I’m pretty sure there is a ring in Dante’s Inferno specifically marked for bar exam takers the night before their tests. Or for the more contemporary, the Eagles’ Hotel California reimagined for the bar exam.

Next week, thousands of bar takers will fill into hotels across the country and proceed to make themselves – and each other – completely crazy for several days. As Geico Insurance would say, “You’re a Bar Taker. It’s what you do.”

But there are ways to cope – and survive – the “Bar Zombie” experience. Here are a few tips if you’re going on the road for the bar exam:

  1. Bring your own pillows. Nothing beats sleeping with your own pillow and sleep counts. So, suck it up and bring the extra suitcase. Your pillow can double as protection for those bar review books you probably won’t open…
  2. Bring a small fan or download a white noise app for your phone.  Here’s one of my favorites and it’s free. The sound of hysteria in the hallways will keep you awake. Use the fan or white noise to help you sleep.
  3. Plan your bar exam meals in advance and bring your favorite snacks. Load up on protein and anti-oxidants. Cut way back on sugar and carbs. Whatever you do, do NOT eat in the bar exam hotel restaurants unless you want to absorb the insanity of fellow bar takers (although it can be amusing in a sad sort of way to watch the inevitable melt down when someone’s meal is incorrectly served – sort of like this classic Brad Paisley Music Video with William Shatner and Jason Alexander)
  4. Bring clothes that are comfortable and can be layered. Even the July bar exam in hot places like Tampa FL or Austin TX have air conditioning systems that will freeze you out. Come prepared to add on or take off layers as necessary. And shoes? Well, many jurisdictions don’t allow flip-flops (not professional) so be safe and go with a comfortable pair of flats (women) or sneakers (men). Not fashionable but functional.
  5. Get your laptop ready for the test. Remove the anti-virus protection (it doesn’t play well with ExamSoft). Follow their instructions to prepare your laptop found here. Be sure you’ve got a good battery, a clean screen and a working device.
  6. Have an alarm with you (on your phone) and a backup individual off site who will call you to be sure you’re awake. Yup. Every exam there’s that guy who arrives just as the doors close because they overslept. Don’t be that guy.
  7. Keep a set of old iPod earbuds in your ears while you’re waiting to go into the test room and during lunch. Tuck the end into a pocket out of sight. The goal? Make it look like you’re listening/studying. The objective? Not talking with other bar takers. Hey, they’ve got nothing for you – except bar fever (and it’s highly contagious).
  8. Bring chewing gum, snacks, water, earplugs, a timer …  and then leave them all at the hotel. They’re not going to make it past security. Thank you Google Glass. Thank you very much. Not even the old plastic see through bag is going to work these days. You’ll be allowed to bring pens and pencils and your identification and usually nothing else. Check your Bar Examiner information sheets for specifics – as in most things, the rules vary by jurisdiction. By the way, use the safe in your hotel for your valuables. You can’t bring them to the test and the hotel staff knows where you’ll be all day. Not a great combination for safe keeping.
  9. Finally, bring your sense of humor. The test is insane, the applicants are neurotic and the proctors are often sadistic. Not a great combination. Stuff happens (see here for just one recent example). Expect it and then ignore it. And remember where you heard it first.

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