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Why reading a novel can help while studying for the bar exam

Reading a Novel During the Bar Exam

After years of schooling, the bar exam is the final step between the years of hard work and becoming a lawyer. Preparing for this exam can be treacherous, so it’s important to keep tricks up your sleeve to reduce stress and do as best as you possibly can on the day of the test. Scheduling, staying organized, staying active and healthy, getting an adequate amount of sleep and avoiding unnecessary stress are all essential to doing well on any exam, especially the bar exam.

But here’s one thing you probably haven’t thought of: try picking up a novel to reduce stress.

This may seem counterintuitive because study breaks would normally be used to sleep or relax. But, reading a novel could help your brain take a break from your studying and test content but still keep it activated. Reading actually reduces stress levels by decreasing blood pressure and lowering heart rates.

Reading a novel you enjoy for leisure purposes may keep you calm and relaxed amidst the pressure of studying for the bar exam. It is also  important to pick a book that won’t elevate your anxiety levels but will keep you tranquil and at peace.

In a 2009 study by the University of Sussex, cognitive neuropsychologist Dr. David Lewis said, “Losing yourself in a book is the ultimate relaxation. This is particularly poignant in uncertain economic times when we are all craving a certain amount of escapism. It really doesn’t matter what book you read, by losing yourself in a thoroughly engrossing book you can escape from the worries and stresses of the everyday world and spend a while exploring the domain of the author’s imagination.”

Reading not only reduces stress but keeps your cognitive skills sharp. This can have long term positive effects, such as lowering the risk of cognitive impairments later in life.

When studying for the bar exam, it’s important to be getting adequate sleep every night. One bedtime habit to get into is putting your phone away an hour or so before bed and replacing it with a novel. This habit will help not only while studying for the bar but also long-term.

It has even been proven that reading is a better habit for reducing stress than listening to music, drinking tea or taking a walk, which are usually considered activities that lower stress levels. If you’re intrigued by a good novel, your brain slows down and just concentrates on the book. According to the Sussex study, reading for only six minutes could help minimize stress by 68%.

Minimizing stress while taking the bar exam is extremely important, as it can help you increase your productivity and test results.  HuffPost even stated that “a study conducted by researchers from the University of Liverpool in the U.K. earlier this year found that 38 percent of adults class reading as their “‘ultimate stress remedy.’”

One book to consider while studying for the bar is “Daily Reflections for Bar Exam Study: An Inspirational Companion for Law Students and Experienced Attorneys Taking the Bar Exam” by M.G. Groepler. Instead of preparing readers for the actual exam, this book helps exam takers with the mental side of the bar. This book contains 43 reflections to help you stay focused while studying. It is intended to be read before the exam or throughout study sessions. The book helps readers with positive language, motivation and stress relief to power through the journey of the exam.

It’s a perfect companion to you and your study materials during bar exam preparations.

Another book that could keep your studying in the back of your mind while taking breaks is “Son of a Sleeper Spy” by Evan Law. Law is an immigration attorney who created a series of “law thrillers” that serve as novels to read in between bar exam study sessions. The books are fiction novels about law students’ lives that take on a thriller aspect.

Law inserts footnotes throughout the book that discuss the legal terminology used in the novel in order to help readers studying for the bar keep their brains active and thinking about the exam topics. Law also published a sequel to his original novel, “Defiance.” Law’s readers are mainly law school students or graduates or students considering law school. As an attorney, Law knows what needs to be done in order to prepare fully for the bar exam and educate while entertaining readers.

Books such as Law’s can give readers insight to answers they’ve been looking for and new viewpoints on legal terminology.

John M. Cooper John M. Cooper is a founding partner at Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers. John is a veteran of personal injury law practice in Virginia. A native Virginian, he was raised in Norfolk and Virginia Beach. He has more than 30 years of experience handling personal injury cases and recently handled the largest auto accident settlement in 2010, according to VA Lawyers Weekly.