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4 Ways to Conquer Exam Anxiety in Law School and on the Bar Exam

4 Ways to Conquer Exam Anxiety in Law School and on the Bar Exam—Quimbee
If you face anxiety while taking an exam, you’re not alone. Test anxiety is common for law students and bar takers. A bit of nervous energy can sharpen mental focus, but too much anxiety interferes with cognitive processing. High levels of anxiety impact concentration and the ability to recall information from memory. If you find test anxiety taking over, try these strategies.

Address Triggers

Carefully examine what causes your anxiety to spike so that you can address triggers meaningfully. For some students, the test environment triggers anxiety. Sounds and visuals can be problematic. A ticking clock or fellow examinees clacking on their keyboards can be bothersome. Seeing other examinees turn in their exams is another common trigger.

You can manage test anxiety by minimizing your exposure to triggers. Sit in the front so other examinees won’t be in view. Avoid scanning the room as you take the test. Use earplugs to reduce background noises. Ear plugs are permitted in many law school testing situations. Check with your jurisdiction—they may be permitted on your bar exam.

Recast Anxiety as Excitement

Interestingly, the best strategy for managing test anxiety isn’t to force yourself to calm down. Instead, recent research suggests that you can boost performance by translating anxious feelings into excitement.
 
Both anxiety and excitement are highly activated states. As a result, it’s easier to shift your mentality from anxious to excited than from anxious to calm. Plus, getting excited has clear benefits. Excitement is a positive emotion with the capacity to boost performance. By contrast, anxiety is a negative emotion that drains your brain’s ability to process information. It’s corny, but tell yourself that you’re excited to take the exam.

Burn Off the Adrenaline

When test anxiety takes over, you experience a rush of adrenaline. The fight-or-flight response kicks in. Mental resources are diverted to address a perceived threat, and you experience an impaired ability to perform on the test. 

To address the adrenaline rush, try a few minutes of physical activity before an exam. Like a car burning gasoline, exercise allows your body to process and burn off the adrenaline. You’ll arrive at your exam better prepared to perform.

Use Visualization

There are 2 popular visualization strategies that benefit students with test anxiety. First, visualize success. Mentally simulate taking the exam: place yourself in the exam room, answering the questions and performing your best. The more detailed your mental image, the better. This strategy may seem very simple, but it produces results. Elite athletes have long used visualization strategies to optimize their performance in competitions. Steal their playbook.

Second, make a mental escape to a place that’s free from stress. Visualizing a stress-free escape can help you disconnect from overwhelming feelings. Develop a sensory-rich mental image. Ponder what you see, hear, smell, taste, and feel in your stress-free place.

Finally, know that you don’t have to go it alone. A mental health professional can help you develop a plan to overcome test anxiety. Many law schools offer counselors who will partner with you in your journey.

Quimbee has your back in law school and beyond. Expert-written case briefs, outlines, and a practice-oriented bar review course give you the edge you’ll need to ace law school finals and conquer the bar exam.

Make your first attempt at the bar exam your last with Quimbee

  • 96% bar exam pass rate*
  • 100% money-back guarantee
  • 1,450 real questions from past bar exams
* First-time takers who have completed at least 75% of the course.

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