Book Review: Bar Exam Mind

Bar Exam Mind bookMatt Racine has published the second edition of his book, Bar Exam Mind, which covers some key aspects of studying for the bar exam that are often overlooked by students. Sure, we all know that reviewing lectures, writing essays, answering MBE’s, and memorizing is mandatory, but how much importance do we really place on our state of mind?

When I took the California bar exam, the day before I was scheduled to fly to Los Angeles, I came down with pink eye! Now, this is something I haven’t had since my children were in pre-school (and they are now in college) as it’s quite common among youngsters and it can be contagious. At the time I didn’t even realize what it was except that I woke up with a red eye that morning, grabbed some eye drops and figured it would go away. I got through the three days of the bar exam with my eye slowly getting a bit worse each day, but it didn’t hurt so I was able to manage. When I returned home I saw a doctor who prescribed antibiotics and it thankfully went away. After reading Bar Exam Mind I believe that stress may have caused my body to be more susceptible to infection.

In hindsight, I realize that I neglected a number of aspects about my health in the months leading up to the exam. Furthermore, having never before suffered from anxiety attacks, I had a minor melt-down in the hotel the night before the exam. Still working on memorizing, I suddenly felt this gloom come over me that I would not be able to remember a single thing come test day. I put my books down, turned on the TV, and decided, that’s it – no more studying – what will be will be. The next day after writing the first set of essays in the morning and completing the first set of MBE’s in the afternoon, I walked out of that exam center with a smile on my face, knowing that I had done my best and I did remember a lot.

Bar Exam Mind covers 6 areas to concentrate on for getting yourself in top mental shape:

  1. Visualizing your fears – picture an undesired outcome in detail and then analyze what you can do about it to avoid it or recover from it.
  2. Visualizing your success – picture your desired outcome so that when the time comes, you will perform at peak levels and pass.
  3. Affirmations – short, strong, positive statements you either say out loud or silently to yourself to train your mind to believe you can achieve your goals.
  4. Starting a bar exam journal – by doing this you can prevent anxieties and worries from becoming debilitating.
  5. Anticipating your conditions – prepare for the bar exam under conditions of approximating the test which involves being able to perform at peak level for 6-8 hours for 3 days straight. (Matt offers lots of great tips on how to do this)
  6. Nutrition and Lifestyle – if your physical brain is not in shape, then your mental brain can’t perform at its maximum.

For those who are looking for a structured approach, Bar Exam Mind offers a 21-day schedule which requires an average time commitment of 20 minutes per day (with the exception of the first few days). Matt takes you through which chapters to read and which exercises to do daily so that by the end of the 21 days you will have mastered all six of the techniques described above. This is a great way to adopt these techniques even while studying since the time commitment is managed in smaller chunks. Or, depending on where you are in your bar exam study period –read the whole book at once and utilize the areas that you feel you need help with.

I wish I had read Bar Exam Mind before I began my bar exam studies. I could have benefited from Matt’s advice on lifestyle choices,  which in my case meant exercising, sleeping more, and trying meditation, none of which I did well during my study period.  Perhaps my pink eye would not have occurred had I taken better care of my physical brain!

Check out Matt’s book which you can order from Amazon here:
Bar Exam Mind: A Strategy Guide for an Anxiety-Free Bar Exam
Kindle and audio versions are also available.

Read the Bar Exam Mind Blog for lots of informative insight into conquering the practical aspects of bar exam preparation. Studying for the bar exam can feel like you’re “out of your mind,” but with some sensible guidance, your mind can be the healthiest it’s ever been!

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