“It’s the American Honky-Tonk Bar Association“… Even Garth Brooks jumped on the bandwagon in an attempt to clarify the event that renders even the most stalwart of law students into sniveling piles of goo.
Humans naturally fear what is unknown and what we do not understand. As law students progress toward the exam that marks the culmination of their successful study and mastery of law, the trepidation and anticipation of that daunting qualifier shadows even their rest and leisure time. Hopefully, by delving into the particulars of the Bar exam, you will put your fears to rest and approach Test Day ready and eager for the challenge rather than nauseous and nervous.
History of the Bar Exam
First, a bit of history. The term ‘Bar’ originated in the early 16th century in England. According to custom, a railing divided the hall in the Inns of Court, with students occupying one side of the hall and ‘benchers’ the other. Students who officially became lawyers were ‘called to the bar’ for the symbolic crossing of that physical barrier. After successfully answering questions relevant to their studies, they were allowed seating among the ‘benchers’, designated as lawyers, and were said to be admitted to the Bar.
Over time the term came to represent the wooden railing marking off the area around the judge’s seat, where prisoners stood for arraignment and where barristers stood to plead. In today’s courtroom this bar may still exist, one side occupied by waiting litigants and/or witnesses, and the other by law professionals already embroiled on their clients’ behalf.
The bar exam has evolved substantially as well. Each state has its own bar exam that in part that poses general questions with regard to law, and in part addresses questions of law specific to that state.
Why is the Bar exam so scary? Law students spend years grooming and studying. Obviously those who qualify to take the Bar exam have proven themselves by maintaining a satisfactory grade point average and/or successfully completing sufficient study hours with a qualified law professional.
You may simply suffer from test anxiety. And, the more significant the exam the more anxious you become. Certainly the Bar exam is one of the most significant events in a future barrister’s life and career. Successful completion means entitlement to practice, the goal of every law student. As a law student, you have already been subjected to a number of exams and thus know of techniques to reduce test anxiety. In a broad sense, the Bar exam is no different than any other exam every student must pass in order to progress through school. You can apply the same techniques of reducing test anxiety toward taking the Bar exam.
Components of the Bar Exam
Being familiar with the components of the Bar exam will go a long way toward reducing exam misconceptions. Because each state has its own bar, you should become familiar with your state’s exam components. You should be well versed in precedent setting cases indigenous to your state. Be prepared to answer questions regarding the history of law and how certain laws came into being. A link to past bar exam questions and answers can be found in the resources section. While most likely your bar exam will focus on state specific cases, don’t neglect to review impactful Federal cases. Surely there will be questions that address Federal law, especially those laws that impact your state.
Uniform Bar Examination
If you live in one of the eleven states that offer the Uniform Bar Examination, you may consider broadening your prospects by taking this exam. This exam, administered over a two day period, comprises of an essay examination, two performance exams and a standard bar exam. Successful completion of this exam results in a portable score. Be aware that some territories offering the UBE might require students to pass a jurisdiction specific exam and/or an exam addressing jurisdiction specific laws in addition to successful completion of the UBE.
You have successfully overcome every rigor of your academic journey all while keeping your eye on this last bastion separating you from your career. Some approach with trepidation but you know there is no need to fear the Bar. Think of it as a case of education equals enlightenment: demystifying the Bar should go a long way toward assuaging fears and calming anxieties.