You can’t tell when you’re in it.

The California Bar Exam is three days long.  After 12 weeks of study and preparation, it was a relief to finally take the exam just so that it would be behind me.

My strategy for the exam included:  not talking to people, having all the food I would need in my room, and not eating carbs because they make me sleepy.  I ate yogurt, fruit, and a hard-boiled egg at breakfast.  For lunch I rolled up sliced turkey with avocado and some greens and tomato.  I don’t remember what I ate for dinner.  It didn’t matter.  I just wanted to relax and feel rested for the next day.

I remember the second day, after hours of multiple-choice questions, feeling blurry and thinking, “I wonder if I can still pass the Bar if I completely failed the MBEs.”  I had no idea while I was in it if I was doing ok or if I was totally off course.

And then finally, after the third day, when I allowed myself to talk with my friends again, I still didn’t know how I did.  Some friends were confident, others were clearly shaken.  Everyone was glad it was over.

And then in November the results came out.  I logged in and refreshed my browser until I got through.  I stared at the screen.  I didn’t know what the words meant.  It said something like:

THE ABOVE NAME DOES NOT APPEAR ON THE DID NOT PASS LIST

I don’t remember the exact language, but it was terrible.  I expected something more like, “Congratulations!  You’ve passed the California Bar Exam.”  Instead, I had to ask my friend to explain it to me.  “It means you passed!” she said.  And as she opened a bottle of champagne I called my boyfriend only to learn that he didn’t pass.  Even though he had studied more than I.  He was smart.  I didn’t know what to say.  I wanted to get off the phone and celebrate.

You can’t tell how you’re doing while you’re in it.

The best you can do is know yourself, prepare by giving yourself the circumstances you need to deliver your best performance, and then show up and do what you know how to do.  Don’t waste time or energy wondering if you’re doing it right.  By the time you get there, you’ve been in training for 12 weeks.  Now is not the time to evaluate yourself — now is the time to do what you’ve trained to do.

PS:  I have a guest post up on Bar Exam Toolbox on Strategic Tips for Unwinding Stress.  Written with love for everyone studying for the Bar Exam.

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