Today I am writing about my experience sitting for the New York State Bar Examination. This post is my observation and emotional experience of taking the exam. If you want a “How I Studied for the Bar Exam” kind of post, just leave a comment. Hope you enjoy this in the meantime.
The Bar Exam: Day 1
7:00 am: Alarm RINGS!
Wake up, shower, brush teeth, fix hair, get dressed, the usual…
Next: make sure I have everything I need for the exam
Seat ticket: Check
Pens and pencils: Check
Laptop and charger: check
Clear plastic gallon bag to hold everything in: Check
All preparations made, time to walk to the exam.
As my friend and I walk along 9th Avenue from our Airbnb, we stop to get breakfast at a local deli. Bacon, egg, and cheese on a bagel for me, ginger tea for her. We chit chat as we walk to Javits, about the exam, about what we are going to do after, about anything really. As we get closer to the exam, we see more examinees on their way to the exam, with their clear plastic bags and laptops in tow, or a bookbag to hold it all in. It is a hot summer day as we walk and we would give anything to be in an air conditioned room at the moment.
We finally get to the Javits Center, a large, glass structure on Manhattan’s West Side. When we walk in… BOOM a line that stretches from the stairs to the end of the south lobby. We wonder what is all going on, but have no choice but to wait in line, one of two that day. As we make it to the front of the line, we part ways as we are in different halls for the exam.
I proceed down the escalator and put my bookbag into the “Personal Belongings Area” and sit down to eat my bagel, or rather inhale my bagel, before making my way to the line to enter the exam room.
The line to enter the exam room is so long that it is in its own room. The line twists and turns in the room and all you can do is take one step at a time towards the impending exam. Step by step, inch by inch, all us examinees make our way to the head of the line, where our clear plastic bags are checked and we are given our green admission band. Which looks rather like the wristbands you get at an amusement park, a fitting band for the madness that lurks within.
As I round the corner after having my bag checked and enter the hall for testing, I am met with an overwhelming amount of chatter and noise. Fellow examinees speaking to one another, proctors giving directions and speaking to examinees, tech support going back and forth to resolve any last minute issues before the exam begins. I find my seat at the back of my section on the other side of the entrance to the hall. I plug in my laptop and fill out all the paper work needed before I can begin the exam.
At 9:00 am, the instructions for the exam are given, we are told to open our laptops, launch the exam software and wait for the exam to begin. The silence right before the proctor announces “It is now 9:30, you may begin the exam” is deafening and you can feel the tension in the air, it is like an electric charge running the through the air, all the anxiety of all the examinees buzzing together before the exam begins. The proctor announces we may begin and all you hear is the rifling of papers as we begin the morning session of the bar exam.
3 HOURS LATER: PLEASE STOP, TIME IS UP
We have officially finished the first morning session of the bar exam. You can feel the tension in the room ease a bit, but there is still the afternoon session to handle. As we wait for the proctors to collect our exam books, some chatter begins but nowhere near the levels of this morning. After what seems like an eternity, we are released for lunch.
Examinees flood the hallways, stairs, and tables of the Javits Center. Trying to get back to my book bag is like navigating Midtown during rush hour; dodging examinees here and there and battling to get my bag before I reach a place of sanctuary to eat.
Some examinees are eating, some are talking, some are doing last minute studying. I find my friend and we have our lunch outside in the warmth because the A/C inside has frozen us to bits it feels. Being outside in the sun, although it is hot and humid, feels so good and is such a reprieve from the dank hole where we sat for the exam.
More chatter and studying go on, until 1:20 pm for us. We then head back to our respective halls. I show my amusement park band to security and make my way back to my seat. I chat for a little with my fellow examinees near me once seated, and then at 1:40pm, the chatter stops again and the same instructions are given. We wait with baited breath for the proctor to tell us to begin. At 2:00 pm, the horn sounds and the paper rifling and typing begin at pace madder and more furious than this morning.
Click, click, click, shuffle, shuffle, shuffle… the predominant sounds of the afternoon before…
“PLEASE STOP, THE EXAM HAS ENDED.”
5:00 pm on the dot.
More book collecting this time, as we gather our laptops and chargers and are released from the exam. Chatter again fills the halls of the Javits Center, discussion of what to eat, where to eat, and what last minute studying to do. My friend and I find each other again and walk back to our Airbnb, discussing food, the exam, and our plans for once the exam finishes tomorrow.
Once back, we eat, relax a bit and prepare for the next day.
Off to sleep at 11:00 pm and back at it again tomorrow.
The Bar Exam: Day 2
Same routine as yesterday to head to exam… Shower, dress, prep, walk and get breakfast.
This morning feels a little different though; it is still hot and humid but the tension in myself and my friend has eased a bit and we even sit in the nearby park for a few minutes before heading into the Javits Center. We part ways outside and as I walk in the same entrance as yesterday, the Center feels different.
The light entering Javits is softer than Day 1, it casts a beautiful, natural light, that is so contrary to the rigid testing that will take place in less than an hour.
There is no long line descending the staircase, less students in the Javits Center and barely any line to enter the testing hall.
The air at Javits was different, calmer. The change in the air was palpable.
As I put away my lunch in the personal belongings area, the decreased tension in the air gives me a sense of relief.
My bag is checked by security before I enter the testing hall, and as I walk in the calmness in the air has made its way into the testing hall.
As I walk to my seat, I see examinees talking and laughing. And I as the observer, see it as a scene out of a movie (which is where the idea for this essay popped into my head). I walk to my seat with a such calm, you would have thought I was walking through the Brooklyn Botanical Garden and admiring the flowers and foliage.
I get to my seat, chat with my fellow examinees and wait to fill out the scantron.
Scantron filled out and we wait to begin.
9:30 am: YOU MAY NOW BEGIN
12:11 pm: I am done with the morning session of the exam!
Done early means I can leave the testing hall with a pass and have a longer lunch.
I find my friend and we enjoy our lunch outside in the small park right across from Javits. It is a better lunch than yesterday.
1:20 pm – we head back inside for the last session of the exam.
Coming back in for the last session, I am both relieved and anxious. Anxious to start this last portion but relieved to know that this is the last session for me.
1:45 pm – Instructions given for the fourth and final time; Scantrons filled out and waiting the starting bell…
2:00 pm – Starting bell rings!
Paper rifling, erasers erasing, pencils filling in the bubbles…
4:32 pm – I AM DONE!
Before my exam is collected, I give it once last look over to make sure that everything is filled in right and I didn’t miss anything
I get my pass to leave and breath a sigh of relief!
I am now officially done with the New York State Bar Exam.
I collect my lunch from the personal belongings area, meet with my friend who has also finished early and we walk back to our Airbnb. Both of us relieved to be done.
As I fall asleep that night, my mind is for the most part at ease but there is the small part in the back of my head that knows the relief is only temporary…
But instead of living in the knowledge that results come out in 3 – 4 months, I fall asleep knowing that I completed this exam, gave it my all, and can now go back to the land of the living.