like you know enough. You will probably never feel 100% confident. Everyone is in the same boat, so stop worrying about it. Just keep your head down, follow the plan, and focus on what’s important – memorizing, practicing, and preparing.

3. Stop Comparing Yourself to Others

This is one of the hardest hurdles bar students face. Most law schools condition you to compare yourselves to your peers using grades and jobs. But when you study for the bar, there are no real standards of comparison until you actually take the exam and pass or fail.

With a tendency to compare and no real standards of comparison, you use only what you have – what other people tell you about how much they’ve studied, how many MBE’s they’ve done, and how many note cards they’ve made. I remember in prep class, every morning the guy sitting in front of me would rattle off how many note cards he’d already made and how many pages of outlines he had created. Guess what…he didn’t pass.

Everyone learns differently. What’s good for the guy in front of you in prep class may not be good for you. Even worse, many people lie or exaggerate because they feel behind themselves. So stop talking to people about what they’re doing or how much they’ve done by now. Stop reading posting boards and blogs that tell you how much you should have accomplished by now. None of it matters. Trust your calendar. If people talk to you, just let it go in one ear and out the other. Don’t let anything take your eye off the ball.

Time will keep on slipping into the future from now until the bar exam. You can’t go back. You can only go forward the best way you know how. So take a deep breath, get out your calendar and be realistic about where you are and how you will get it done. Then just take that schedule one hour at a time and focus on what’s important. Soon this panic will just be a funny memory as you sip your champagne and read your name on the pass list.

Want to learn how to handle test day panic or anxiety? Lauren Fire is the founder of the Mind Over Bar Course, an innovative brain strategy course that focuses only on the mental challenges of the bar exam. The course teaches in-the-moment practices you can use to deal with any mental challenge and rock the bar exam.