I thought I'd jot down some comments about the test as a whole before they fade from memory (and boy are they fading - I slept in until 7:30 and felt like the Queen of Sheba!). I guess I'll just write it down in one very long post (namely for anyone taking the Feb. '08 Florida bar exam who was just as clueless as I was). Alrighty...
Arrival & Hotel:
If you're the nervous type, I really recommend driving down Sunday. I found my Monday to be pretty hectic. We arrived, then of course you want to hug and share some bitching with all the close friends you haven't seen since graduation. Then it was dinner, and I found that I never got to settle in or pretend to flip through notes to make myself feel better. The Hyatt is a great location - a straight walk (past a bar which is hoppin' after the test) to the center. They offer a shuttle for $3, but unless you've got some reason that you need to take a car, it was a relaxing walk that lasted maybe 3 minutes max. There's a hotel closer (right across the street)... I think it was an Embassy Suites. I was pleased with the Hyatt. Ran into people in the lobby, could avoid them in my room. The bed was super comfy. When you book, ask for the "bar exam rate" which is 130 (they increase the rates depending on occupancy, so the rates during the exam are higher than if you choose to stay an extra day). Also when budgeting, remember that you have to pay for parking. A tip - valet at the hotel is more expensive than parking at the city garage around the corner. Pull up to the valet, let them take your bags, then ask for the garage - it's literally one turn, and you save mad parking money (it still totaled about $28 for 3 days). Park on the 3rd level of the garage, and you're at a covered walk way that connects to the hotel - easy as pie.
Exam Day 1:
So I was clueless what to do aside from arrive at the center with my little piece of paper. Here's what happens. When you first come in, you check your bags (don't bring a bag - there is really no reason for it - promise! If you bring your laptop, ditch the carrying case... bring the unit and cord in your hands - makes life easier). Then you take your ticket into a room (follow the crowd) where you trade your signed ticket for a photo ID badge. You take your photo ID badge and your stuff up the escalators one level, and then you divide hand writers from laptop users. This was probably the most chaotic part of the morning. No one really directs you were to go. If you wear a polo shirt, like I did, everyone will ask you directions. If you felt like being mean - this would be a great opportunity. Anyhow, the laptop line is crazy long, and the hand writers feel like V.I.P. In the area before you go through the metal detectors, there are tables and chairs where you can read over your notes. Then toss them in the bin before you go through the detectors. They're pretty strict on what you can bring in. I brought my stuff in a ziplock and was left alone, but the line next to me had a cop who made you throw away every piece of paper (even the envelope your ticket came in). I'll recommend what you should bring below.
Here's a big tip. There is no reason to arrive early, because once you get through the metal detector, you're crammed into another holding area - laptop users in one, hand writers in the other. It's hot, crowded, and close to bathrooms (which I'll discuss later). There's enough nervous energy to blast the entire convention center into orbit. I'd say, if you're getting there early because you just can't believe what I say, find a spot against the wall, pop in your earplugs, and close your eyes. A little after 8, they'll let you into the testing room. Prepare to be shocked. It's like walking into a room designed by Nazis - no seriously, it's Nazi architecture. Big white columns, high ceiling, and a podium down in the front center (which I couldn't see - but the voice over the speaker phone kept mentioning). The number on your photo ID is your seat number. Computer people are all on the far left, writers on the right. Aside from the line to get through the metal detector, I couldn't tell you what the ratio of computer to hand writers was, because I couldn't see any computers from where I sat. Seriously big room! There were more than 3,000 of us (because my badge number was in the 3,000s).
So you sit two people to a table, facing the front. There are digital timers at the front of the room which are the official timers. If you're nearsighted, bring your glasses. The room is cold, but my adrenaline kept me warm. They go through all the instructions with you, finger printing, etc. Overall, pretty painless, my only complaint was getting there early and being in the contained area close to the bathrooms. On that note:
- First of all, they say the bathrooms inside the testing room don't open until 9am - when the test starts. That's not true, people were using them at 8:45. I do know, however, that a friend of mine was told she couldn't use them (but everyone else was - so that proctor must have been a jerk).
- Second... do whatever you can to avoid the restroom. It is a bona fide warzone. I didn't go during the test, but on my lunch break, I thought it would be a good idea. I hate to be explicit, but we all know how crazy some people's nerves are before the test and how much coffee people have been drinking. Not everyone found their 48 hour zen... and I think they all got together to share their woes in the bathroom. Especially true the first day - so use at your own risk. I walked in, and thought I was about to lose my lunch all over the place, and felt sick after walking out of there for a few minutes.
- I don't know what to recommend. The second day was better. I went on my lunch break again - this time timed so as to avoid the crowd. There was still a girl yakking in the stall next to me, but I guess since it was less crowded, it wasn't as intense. Just breath shallow, put your sleeve over your nose, and go as fast as you can.
- I ended up putting my stuff into a clear ziplock, and it made the metal detector process cake. I just handed the baggie to the cop, and walked through.
- Something long sleeved to layer - it is cold. It was even colder the second day.
- Earplugs - even if you don't normally use them, just in case.
- Pencils - they provided us with two.
- Pens - they told us that they preferred the use of black ink, but that you'd still be graded if you used blue.
- Room key, credit card, and drivers license.
Learn from Our Mistakes:
- Don't forget your external harddrive.
- You'll either end up making a Monday night trip to Best Buy like two friends of mine, or
- You'll end up handwriting surrounded by computer users, because your seat number is assigned based on how you registered. My friend who forgot her external harddrive wanted me to tell you that she decided to handwrite, and preferred it. Being surrounded my computer users she said it looked stressful, people didn't know how to log off, when they could turn their computers off, or realize that they'd have to upload their answers after the exam, but before 10pm, and probably paying for the internet.
- You have to have internet to upload your answers - in the Hyatt that means $10... and you can't share it with someone else.
- Really do bring earplugs - even if you don't normally use them. You could be like the guy who was seated next to the girl who cried through the whole exam, or the one that hums prayers under her breath. You never know.
- Y'all have any mistakes to share?