If I could give you only one piece of advice that I believe would have the greatest positive impact on your bar prep, it would be this: do whatever you need to to get rid of your smartphone and wi-fi.
You may be thinking to yourself that you would die if you couldn't have facebook, twitter, the internet, or SMS to get you through the day. Or, you may be thinking that this is useless advice and really won't help your bar prep. In both cases you would be wrong. I know this because I found out for myself when I studied for the bar.
To make a long story short, there was no internet on my computer unless there was also an ethernet cable and $ involved. At first it really irritated me. I spent so much energy on trying to figure out how I could get internet on my computer. I didn't want to face the truth that I wouldn't have cared so much about not having internet access unless I used it as a distraction from studying. I didn't need the internet to study, but I did need it to waste time online by constantly checking to see if I had new emails, what was going on on facebook, and even reading bar exam blogs. I really had no idea just how much time and energy I was spending on these time wasters.
Of course there was also my smartphone, which DID have internet, email, plus texts - which was even worse! I realized that if I was that bothered by not having wi-fi on my computer, then being "plugged in" was a major problem and detractor to my studying success. Therefore, I swore off my iphone as well. I used it to time myself when doing MBEs, but that was just about it. It was really hard at first, but I notice massive gains in my study time.
Not only did I get MORE study time because I wasn't using technology to procrastinate, but the quality of my study time was greatly improved, as well. I quickly discovered that all those 'harmless' little email checks had been doing a number on my concentration. Let's say you check your email/texts/fb/twitter/younameit every 10 minutes. You have only built up 10 minutes worth of mental stamina. For the bar exam, you need 3 hours minimum.
In our society today, giving your undivided attention to something for any length of time is almost unheard of. You may think I'm exaggerating here, but think about it. When was the last time you sat down to read for 3 hours without getting up to go to the bathroom, talking to your roommate, getting something to eat or drink, answering the phone, etc. Now think about doing 3 hours worth of bar prep uninterrupted - that is not only a good deal of time, but it requires a very high level of concentration for the entire time.
In closing, let me give one more example to drive the point home. Remember all the way back to when you were in law school? Unless you sat in the first row in every class you took, what was your view of the class - i.e., what did you see on everyone's computer screen? Ah ha! You know exactly what I'm talking about. And don't forget about all those iphones being strategically held right under the table tops.
Believe me when I tell you that if you have the testicular fortitude to leave your smartphone in the car, and your internet browser closed during study hours, you will truly get a lot more accomplished. I think it is completely reasonable to think that you could save yourself an entire hour each day. So although I love that you read my blog, I don't want it to be during study hours!
A major mistake that most people make during bar prep is failing to get started taking practice exams soon enough. This generally isn't much of an issue with the MBE, since the only way to really study for it is to do practice questions. They're short and quick, and therefore no one really seems to have issues with procrastination. Not to mention the answer is right there in the question. Sure, it can take quite a bit of skill to decipher which selection is the right answer sometimes, but it's there staring you in the face nonetheless.
Not so with the essays and the PT. The essays really seem to trip a lot of people up because there is a huge volume of material that could be tested on any given essay question. I believe it is the sheer magnitude of 'bar exam law' that intimidates students from attempting practice essays. The thinking being that you can't test your knowledge of a subject until you have fully learned the material. It's a logical argument, but bar exam prep simply doesn't operate under those regular rules of logic.
When preparing for the bar exam, it is IMPERATIVE that you begin to test your knowledge as soon as possible. This is for a number of reasons. One major reason is because you are going to have to be able to perform that exact task on the exam. Therefore it goes without saying that you need to be well-versed in performing that task long before you walk into the exam. The only way you can get really good at something is by doing it over and over and over again. The old adage holds true: practice makes perfect.
The second major reason you need to start taking practice essay (and PT) exams as soon as possible is this: it is a means to learning all that law. Don't think of practice essays as just a test of whether you know the law perfectly. See it as a way in which to learn any law which hasn't gotten cemented in your gray matter just yet. If you make yourself struggle through an essay, you will learn whatever legal principles are tested in that particular question. Intuitively you already know this to be true: if you simply quiz yourself with a flashcard you will not learn the rule as well as if you had to stand up in front of a class and explain the rule and its application. Taking a practice essay is essentially the same thing. It is you standing in front of the [imaginary] bar grader telling them what you know and how to apply that knowledge to the present legal question.
I think that law students (in particular) are so afraid of failure that they do not want to engage in any activity that they know will reveal any imperfection in their knowledge or performance. Most people who have become law students are used to always being right or excelling at any academic challenge presented. It is against their nature to engage in an activity or test of their knowledge unless they feel adequately prepared and in control of the outcome. That is a wonderful quality to have as a lawyer. And it is exactly what needs to happen when you walk into the bar exam. BUT, that is simply the wrong attitude to have regarding bar prep. Bar prep is precisely where you should engage in activities that will strengthen yourself for a strong bar exam performance. So it is okay if you find out during a practice exam that you don't know some legal rules, or can't figure out how to organize that cross-over question. That is why you're practicing now.
Suffice it to say, the earlier you get started doing this, the more you will have accomplished come the bar exam. And the more you do, the better prepared you will be. Don't wait. There is absolutely no reason you cannot start doing practice exams the very first week of bar prep. This goes for PT practice as well. Make Sunday your PT day - do 1 every Sunday.
To close, I'm going to let you in on a little secret: the first few practice exams you take are going to be the hardest, NO MATTER WHEN YOU TAKE THEM. That's right - it doesn't matter if you wait "until you feel ready" and when "you know enough law" (which, by the way, you NEVER will), or if you start on day 1 - the first few are always going to be a challenge. It is going to be a painful experience. So don't wait. It truly doesn't make it any easier.
You're in the bar exam, and the unthinkable happens. Your computer shuts down for some unknown reason. You're severely behind schedule and absolutely going to run out of time. The "H" key falls off your laptop and so you have to hand write the exam (yes, that happened to someone before). Whatever it may be, something has gone horribly wrong in the middle of the bar exam.
What do you do?!
Your number one goal at this point is to do everything in your power not to panic. I know panicking is a natural reaction, and extremely difficult not to do in the midst of your emergency, but you must try your best regardless. The sooner you can calm down, regroup and start making smart decisions about how to handle the situation, the better off you will be. This is especially true if something goes wrong in the first half of the day and you have all of the lunch break to rehash the gory details. You MUST stop yourself from doing so. That will only add to the damage. The goal is to mitigate.
The other thing you need to know is that no matter what happens, DO NOT GIVE UP. EVER. In the moment, you will believe the damage is catastrophic. You will think that your shot at passing is dead and buried, 6 feet under. Don't let thoughts like these take over. Keep pushing through and do your absolute best for the remainder of the exam. There are a number of examinees who found themselves in such a situation and believed all hope was lost, so they gave up. Come to find out when scores were released, they would have easily passed if they had not quit and gotten just a few more points. You never want to face that kind of regret.
Even if you did suffer a deadly blow, you will want to keep doing your best so you can get the most from the exam. You have paid over $700 just to be in that room. If you fail, you will get your scores back and will know how you did on the various sections. You will take the exam again, and having this kind of information about your previous performance will be invaluable. Don't throw away this costly and helpful information in the moment just because you are feeling defeated and hopeless.
Resolve to do your best no matter what.