How to Maintain Motivation and Momentum While Studying for the Bar Exam

You’ve seen all the euphoria from people who passed the bar exam.

You’re probably “inspired” and “motivated” when you look at success stories, case studies, and accounts of people who excitedly announce they passed the bar exam.

When that happens, we say things like “if they can do it, so can I” (true). Or “I needed this today.”

Today? That’s some “new year, new me” type energy. I’m not letting you off the hook like that.

Anyone can desire to pass the bar. Anyone can fixate on the goal and tell everyone they want it. It’s not gonna happen just because you said it.

What is your motivation for taking the bar exam?

To begin with, WHY do you want to pass this exam?

You actually don’t have to take this exam, you know? (Should I even be telling you this?) I accidentally convinced someone to not take the bar exam again (ever):

"Lo and behold, you are right. I don't want to study for the bar exam."
“Lo and behold, you are right. I don’t want to study for the bar exam.”

But YOU want to pass the exam. Why?

Prestige? To support your family? To wear a nice suit? To make award speeches on social media? Because you’re supposed to? Because you went to law school and think you have no other choice?

Just know that “I want to pass the bar exam” is a heavy statement that requires commitment and thousands of actions in preparation.

Being calm, collected, and confident on the bar exam is based on decisions and actions you make well ahead of time. This is also part of “preparation.” You could try to conjure up “confidence” at the last moment, but all bets are off when it’s game time and the cards are on the table.

“Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.”

Look, you probably won’t feel confident at any point. That’s normal. Expect that. Don’t get misled by the allure of being confident on the bar exam. That’s not the point.

If you want someone to coddle you and give you cookies, visit your grandma. You want to be barred like those people? You want to know how exquisite that feeling is?

Then don’t waste your time chasing after confidence. Chase after competence.

Then perhaps you will find yourself feeling reasonably assured of your answers on the exam (and they’ll actually be right). The point here isn’t to feel confident right now. The point is to pass the fucking bar. There’s your motivation right there.

Maintaining your motivation during bar prep

Whether you’re just getting started on preparing for the bar exam for the first time, or whether you’re retaking the exam once again, I want you to keep it up and not run out of steam during your bar preparation.

But motivation is not sustainable by itself. This is a marathon.

So instead, use your fleeting motivation to create momentum. Otherwise, you’ll email me asking, “Are we there yet?”

The more you move, the easier it is to keep moving. Maintain the momentum.

Studies show that we get more motivated when we see progress.

The opposite is also true: An object at rest stays at rest.

I started playing this video game recently. It’s hard! You’re expected to fail a lot. I die hundreds of times each level. But the game showed me this:

"The more you die, the more you're learning. Keep going!"
“The more you die, the more you’re learning.”

When I’m stuck at an impossible-looking screen and tempted to give up, I manage to get better from trial and error and eventually make progress.

People are simple. We work hard when we know there will be returns, and we try to work even harder if working hard makes us better.

The best way to make this happen?

Enjoy the process.

You could power through bar prep by hating your life, but that’s less sustainable than having momentum on your side.

How am I able to send emails to my subscribers and write blog articles, consistently, year in and year out? (Not to mention coordinating with bar supplement companies, continuing to update and develop my own products, and working a full-time attorney job)

I love sharing these insights with you in a fun way. I get excited when I give you “aha!” moments. It makes my day when I get notes from bar takers saying how the nightmare is finally over or how they’re improving or excited (I tag every note like this in my inbox because they mean a lot to me).

For my repeat attempt at the bar exam, it was about intentionally taking small steps to be prepared. To do that, I needed to enjoy the process.

Granted, bar prep is pretty much the dryest activity in the world… How did I enjoy the process of bar prep?

No more lectures.

No more filling in meticulous lecture notes until the sun went down.

No more cookie-cutter plans.

I took plenty of breaks.

I tried different things to see what worked for me. I don’t have advice. I just share my autobiography and pass along what’s working for others too.

Bar exam preparation is about learning, not education. Retention, not mere exposure. Understanding, not just memorizing.

When things started clicking because I was going through examples instead of theory, when I saw my scores go up, when I wasn’t dead tired from filling in the blanks…

These got me through the days and weeks. My parents said I looked much happier than my first attempt. I was even working part time then.

Hard work doesn’t mean you have to suffer.

To reach your long-term goal of passing the bar exam, motivation must come from yourself. To do that, enjoy the process.

Here’s an example, from someone just like you:

Chelsy enjoying the process of bar exam prep

When you’re having “fun,” you’re enjoying the process itself, and the result is sure to come eventually.

She passed btw:

Chelsy passed the bar exam

What about Pralika, a repeating foreign lawyer?

Foreign lawyer/attorney enjoying the process of bar exam prep

Oh yeah, she passed, too:

Pralika passed the bar exam

Do you see a pattern? I’m not just talking out of my ass here.

🎬 You’ve wished enough. So your action step for today is to find one thing you will try to make this process sustainable.

I want to know what you’re going to do, so let me know down in the comments. And don’t be one of those people who only ask questions like I’m an ATM. You tell me.


This is still going to be a long stretch, though. How do you ensure that you keep yourself on pace? I’ve said this before:

Part of finding that certainty is to make a plan first of all that you can stick by (but also be flexible with), and then act on it.

Moving the wrong way is better than staying still because at least you can correct course and still come out ahead.

To that end, here are some general guidelines on avoiding burnout and how to craft a flexible plan for yourself:

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7 Replies to “How to Maintain Motivation and Momentum While Studying for the Bar Exam”

  1. I hate preparing for the bar. Each time I’ve studied for it, I’ve felt like I’ve been on a different planet, mentally, because it’s so exhausting. Therefore, I procrastinate, a lot. This email was what I needed. I will change my mental approach to enjoy the process.

  2. For me it is going to be my mindset as I approach this bar preparation. What resonated with me in this article/email is the statement is that Bar Exam preparation is about “Learning, Absorbing and Understanding.” To change my mindset to have this Learning, Absorbing and Understanding I will focus on doing just that, by not looking at how many Q’s I need to do in a certain amount of time, not placing undue pressure on myself to get X amount of work done in X amount of time, but stopping and really absorb and understand what I am doing. So, changing my mindset to not rush through just to clear checkboxes, etc. This will make the process enjoyable because it will be a load of pressure off me mentally which translates into stress.

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