Bar Exam Memories — and How to Celebrate Until Work Begins

Congratulations to all of the recent JDs finishing up their bar exam today! I thought I’d start an open thread for those of us past the experience to share our stressful memories, as well as to share the fonder memories of the celebrations and relaxations that followed. I’ll start.

I always like to look at this picture, taken of my then-dorm room wall a few weeks before the bar exam. (My DC lease ended in May, but my NYC lease didn’t start until September, so I opted to spend the summer in an NYU dorm.) Along with the few pieces of “artwork” I traveled with and a few pictures of family and friends, you can see that here I’ve also Scotch-taped to the wall all the important things: papers listing important criminal procedure facts, as well as the different levels of murder that one can be charged with under both New York and multi-state law. Or something — I don’t really remember any of it now.

The few memories I have of the exam itself are fairly intense ones. I took all my little Scotch-taped charts with me and hung them around my hotel room in Albany. I even taped them to the bathroom mirror so I could review them while brushing my teeth. Most of my memories are of the hotel room — this dank, horrible hotel room where I was surrounded by my crazy-person papers and the largest ants I had ever seen in my life.  I remember peering into the bathroom mirror (between the papers) and realizing, for the first time, that I could see several gray hairs sticking straight up out of my temple. I was 26. I remember coming back between day 1 and day 2 and trying to relax by renting the frothy teen comedy What a Girl Wants — and I remember hysterically sobbing at one plot point in the movie (a father/daughter disagreement? a misunderstanding? who knows) and knowing that my reaction to the movie was way, way out of proportion to the movie itself. (Honestly, the only thing that can compare to it is my memory of watching The Thornbirds, which is a miniseries made for sobbing anyway.) I remember sitting in a huge auditorium (a football stadium, maybe) and trying my best to remember every piece of information I’d poured into my head, and trying to work some BarBri-sanctioned advice  where they’d told us to guess (C) for every question we were unsure of and then come back to devote more time to the question if and when we could. I also remember booking it out of Albany for the train back to NYC. On the train I found myself surrounded by fellow Bar Survivors, and collectively we broke the rule that you never talk about the substance of a test after you take it.  It was strangely cathartic, like we couldn’t not talk about it. I remember buying a bag of popcorn for the trainride home for “lunch” — when I got to New York I joined some friends who were already celebrating with liquid libations at someone’s apartment, which stands out separately as one of the Most Drunk Nights, ever, in my life.

The next day, horribly hung over, I had about 24 hours to pack up everything and get out of NYU because the summer lease was ending, and also to pack for my bar trip — heading to London and Paris for two weeks to shop. As it turned out this was a fantastically horrible decision — not only was it blisteringly hot, but most of the good shops and restaurants were closed in Paris, it being August and all. It was my first time traveling alone, and I remember really, really enjoying the silence and the chance to empty my head. I remember that when the Blackout of 2003 happened, I was in a Paris hotel room watching the TV news, telling me that my brother in NYC (then in the midst of interview week for his law school), my mother in Cleveland, and my father — in Detroit on business — were all without power. Once I got back to America I spent a few weeks in Ohio with my parents, friends and family there, and then moved to NYC officially, where I had about 2 weeks to settle into my new apartment and catch up with NYC friends.

I remember the day the scores came out, also, huddling over my computer in the early morning hours and feeling vindication when I saw my name.  Take that, gray hairs, I said to myself.  That day at work, my fellow first years and I whispered our relief to one another until we ascertained that everyone had passed, and then the excited buzz grew to a more jovial mood.  That night, it was like our summer all over again — all 50 of us went out to celebrate together.

Readers with JDs, what was your bar exam experience like?  Where did you go on your bar trip?

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  1. Legally Brunette :

    Two neat experiences:

    1. Went to the law school library every day to study for the bar and then later to another room in the building to take the Barbri class. One day, the security guard in front of the library stopped me and said, “You know, I see hundreds of students coming in here every day to study, but you’re the only one who always has a big smile on her face and is always so positive and upbeat. Keep it up, girl.”

    2. I took the CA bar, but was living on the east coast. So when the results were finally posted, it was 8 pm on a Friday night EST. I didn’t want to ruin my plans that night, so I didn’t bother checking my results until several hours later (1 am). Meanwhile, got several frantic voicemails from my mom who was convinced I had failed and that I was too ashamed to call her. No mom, I passed. :) I just didn’t want to deal with checking the results at a time when everyone else was, and having the server crash.

    • Legally Brunette :

      Oh, and another one:

      I stayed with my mom during the exam and had her drop me off at the BART each morning because I was paranoid we would get caught in the traffic if we drove to the exam site. Along with my purse, I carried a brown bag lunch that my mom had lovingly prepared. Between the food and the drop off, I seriously felt like I was back in junior high. :) It was really cute.

    • karenpadi :

      Another bar-pass story. I was in Florida on vacation and my one requirement was access to a computer at 8pm on Friday to check results. My dad booked us in a hotel with one community computer in the middle of the lobby.

      At about 3pm on Friday, he (with the permission of the front desk staff) put a sign on the computer that said “RESERVED at 8PM. CALIFORNIA BAR RESULTS”. Yes, I had an audience. I was so nervous that my dad had to enter in my login information. I passed. Phew!

      • i got my ca bar exam results at a national lawyers convention i was attending. it was either going to be the best or worst decision of my life finding out my bar results surrounded by 2000+ attorneys and judges. when time came for me to check my results, my then-boss gave me a hug and told me to go check. i checked on my iphone (yes, iphone) in the hotel bathroom and i PASSED. my boss was the first person i told (followed by a phone call to my parents, who were also worried that i hadn’t passed because it was 8 pm their time when i called). soon, word spread through the conference that i had passed the bar and a bunch of judges and lawyers i knew came to the hotel bar to congratulate me. one judge and his wife bought me cake to celebrate. everyone tried to get the judge to swear me in to the bar AT THE BAR, but luckily, he didn’t know the oath off the top of his head. the rest of the night was spent in an alcohol-induced haze with my boss ushering me around convention night events and telling everyone i had passed the bar. turns out the decision to find out my bar results at a national lawyers convention was the best decision i ever made.

  2. When I took the bar in Albany (in ’03), my now-husband drove me to and from the hotel to the testing site (Empire State Plaza) and walked around all day while waiting for me to finish. I had lunch with him both days to keep my head together, and he had flowers for me when I finished the 2nd day (I seem to remember weeping when it was finally over.)

    After that we had about 2 weeks to pack up all of our stuff in Connecticut, and move in with my Mom in NYC while we both looked for jobs. We had literally just finished moving all of our stuff in when the power went out.

  3. I also took the exam in Albany and my Dad came with me, which to this day is one of the nicest things he ever has done for me. He made sure I didn’t have to worry about anything- he picked me up for lunch and had checked out places to eat that were further away than most people could walk- and had read all sorts of news and things all morning to make sure he had things to talk about other than the exam. He did the same thing for dinner- and because I was taking it in the Pepsi Center in ’04 WHEN IT WAS FREEZING – he also took me to Walmart to buy every piece of sweatshirt material they had. He then drove me from Albany back to NJ for day three -and did the same thing on repeat on NJ (except that I was staying at my parents house). The night after the NJ bar my mom made my absolute favorite meal- I spent 2 hours on the phone with a friend while she drove back from taking the Mass bar- I floated in the pool and then promptly passed out at around 8pm. Needless to say I have some of the best parents around- because my graduation present from them was my post-bar trip for 10 days to Scotland with my best friend.

  4. Anonymous :

    bar time- worst experience/s of my life.
    passing- priceless.

  5. Bar trip? I’ve never heard of that, but it summarizes the difference in pay rates (or expectations) for lawyers and PhDs pretty well. We often buy a few rounds for advisers, committee members, and grad school colleagues, but always (I think) at the old familiar haunts we’ve visited regularly for the past few years.

    In my case, I picked up my 2-yr-old son from the sitter’s and probably went out to dinner. I honestly can’t remember–we were racing a moving truck from DC to Southern Georgia, stopped in Lexington KY for the dissertation defense, and kept on going. My new job started a few days later.

  6. I am an ’06 grad who did not take a trip after the bar because I didn’t have the money for one. Who has money for an extravagant trip even before they start working? It seems so odd to me.

    • Two cents :

      Those of us who were fortunate enough to go to law school on a scholarship! Thank you, admissions.

    • Did you never have money to take a vacation? Did you ever have a job before/during/after law school? A bar trip need not be crazy expensive and tons of people take them, whether it be on Daddy’s dime or their own hard-earned money. Maybe best to not be judgmental about other’s means.

      • I realize tons of people take bar trips, but I really wish people wouldn’t assume that everyone does, like it’s some kind of automatic part of law school. This is making me feel like some kind of low-rent freak for not having any plans for a bar trip.

        (However I just finished taking it today so I may be overreacting/cranky on the subject!)

    • 0% interest for 12 months credit card. My two week bar trip (went with hubby) was about $5,000, including flights to Africa. Paid it off within 3 months after starting work. This was in 2007, so I wasn’t nervous that anything would happen to my fall Biglaw start date. Splurge? Yes, but we won’t be able to take that kind of time off again for years, and we have incredible memories.

      • I agree – taking a bar trip may not be the most financially responsible thing to do – especially if you’ve already started a family, have a lot of expenses, etc. But – I’m so incredibly glad I took one. I took a bar loan, so used that money to pay for it. Went to South America for 3-4 weeks and started at a big law firm soon after. Never again will I have that much time to take a long trip unless I quit my job, etc. I also LOVE LOVE traveling, so to me the money was worth it.

    • In retrospect, I wish I had taken one. I have been practicing law for 5 years now and have not had a vacation longer than a holiday weekend. It doesn’t seem likely that I’ll get one anytime soon, either. It would definitely have been worth the extra 2K or so on credit cards or bar loan at the time.

    • MaggieLizer :

      I didn’t take a bar trip either and I’m so glad I didn’t. My then-bf and I were both class of 2010; I had a job and he didn’t. I considered putting an extravagant vacation for both of us on my credit card with the understanding that he would help me pay down the card when he could. I didn’t because we had picked out a ring and were trying to save for it and our wedding/honeymoon, and I decided I’d rather take a fabulous honeymoon than a fabulous bar trip.

      Five months later, he had pretty much given up on finding work and wasn’t even volunteering. I never expected that from him – top 10 law school, law review, etc. – and it completely took me by surprise. Now he’s living with his parents and I’m much happier without that frustration in my life. Had I footed the bill for the bar trip, I would have ended up paying for his share of the trip and he would have gotten to go on a great vacation for free. Not going was one of the best financial decisions I’ve ever made.

  7. Any one here taken the Illinois bar? Just curious on how it stacks up compared to other states. Thanks!

    • I have – honestly my experience didn’t seem to be as bad as my friends who took it in other states. i took the exam at northwestern law school which was down the street from where i was living at the time so i was able to walk too and from easily. i appreciated that they set up the exam rooms to mimic law school exams – i was in a room with approx. 30 other people all of whom were also taking their exams on computer and had a pretty chill experience (for the bar exam at least). my only issue was that i unexpectedly got a “visit” in the middle of the afternoon session the second day and was too scared to ask the proctor to access my bag in the front of the room to get any “supplies”. illinois sent us these dire warnings regarding accessing your stuff during the exam (pretty much: if you have anything that could be considered contraband you will be asked to leave and fail the exam. period.). as for the exam, it was hard but my surroundings didn’t add any unnecessary stress so that was nice. i’ve heard horror stories about 1000 bar takers being put in the same room at the state fairgrounds (nc i’m looking at you) so i feel like i got off pretty easy taking it in illinois.

    • Yes. The thing that really sticks in my head is the day of essays. There are, like, 15 potential subjects, but you only have to write 6 essays, and you may end up with more than one essay on the same topic. On the day of the bar, they give you seven essay questions, and then they tell you which one not to answer. My year all the questions had to do with corporate law – and I’m an immigration lawyer who never took a single corporate class in law school. I think we had 2 questions on commercial paper, too.

      It is nice that the exam sites are mostly very comfortable (I took it at UChicago’s b-school, very lush) and in downtown Chicago so you can have your pick of hotels (they guarantee all sites will be within 1 mile of Water Tower). The pass rate is normally around 70%, which isn’t high but isn’t low either.

      It’s possible this has changed since 2006. Also, in 2006, we were still handwriting exams, which sucks for a test that’s almost all essays.

      See my comment above for my own bar experience. I highly recommend staying somewhere comfortable downtown if you can manage it. I was so glad to relax and get room service. I was also glad that I stayed the night after the exam finished so that I could just rest (and not have to worry about checking out in the morning before going to the exam).

    • Long Tall Sally :

      I did, although it was about a million years ago in 1990. It was at the U of C’s 190 Delaware building on the Gold Coast, so there were plenty of good options for lunch and decent places to stay nearby. Two of my friends from law school and I made a pact that we would eat lunch together both days and refrain from discussing or even referring to the exam in any way. That turned out to be a good decision, although I remember sticking both of my fingers in my ears on the way out of the exam site because everyone around me was talking about it – “Hey, what did you put for that agency question?” – when I hadn’t even SPOTTED the agency question. The best piece of advice I can give you is PLAN SOMETHING NICE for right after the exam – drinks, dinner, fun with friends, whatever will help you forget the whole experience. Don’t do what I did, which is go back home and ruminate about the exam, while feeling sorry for myself because I was probably going to flunk and my firm was going to fire me and there was nothing good in my refrigerator and my apartment was a mess and blah blah blah. I passed, and it all was fine, and in retrospect I wish I’d spared myself the self-immolation and gone out and hoisted a few with my pals.

  8. Wow, too much copy editing today: “anyone”

  9. My most vivid memory was having my hands — both of them — literally give out 2 weeks before the bar. Couldn’t even pick up a pencil, let alone write with one. So those precious days 2 weeks before the bar were spent in orthopedic waiting rooms trying to figure out what the heck had happened and — hopefully — get a disability accommodation form signed. Total nightmare.

    Sure enough: the hands still didn’t work for the bar. Had to take it on a computer, which would’ve been a blessing but for the fact that they were so numb I couldn’t feel the home keys (or any other keys, for that matter) well enough to type efficiently. I know I’ve had stress in my life, but that about took the cake.

    Nerves are a weird, wonderful, wacky thing!

    • An older lawyer :

      Similar experience–I took the bar in the (gulp) late ’80s, before computers, and had to use a typewriter because of a neurological problem in my writing hand (which developed, not coincidentally, during law school). When I checked in to take the exam, security had to examine the typewriter and the guy picked up the case, turned it over, and … the typewriter fell out and hit the floor with a sickening crash. My heart stopped and everyone for 10 feet around cringed. We quickly plugged it in and, miraculously, it worked. Thought I was safe…until the elevator stopped mid-floor on the way up to the typing room. Really?? They got it started again within a couple of minutes. All went well, though, and I passed. Still sorry my then-husband and I didn’t take a trip. We were poor but should have done it anyway!

  10. Left out a part of my bar story that I have always wanted to forget. I have a rescued dog that I absolutely love to pieces but she has some strange anxiety issues. I had moved three months before the bar with her, my cat, and husband. Husband had a new job and was in another state for training for a month. Dog was apparently bothered by all the change and the newness of me being home all day studying. In my husband’s absence she got wayyyyy over protective.

    Three days before the bar I was walking her and two teenage girls were laughing and running around and banged into her. My dog nipped the girl in her love handle and then just sat down and wagged her tail like an angel. Totally unacceptable behavior on my dog’s part but the girl freaked out – acted like my dog had mauled her and called her mom to “report it.” I was crying hysterically because I thought days before the exam, in a new town, husband far away, the police were going to come and confiscate my beloved dog.

    My husband, a former cop, was preparing me over the phone for what they would do which was just making me more hysterical. My head was spinning – she will be so afraid of them, she will growl, they will call her dangerous and put her down!!!! Luckily the girls mom called me and verified all the vet info, etc, said the skin wasn’t broken and her daughter had overreacted and said that she wouldn’t report it to the police if I promised to take her to obedience school, which I did.

    I knew I was too emotionally spent to study another minute so I left the dog at my house, drove to husband’s hotel, slept there, and drove back super early in the morning to let the dog back out. I had a great cry and a good sleep and still passed the bar and still have my dog who still has issues but has passed obedience school, wears a gentle leader, and has never again tried to bite someone!

  11. Anonymous :

    When I took the bar, I couldn’t afford the luxury of not working for two months so as to study for the bar full time (and a bar trip was obviously out of the question; I didn’t even know such a thing existed). I also couldn’t afford the cost and schedule of Barbri, so I worked full-time and studied using some 3 year old used Barbri/PMBR books I bought from Craigslist (the previous 3 owners of said books had passed, which I figured was a good sign). Did I mention I was taking the California bar? And sharing a hotel room with a friend for whom it was her 5th shot at the bar? Right. I only took the exam because I wouldn’t get a refund if I didn’t show up.

    So, assuming that I was going to fail, I spent the three horrific days of the bar trying just to get through the damn thing, avoiding all the other exam takers when they collectively freaked out over the minutiae of their various answers, and trying not to think about the fact that I would have to take it again in six months. Even though I was pretty relaxed during those three miserable days (why freak out if you know you’re not going to pass?), I was so physically and emotionally exhausted after the experience that I got completely trashed off only 2 glasses of wine at dinner.

    Either the bar examiners were huffing nitrous when they reviewed my exam or those bar review books really were good luck – when results came out, I had somehow managed to pass. And awesomely, so did my friend (5th time’s a charm). Now I refuse to move out of California – you couldn’t pay me enough to sit through another bar exam. I don’t know how anyone does multiple states; y’all are crazy.

  12. CA Bar, 2005: My friends and I set up camp in Ontario for a week. Partly because my study partner/then-bf wrote his exam by hand, the rest of us were on computer, and Ontario had both options. Also, we really wanted to get out of LA. Three of the must surreal, bizarre days of my life. Why were there state law questions on the MBE? (There weren’t, obvs, but it sure felt like it!) Is it healthy to watch a soap opera during the lunch break? Why does every channel on the TV hotel show either A Few Good Men (on repeat) or an Entourage marathon? The test was given in a huge auditorium that was silent but for the scraping of the chairs on the metal floor. In the bathroom we all avoided eye contact. In the 60 seconds before the start of day 3, power went out to our entire table and blue books were being thrown around. Oy. My mom had actually given me 3 funny cards, one to open each day. It was the best thing anyone could have done for me. A bunch of us from law school stayed out in Ontario after the bar ended and we went out for margaritas that Thursday night.

    Bar trip: a massive whirlwind trip around the US, hitting all 48 contiguous states. I only gave myself 3 weeks to do it — between the Bar and a friend’s wedding 3 weeks later. I was convinced I couldn’t take the road trip after the wedding b/c I needed to find work. Which I didn’t actually find until February. Hindsight’s 20/20, I guess — I should have waited until after the wedding so I could have enjoyed the road trip more.

    Results day: Most nervous week of my life! Went to see Walk the Line and the latest Harry Potter movie in the theatres. My friend and I made sure we were having a glass of wine at 6pm, when the results came out online, because we were sure the system would be crashed and overloaded. We were home by 6:45 and had a very intricate system for sharing results: if neither of us contacted each other before 7:00 pm, it means we both had passed. It avoided the whole “Did you pass?” “No,” conversation we didn’t want to have. It was ok to call if we failed, though. On top of that, our extended group of friends came up with a little code we called the “Champagne/Tequila” code: are you drinking champagne, to celebrate? Or tequila, to forget? Fortunately most of us (including me) were drinking champagne. After my initial cry-fest (which was so severe my dad had actually thought I failed when I called my parents to tell them), there was much champagne. And then, of course, tequila, the further we got into the night.

  13. How fun to read all these stories!

    I took the CA bar, and my most vivid memories all seem to revolve around food or not having food. I was so stressed out I lost about 8 pounds in the last two weeks right before the exam. My husband went to the grocery store the day before I left and bought me a big container of trail mix, a bunch of five-hour energies, and granola bars for my hotel room to encourage me to eat. The exam itself was kind of a blur. The first day I went back to my room at lunch, took off my pants, and sat on the bed in my underwear watching I love Lucy and eating subway. That night I couldn’t stomach fast food, so I walked to a gas station about a mile away and bought a jar of peanut butter and a spoon and ate that for dinner while I watched stupid tv to distract myself. The third day I’d already checked out of my hotel so I brought something to eat during the lunch break since I wouldn’t be able to go back to the hotel room. I knew they didn’t allow food in the testing rooms but figured I could leave it in the hallway with my other stuff. Nope! Apparently, they anticipated this happening so they had enforcers at all the doors checking bags for food before you were allowed to walk into the building. (crazy;, right?) I ended up leaving my lunch in a paper sack outside. When I came out I discovered that my bag had flopped over, and my poorly wrapped peanut butter sandwich had come undone. The entire spot was a PILE of frenzied ants. Gross. Needless to say, I did not try to salvage my lunch. After it was all over I took the shuttle to the ontario airport and felt like I was finally hungry after about a month of having no appetite. Unfortunately, that is the tiniest airport and every food option closes at 5 My flight wasn’t until 8. By the time I got to my layover at SFO I was starving. I scarfed down sushi and guzzled a couple of beers that tasted amazing. My husband and brothers picked me up at the airport that night and brought me home, where I promptly fell asleep. Bar trip: a three day weekend at the lake with my husband immediately following the exam; two weeks visiting my grandparents in the country; then a month long road trip with my husband.

  14. I took the New York bar exam many years ago, before computers, in the huge Javits Center in Manhattan. Just before the exam was to begin, a woman several rows away from me stood up and let out a thunderous, blood-curdling scream. Then she quietly sat down again. As the exam commenced, the rest of us were fidgety nervous wrecks, while the screamer calmly put pencil to paper and seemed quite composed and unruffled.

    I added a third day and took the New Jersey bar as well. When I got back to NY, I was really wiped and just wanted to crash, but my husband really wanted to take me out to celebrate, so we went to a great little restaurant near our apartment. In the midst of ordering, though, I suddenly burst into tears, and blubbered, “I just want to go home and s-l-e-e-p…!” We went home, and I slept for at least 12 hours.

  15. AgencyCounsel :

    I took the bar in 2001 in Boston. I remember finishing a bit early and hitting the Barking Crab with a bunch of friends afterward.

  16. Both my fiance and I took the Washington State Bar last July (2.5 days of essays). And 9 days later we got married. (Yes, we realize how crazy that sounds). Retrospectively, it actually wasn’t too bad. We did a combined bar trip/honeymoon and spent 3 weeks in Greece. And we both passed.

  17. Virginian :

    My now-husband, then-fiance and I finished the bar a year ago today. His second state, my first and only–it would have to be a REAL good reason to move to convince me to take another bar! I remember we had checked out of the hotel in the morning so we started driving the 90 miles or so home right after the second day ended. I already can’t remember if I changed out of my suit after the exam, but I do remember there was terrible traffic getting out of Roanoke (yes, inconvenient locations is another quirk about the Virginia bar). As hard as we tried not to, we ended up discussing each essay question on the ride home.

    We had grand plans of going to dinner at our favorite restaurant and then out to a bar with friends to celebrate but I was barely functioning by the time we got home. I think I made it for one glass of wine and half my entree. Went home, passed out, and I think it was a good three days before I could carry on a normal conversation.

    We postponed a bar trip until post-clerkships but did get to go to an island for two days after our wedding three months after the bar exam. We both found out we passed in the airport on the way home–best wedding present we could have asked for! I agree with what Kat said recently, studying for and taking the bar exam was the hardest thing I’ve done. My husband often asks me, “Remember when you passed the bar?” just to see my relieved smile in reaction.

  18. just finished NY bar. MBE was hard. so many things barbri didn’t teach me.


    • SF Bay Associate :

      Chin up, bummed. If Barbri didn’t teach it to you, chances are Barbri didn’t teach it to anyone else either. I’m not sure if the Honingsberg lecture is still around, but NOBODY! If you didn’t know it, nobody knew it, so it’s a wash for everyone :).

      • Honisberg! He was the “YOU CAN DO THIS!” and “Good idea?” guy, right? My friends and I still say that to each other. Loved him.

        • SF Bay Associate :

          YES! I still say “good idea???” in his tones probably once a week, four years post-bar. It’s a wonderful gut check device that gives words to that little voice in my head talking sense. Thank you Honisberg!

    • NC Bar Exam Taker :

      Don’t be discouraged. I have yet to hear from anyone who didn’t think the MBE this year was a killer. I thought there was quite a bit of information BarBri didn’t cover. (At least 20 questions I thought “must be those test questions they talk about!!”) But–you don’t have to know everything, and chances are, if EVERYONE we’re talking to thought they missed the boat, we’re all on the same page.

      As much as I want to sit here and worry, and trust me, I’m not confident at all in my results, we can’t do that for the next five weeks. So, I’ve vowed to assume the worst and hope for the best, not waste five weeks of worry, but not be totally caught off-guard if it’s bad news.

      • Also a Bar Taker :

        I feel the same way…I thought I would feel a huge relief after the exam was over, but I am convinced that I failed. I made a lot of mistakes on the essays (just plain getting the law wrong) and the MBE was pretty much a blur. I can’t seem to relax and feel happy at all. I think I might go shopping or have a spa day or something. Glad to know others are worrying as well (someone at my bar came out and high-fived his friend in front of everyone and yelled “Nailed it!”…nice.)

        • There’s a special place in hell for people like that.

          It’s called “the circle for second-time bar takers.”

        • You should absolutely have a spa day. At least a massage. You deserve it.

          And almost everyone is feeling the same way you are. I would bet a significant amount of money that the “Nailed It” guy failed. (He was trying to psych you guys out. And it seems to have worked.)

          Trust us. No one feels good about the MBE. Some of us freaked ourselves out so much in prep that a Seriously Hard Test became a Not As Horribly Bad As I Thought It Would Be test. But the MBE has easier years and harder years. Either way, everyone’s in it together, and it’s graded on a curve.

          • Anonymous :

            I feel the same way. My process for answering MBE questions was to circle every question I was not quite sure about in the hopes of coming back to that question later. Long story short, I was appalled at the number of questions I circled.

    • AnonInfinity :

      I feel exactly the same way about the MBE. I felt great after the essays, but not good at all after the MBE yesterday. Drat :(

    • Former IL Bar Studier :

      Agreed – MBE was ridiculously hard — and I thought it was way harder than even the all day practice test that Barbri told us would be full all the “harder questions we could possibly expect to see on the exam.” As I was running away from the testing site day 2 at lunch and at the end of the day (to avoid conversations about the questions on the exam), I heard lots of people talking about how hard they thought it was, so we’re definitely not alone. I think we have to just put it behind us and not think about it for a few months.

  19. Grace Wang :

    NY Bar takers are done!!!

  20. My husband and I met in law school and took the bar exam together. The first day of the bar was all essays, and we had a great dinner afterward and felt pretty good about the next day. The next day, however, was not so good. The MBE was brutal, and my husband says the only thing that saved his sanity was gleefully selecting an obviously-wrong sucker’s answer to one question, because it gave him a sense of control over the test. (Not a strategy I’d choose, but it demonstrates the importance of knowing yourself and tending to your needs during a test like this!) The next day (yes, this was a 3-day-long ordeal), there were more essays. By that point, it was becoming hard to tell what subjects the different questions were testing. After it was all over, we had fun comparing the laws we invented to answer questions we didn’t know anything about. Turns out, we’d even made up the same exceptions to our same made-up laws!

    The bar exam doesn’t just test your knowledge of the law ~ it tests your sanity, your relationships, your stamina, and lots of other things. The most stressful thing about waiting for the results was being as concerned about each other as we were for ourselves ~ it was stress x 2. We woke up early the day the results came out, and held our breath until we saw both of our names on the list. They were both there, and I have never been so relieved in my life.

    No real bar trip for us, although we did take a cross-country train trip to attend a friend’s wedding. Between going through the bar exam and spending 104 hours on a train together, it was a real summer of bonding.

  21. I was dreading reading this thread, because I didn’t want to relive the experience again. I agree with Kat and others – it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. But this thread is great! I love everyone’s little stories.

    I took the Bar in Alaska, where we have around 60 candidates each summer (fewer in winter). The exam here is 2.5 days. The last day ends at noon.

    You have to send in a passport-sized picture when you apply for the Bar Exam, and since there’s so few people, when you show up at the Exam, the proctors call you by your first name. They have studied your pictures. It’s really unsettling.

    There are a few people that fail over and over, and everyone knows them, and seeing them at the exam actually made me feel better about myself, because they would put the curve in my favor.

    I was staying at a friend’s house, and she had installed bookshelves on the wall above her guest bed. About 3AM or so on the night between the first and second exam days, I woke up to an earthquake. I looked up at the hardback books on ledges above me, and thought, well, either I will die or I won’t. Luckily, it was just a small earthquake and didn’t cause any books to fall.

    Two law school classmates of mine were also taking the exam. One of them told me he smoked marijuana in the mornings, because, “They tell you to follow your normal routine.” He was the first to finish the exam on the third day. He did not pass.

    Another friend of mine was clerking in a small town in southeast Alaska. There were no other candidates in his town, so they let him sit in the judge’s chair, behind the bench, in the only courtroom, to write the exam. No proctor. Statute books all around him. He passed.

    My family had scheduled a family vacation to Europe. I had told them I couldn’t go until after the Bar, so I boarded a flight on Friday, and arrived in France on Saturday. While the rest of my family was flitting around Paris, taking pictures, going to museums, all I wanted to do was sit on the hotel balcony and stare out.

  22. I never went anywhere after the bar. It was not fun, but I needed to look for a job. It is now 10 years and I do have a job, so that is good news. But it was not to much fun at the time.

  23. The main thing I remember from taking the bar exam is that my mother insisted (insisted, insisted) that she accompany me to the exam. Strange, yes, but I was too stressed and exhausted to argue. We shared a hotel room and the night before the exam, she snored so loudly and woke me up so many times that I distinctly recall hurling a pillow at her face in the middle of the night while hysterically shrieking/crying “MOM I can’t sleep! SHUT UP!” But, I passed on the first try. And that’s all that matters.

    • My friend’s mom also insisted on accompanying her to the exam… did you take IL in 2006, perchance?

    • Former 3L :

      Oh my god. I just finished New York and my older brother is taking it as a second bar (it’s my first, though) and I drove him up and let him stay in my hotel room as a birthday present BUT HE SNORES. I slept for 45 minutes Monday night (before essays) and for 4 hours Tuesday night (before the MBE) EVEN WITH EARPLUGS. I AM THE TIREDEST PERSON.

  24. TiredBarTaker :

    I am reading these comments on my phone as I bus home from day 2 of the California Bar exam. I can’t wait to be done tomorrow, I hope I never have to do this again, and I’m very much looking forward to my post bar camping trip. I refuse to talk to my friends about the test so it’s reassuring to read all your experiences that had a happy ending.

  25. I took the Virginia bar three years ago – wearing a suit and sneakers. The only thing I really remember about the exam itself was that the proctors ordered the girl across from me to put her suit jacket back on because her camisole was too revealing.

    I stayed with my husband’s family in Roanoke, which was the best move I could make. It was so nice to get away from all of the other test takers, and have a home cooked meal.

    There was no post-bar celebration for me because I got married a mere 10 days later, and I had to finish planning my wedding. An Alaskan honeymoon replaced my bar trip! Although it seemed crazy at the time to study for the bar and plan a wedding at the same time, it worked out well in retrospect. Wedding planning helped distract me from freaking out about the bar too much, and vice versa. A little – I was still a basket case. I never want to do either again!

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