Undoubtedly, some of you spent your law school years getting much less than 8 hours of sleep nightly. Between the homework and social activities, law school can teach anyone how to survive on little sleep. However, this routine is not recommended during your bar preparations, and definitely not for the week of the actual test.
Researchers in Germany found that students who slept seven hours a night during exams scored nearly 10 percent higher on tests than those students who got less sleep. You can read their findings here.
Researchers have also discovered that optimal performance on exams means finding a sleeping pattern that has you waking up around test time every day for a week or so in advance, thereby allowing your biological clock to acclimate to the test day schedule. This is especially important if, for example, you live in Washington D.C., but you are taking the California bar exam. You should devote at least a week before the exam waking up three hours earlier to align your biological clock to your new time zone.
Most importantly, good sleep and deep learning are crucial in the months leading up to the actual bar exam. Do not decide that you're going to cram learning the intricacies of the Statute of Frauds the night before the MBE. Deep learning requires an intensive commitment to learning material well before the exam, This way, you can review the night before the test and still achieve a proper night's rest.
Over the past 10 years, I've heard it all - examinees tell me about how they stayed up all night studying, too nervous or lacking in knowledge or confidence to submit to sleep. In almost every case, they failed the bar exam. The same goes for the night before the MBE. People tell me how they did 100 questions the night before the test, leaving them exhausted for the 200 question marathon the next day.
Folks, if you do not know a particular area of law tested on the bar exam the night before the exam, review your materials and force yourself to sleep seven to eight hours. There will be plenty of legal concepts that seem tenuous in your mind the day of the exam - this is natural for most people. Your best strategy is to let it go, understand you've done everything you could to prepare, and make it your goal to get a good night's sleep.