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.