What to Expect at the Arizona Bar Exam

by thedesertion

A major part of my bar exam anxiety was that I didn’t know what to expect when walking into the Arizona Bar Exam. I guess I could have sought out others who had taken the exam before so that I could pick their brains and get a better idea about what to expect on the day of the exam. So here’s a post about what to expect on the day of the bar exam. I’ll add to this list when I think of more things.

Day 1 – MEE and MPT

  • You don’t need to bring anything into the exam room on the first day except your laptop and charger. Don’t even attempt to bring pencils, pens, highlighters, or ear plugs. When you get your exam packet for the morning session, it will have a pen and a fresh pack of earplugs, along with a booklet of the first 6 essays. There is also a flash drive in there. That flash drive is where you will save your exam to when the time is up. Don’t worry, they give you instructions on how to save the exam to the flash drive. Then you turn in the exam packet and the flash drive at noon when it’s over.
  • You get to bring a gallon-sized Ziplock type bag with your wallet and your keys. Don’t bother putting lip gloss or anything else in there, it’ll get taken away as you come through the metal detectors at security. You don’t need anything else in there anyway. Leave your cell phone in the car or in your hotel room.
  • You don’t need a watch. There are huge digital countdown clocks in the exam room that are visible from wherever you are seated. I found this to be a huge relief!
  • Don’t wear high heels or flip flops. I know this is in the exam instructions packet that is e-mailed to you a month before the exam, but I can’t stress enough how much people really ignore the instructions or don’t read them at all. The floor is polished concrete in the North building of the Phoenix Convention Center where the summer bar exam is administered. Flip flops and heels will just click-click-click any time you get up to get a drink of water or go to the restroom. Just plain rude and annoying. And yes, there is a water fountain in the exam room.
  • Wear easily removable layers. It was freezing in the exam room. My toes froze and my nail beds were turning purple from the cold. I wore a hooded sweatshirt, long-sleeve shirt underneath, t-shirt under the long-sleeve shirt, long pants, and sneakers. I was still cold. A lot of people were complaining about how cold it was, so I know it wasn’t just me. They overcompensated for the summer heat with the air conditioning.
  • Don’t go into the exam room too early. You’ll be sitting in your seat, doing nothing, and the anxiety levels will just build and build until the proctor starts reading off the exam instructions. You could be sitting there for a good HOUR before it’s officially time to start going through the formal instructions. Just grab a coffee and sit outside of the security area, and relax.
  • You’ll go through a LONG process of getting the exam software up and going. They make you go through a practice exam in the Exam4 software. Then people’s computers will inevitably crap out on them. Exam4 staffs the exam with techies in red polos and khakis who come to you and try to get your computer up and running. They really do try as best as they can to get your computer running the exam software properly. They understand that handwriting the exam absolutely sucks and handwriting at a maximum speed of 30 words per minute pales in comparison to the 60 words per minute you could be typing. If all else fails, they bring you the blue books and you just have to suffer through it. Horrible. What a nightmare. Happened to me once during law school and I dreaded the idea of having it happen again at the bar exam. If you have a crappy computer, borrow someone else’s for the exam and install the software on that computer instead. Just don’t risk a shitty computer, it’s not worth it.
  • The bar exam staff paces up and down the rows during the exam. Don’t let them freak you out, they’re just looking out for cheating or other suspicious activity.
  • At the last 15 minutes before the 3 hour time limit is up, no one is allowed to leave their seat for any reason. No restroom, no turning in your exam and leaving, nothing. If you need to pee, do it before the last 15 minutes is up or you’ll have to sit there and wait. I think the examiners do this as a courtesy to those who are feverishly trying to finish up and don’t want the extra distraction of people getting up and leaving.
  • The exam officially goes from 9am-12pm. Then you leave for lunch, and the announcer tells you what time to come back. You can be 15 minutes late back from lunch and you’ll be totally fine. The second set of computer formalities begins, but it’s shorter this time because you don’t have to do the practice exam in Exam4 again.
  • Don’t eat something that’s gonna have you going to the restroom or make you sleepy. You’ll really, really regret it. A solid but not over-filling lunch is best. There are a lot of great food options in the downtown Phoenix area now, unlike a few years ago.
  • You get the packet for the 2 MPTs, new ear plugs (don’t save and reuse the old ones from the morning session, you always get a fresh set with each portion of the exam), a pen, and a flash drive. The proctor says, “you may begin now” at 2pm. You’ll read, underline, outline, and type feverishly all the way until 5pm. Then end your exam, save to the flash drive, and hand in your packet and your flash drive. Go home (or to your hotel room) and get some rest.

Day 2 – MBE

  • Same as yesterday, but this time no computer. Don’t bring it. It won’t be allowed into the exam room and you won’t even need it at all.
  • When you go into the exam room, go back to the same seat you were assigned to yesterday.
  • Don’t even try to bring a pencil because that’s not allowed. You are provided with two pencils waiting for you at your seat the moment you walk into the room. If you need more, just raise your hand and they’ll give you a freshly sharpened pencil with good erasers. When you leave for lunch, someone goes around and sharpens every pencil in the room so that you’re ready for the second half of the MBE. The pencils will be the least of your worries.
  • In the morning, you get a packet consisting of ear plugs, a Scantron sheet, and a booklet of the first 100 MBE questions. You go through the formalities of filling out the Scantron together. They don’t start the test until everyone’s done bubbling in their name, social security number, etc. This part is really tedious because they walk you through every. single. step. You end up finally beginning the exam at around 9am.
  • Do your best to manage your time. I liked to follow the this structure: at 30 mins be at question 17; at 1 hour be at question 34; at 1.5 hours be at question 51; at 2 hours be at question 68; at 2.5 hours be at question 85. If you play it like this, you might have some time at the end to make sure you bubbled in all the bubbles and didn’t skip a row or bubble in the same row twice. You don’t want to make that mistake. Trust me. You will not be given extra time to fix the mistake. You are totally screwed. And don’t circle all your answers in the exam booklet and wait until the end to bubble in your answers. BIG mistake you will regret forever. There will be no extra time allotted for it and the proctor warns you against this.
  • At noon, you break for lunch. When you come back, you get a new packet with new ear plugs, a Scantron sheet, and a booklet of the 2nd 100 set of the MBEs. Your pencils will be on your desk, as I said, freshly sharpened.
  • You go through the Scantron formalities together again with the proctor walking you through every step of it. Take this time to go to the restroom. If you’re like me, you need every minute for those MBEs and you don’t want to waste even a second going to the restroom during the test.
  • You start around 2pm and end at 5pm.
  • Hurray! It’s over! You survived! Then you wait the agonizing 10 weeks for your results :/

I know this list is a little nuts. I will try to organize it a little better some other time. If you have any questions about the Arizona Bar Exam, feel free to leave me a message below! After having taken the Arizona Bar Exam more than once, I feel like I’m an expert at the formalities, but not the content 🙂