More on Bar Exams

Pam Mueller in The Situationist asks a few intriguing questions.

The process of studying for the bar takes thousands of intelligent and accomplished law students and transforms them into anxious, self-doubting creatures whose exam-induced neuroses often extend beyond the confines of the test…

How does this stressful situation impact the lives of these formerly confident and capable law students? How can these students get past the power of the situation to let their proven capabilities carry them through the bar exam, as they have carried them through other difficult situations? Does empirical research shed any light on the subject?

Apparently, the stress of bar exams make them cranky as hell. They get depressed and anxious. This has a negative impact on their relationships with the non-bar-taking people around them. Well, duh.

In a study, against what one would expect, the reported receipt of emotional support was actually correlated with increased depression and anxiety in the bar examinee. Why this is so remains unclear. This effect was increased in the final week of bar study – so beware! Supposedly, invisible support – deliberate support, but without the examinee perceiving it – was the key to helping the examinee control his/her negative emotions, as that type of support did not impose the added cost of feeling that one needs support. In short, bar examinees are a touchy lot. They want support, but don’t want to appear needy.

And what are the best coping approaches, at least for American bar candidates ?

The three best strategies were 1) active coping, 2) positive reinterpretation, and 3) acceptance. Active coping (doing something to deal with the problem and persevering) was strongly associated with decreased anxiety the day after using the coping strategy. This means meeting the problem
head-on, taking the bull by the horns so to speak, just before exam day. Positive reinterpretation of the problem and acceptance were also associated with decreased anxiety. Put a positive spin on the situation and accept the reality that you must go through this process if you really want to be a lawyer. Sorry, but there are no shortcuts.

The three worst strategies, per the study cited by Mueller, were 1) using religion, 2) venting, and 3) mental disengagement. These three were all strongly associated with increased anxiety the following day.

I’m sure venting (getting mad or ranting) and mental disengagement (avoidance of the problem by spacing out or using drugs or alcohol) are equally bad tactics for Filipino bar examinees. But I’m certain religion is not as maladaptive a coping method for us as it is for Americans. In fact, a strong dose of faith will help you through this difficult time. This includes the obligatory pilgrimage to Manaoag while waiting for the results to be released.

3 thoughts on “More on Bar Exams

  1. Sir,

    Kindly allow me to share some on my thoughts on this matter.

    I can relate to that “reported receipt of emotional support was actually correlated with increased depression and anxiety in the bar examinee” thing.Why?Because “emotional support” makes a bar examinee feel guilty that he hasn’t studied hard enough and therefor does not deserve all that emotional support.Atleast,that’s how I felt.

    Anyway,what really drives alot of barristers nuts is this fear of failing the bar exam.It’s the EXPECTATION of failing or passing that drives people insane.
    Get over that,and 3/4′s of the crankiness,angst and stupid depression disappears.It’s what I did and I feel alot better now.

    And about Mental Disengagement.Ditto.Uh,beer,anyone?Just a bottle or two once a week probably won’t do any harm.

    Last Monday,while I was browsing at one of the bookstores in the mall,I came across “A Book of Five Rings” by Musashi Miyamoto.It was oddly coincidental because the evening before that,I was reading an article in this site by The WarriorLawyer.Fate led me to buy this book.Why?Although many regard to it as a book on strategy and swordsmanship,it also teaches about a proper philiosophical outlook in life.We live “NOW”,not tommorrow or yesterday.To worry is to abandon the present and focus on an imaginary future that does not yet exist.In order to cope,one must be in step with the present.To plan and prepare for the future is different from worrying about the future.So I now apply this method of thinking to everything I do,even to my outlook when it comes to taking the Bar.

    To any barrister who comes across this article and this comment,I wish you the best of luck and remember one thing;RELAX.

  2. You are correct. It’s the fear and tension brought aboout by the expectation of either passing or failing that produces the anxiety. The needless worry affects your confidence level.

    And talk about coincidences. My copy of Miyamoto Musashi’s Book of Five Rings was returned to me just last week, after having been in out of my possession for the better part of a year. It might be a good time for me to re-read this classic on focusing your mental and physical energies and living in the moment.

    Good luck, Wilfred. You’re already halfway done. Only two Sundays to go.

  3. We live “NOW”,not tommorrow or yesterday.To worry is to abandon the present and focus on an imaginary future that does not yet exist.In order to cope,one must be in step with the present.To plan and prepare for the future is different from worrying about the future.So I now apply this method of thinking to everything I do,even to my outlook when it comes to taking the Bar. — i really needed this. Thanks Wil and warriorlawyer

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

CommentLuv badge