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How To Deal With Bar Exam Stress

January 5, 2024
5 min read


Reviewed by:

David Merson

Former Head of Pre-Law Office, Northeastern University, & Admissions Officer, Brown University

Reviewed: 1/5/24

If you’re feeling the pre-bar exam nerves, we are here to help! Continue reading as we share some helpful tips on how to manage your bar exam stress. 

The bar exam may be one of the most important exams aspiring lawyers ever take. With this in mind, it is no surprise that graduate students dread the bar exam. 

Your pre-exam nerves can be pretty taxing on your overall well-being. The bar exam is notoriously difficult, so it's no surprise that many people feel the stress months before they’re due to even take the bar. 

Keep reading for the best strategies to combat your UBE stress. 

Common Causes of Stress

Stressed female student working on computer

Let’s begin by breaking down what makes this exam so stressful:

The Fear of Failure

The stakes are high with the bar exam, serving as the ultimate gateway into the legal profession. It represents the final piece of the puzzle before certification, marking the transition from simply studying law to practicing it. 

For many students, failure is simply not an option. After dedicating years to graduating on time to join the field as soon as possible, passing on the first try seems imperative, which can cause significant pressure and stress. Many students also fear that they will never pass the exam, which can lead to uncertainty about their future. 

The Extensive Content Covered on the Exam

The bar exam is comprehensive, which is why it’s 12 hours long, split over two days. This can be overwhelming for students. They often worry they haven’t prepared enough, have missed crucial topics, or have overloaded on information, causing retention problems. 


Bar exam preparation can be extremely lonely! You’ll be dedicating months to your studies, missing out on social events, and likely spending a lot of time alone. This can lead to feelings of isolation. A lack of a support system can further intensify your stress levels.

Recognizing the Signs of Stress 

Stressed female student sitting on floor

Differentiating between ordinary test jitters and harmful stress can be difficult. Here are some telltale signs of stress that requires intervention:

  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Changes in appetite
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Increased irritability or frustration
  • Fatigue and low energy
  • Mood swings
  • Social withdrawal 
  • Consistent procrastination

Tips To Reduce Bar Exam Stress

With a better understanding of the causes of your stress and the key signs to watch for, here are essential tips for effectively managing it:

1. Be Prepared and Know What To Expect 

The best way to manage your bar exam stress is to be prepared and ready to take the exam. 

A lot of pre-test nerves stem from worries about not doing well on the test. The best way to manage your stress is to know what to expect. 

Talk to professors or peers who have taken the bar exam about their experience, and look online for bar exam resources. There are so many practice tests and exam outlines online. 

You can also look into statistics and other information about the bar exam in your state. Some states are known to have harder bar exams than others. Don’t worry if your state is on this list. Knowing what to expect is key to doing well on the bar.  

2. Figure Out Your Study Style 

This tip may seem a bit weird, but catering your studying to a method that actually works for you is super important. 

If you are studying in a way that doesn’t really work for you, you’re not really getting a lot of your study sessions. You may start to dread studying even more and avoid it. 

There is no right or wrong way to study. Some people like self-studying, and some people find they are most productive when they study with friends. 

3. Surround Yourself With Supportive People

Our relationships with family and friends can be complicated. As you are preparing for one of the most important exams of your career, those around you should be supportive of you. 

Surround yourself with supportive people who want to see you succeed. Being around negative people, especially in an already stressful time, has the potential to stress you out even more. 

4. Avoid Intensive Last-Minute Review 

Create a bar exam study plan that works for your schedule and gives you a lot of time to prepare. Cramming in last-minute studying can be overwhelming and more stressful than helpful. 

There is a ton of material and topics covered on the bar exam. Frankly, there is no way to memorize any significant amount of information within a day or two before the exam. So, it’s best to avoid attempting to do this altogether. 

Pre-test nerves can be difficult to manage and give us last-minute anxiety that we are totally unprepared. However, remember that if you’ve consistently studied for the exam, you’ve done all the work you need to be prepared for the exam. 

5. Takes Lots of Study Breaks

Your brain and your eyes need to rest too. Taking appropriate breaks will increase your productivity and energy levels. Productivity means you can make the most of your study time and feel confident that you are comprehending the materials. 

As well, feeling productive will likely reduce some bar exam anxiety, as you will feel prepared and knowledgeable.

6. Reach Out For Help 

There are tons of online resources and help for you to prepare for and deal with UBE stress. For example, there are blogs where previous law students and people who have taken the bar share tips on what worked for them. If you are comfortable, feel free to comment on or engage with these blog posts online. 

Reach out to friends and peers who may be going through the same thing as well. There is likely a club or student association that you can join and connect with others preparing to take the bar. You can all share ways you have been managing your stress levels. You don’t have to struggle with your stress on your own. 

Additionally, there are a lot of free online practice tests and quizzes to gauge where you are in your preparation. 

If you are still feeling overwhelmed and alone and are unsure where to start, consider booking a session with an experienced UBE tutor.  

7. Eat Well and Exercise 

Taking care of yourself mentally and physically will help you manage your stress. Our physical health and mental health go hand-in-hand. Feeling good physically is great for morale as well. When you feel good, you will feel energized and motivated.

8. Make Studying Fun!

As you prepare for the bar exam, try adding in some fun. This could be studying with a group of friends and making a game out of it, or making colorful study cards. 

Having fun can also include scheduling rewards for yourself after you’ve finished reviewing an intense chapter or acing a practice test. Go to the movies or out for dinner at your favorite place! Keep up your spirits and prevent the bar exam from completely dominating your life.  

Rewarding yourself for your hard work reduces stress, enriches your personal life, and makes preparation less intimidating. The more fun you have, the more likely you are to be excited to study. 

FAQs: Bar Exam Stress

We answer some frequently asked questions about managing bar exam stress below. 

1. How Do You Deal With Bar Exam Stress?

There are many things you can do to deal with your exam stress. 

One of the major ways to minimize your stress is to take care of yourself. You cannot do well on the exam if you are sick or burnt out. Lack of sleep and feeling unwell can increase your stress and make it harder for you to manage your nerves and anxiety. 

Make sure to follow at least some of our suggestions as well. While some may seem like minor things to do, they will really help you if you practice them. 

2. How Do You Mentally Prepare for the Bar Exam?

Taking care of yourself is the best way to prepare for the bar exam. Taking lots of breaks, staying hydrated, eating well, and getting enough sleep will do wonders in helping you manage your stress. 

It is good to remember that your law career is not over if you fail the bar. You have a few options to pick from if you do fail, so don’t panic!

3. Should You Study the Day Before the Bar Exam?

No, you should avoid studying the day before test day. Studying the day before can often spike bar exam anxiety. 

You won’t memorize or understand anything significant the day before the exam, so it’s in your best interest to just take the day before to relax to make sure you go into the exam feeling rested with fresh eyes. 

Final Thoughts

The bar exam is no joke; it causes great stress for aspiring lawyers. Hopefully, the tips we shared are useful to you in handling your bar exam stress. Familiarizing yourself with the expectations, planning out a study schedule that works for you, and practicing self-care will do wonders for managing bar exam anxiety. 

Your J.D. has been preparing you with the foundational knowledge needed to pass the bar, so you’re not going in blind. You know more than you think you do, and with consistent studying, you will do fine. Just make sure to add in some fun once in a while!

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