My Boyfriend Failed The Bar Exam. What Should I Do?
My Boyfriend Failed The Bar Exam. What Should I Do?: If your boyfriend – or girlfriend, or any family member – failed the bar exam, it can be hard to know what to do or what to say. You may not know exactly what to say or do (or you may wonder if you are saying too much or too little!). We have talked to several significant others of those who failed the bar exam. We have also talked to several students about what they find (and don’t find!) helpful. Here is some time-tested advice.
My Boyfriend Failed The Bar Exam. What Should I Do?
1. Be supportive of his initial reaction.
After finding out your boyfriend failed the bar exam, the best thing to do is to let him be sad! Failing the bar exam is hard to process and can be extremely devastating for students. Not only do students feel immediately overwhelmed by the prospects of having to study for the exam again, they also usually feel disappointed, angry that they did not pass, and sometimes a mixture of jealousy and happiness for friends that did pass. It takes a while to sort out and process these feelings. Some students need a few days before they are ready to dive into Plan B. Some, however, may need a week or longer.
At some point, if your boyfriend is wallowing in despair, you may have to have a real conversation with them to see what needs to be done (including seeking professional help). But in the beginning, not only is it normal, it is necessary for your boyfriend to work through these emotions. The best thing to do in the very beginning is let him know that you are there for him, that you will help however you can, and then give him some space if he needs it. If the fact that your boyfriend failed the bar exam is stressing you out, do not talk to him about it! Instead, confide in a friend or different family member.
2. Remember the bar exam is really difficult!
Second, recognize that the bar exam is a very difficult test. The wrong response to “I failed the bar exam” is “What? How could you fail?” Instead, reiterate this understanding that the bar exam is very difficult. Passage rates have been falling everywhere (many states passage rates are between 40% and 60% — meaning that approximately half of the students taking the bar exam do not pass)! The bar exam requires that students complete very difficult essays in a timed setting as well as hundreds of multiple-choice questions. This understanding of the difficulty of the exam as well as the low number of people that pass will help give you and your boyfriend perspective.
There are multiple reasons why smart people fail the bar exam. You are welcome to read our article that was published in the National Jurist about seven reasons smart people fail the bar exam and pass along this information to your boyfriend if he blames himself.
3. Help build his confidence again.
Third, if your boyfriend feels extremely discouraged, remind him that the hard part is over. The LSAT, getting into law school, and completing three years of law school is the hard and long part! Of course the bar exam is difficult, but it is the last step in a very long journey. If he completed law school, he can conquer the bar exam. The bar exam is not three years—it is a test he can retake! You can also point out that several smart, talented, and successful people have failed the bar exam and they didn’t let it get them down (see this list for several successful people who have failed the bar exam). Failing the bar exam is not something that will hold him back forever.
4. Work with him to develop a plan moving forward.
Fourth, try to figure out what went wrong. Bar exams have an MBE portion (this is 200 multiple-choice questions) and a written portion (which consists of essays and sometimes “MPTs” which are tests of lawyerly skills). Your boyfriend will be receiving a score report that breaks down his score. When it arrives, you can analyze it or even call us for a free consultation to identify the areas of improvement.
Ask your boyfriend to think critically about how he studied and what helped him and what didn’t. Did going to lecture help? How about reviewing outlines? Did he memorize enough? Did he complete enough practice questions and review the explanations? Don’t ask your boyfriend these questions right away. Once things have calmed down it is not a bad idea to help him think critically about the answers to these questions and how his approach can differ the next time he takes a bar exam. Ask him if private tutoring could help him. A private tutor can provide not only academic support but also emotional support and accountability. If you’d like to read more about our private tutoring services, please see our testimonials and read more about private tutoring here.
5. Try not to put too much pressure on him before the next exam!
Fifth, do not put undue pressure on your boyfriend. He probably puts the most pressure on himself to pass. He likely also feels significant social pressure to pass. While you should act (and be!) interested in his studies, don’t micromanage his day or constantly ask if he is studying enough.
6. Be understanding of his decision on who he tells.
Sixth, don’t encourage your boyfriend to hide the fact that he failed the bar exam. Instead, it is best to leave it up to him to decide who to tell and who not to tell. Also, don’t immediately analogize the bar exam to passing the CPA exam, the boards, or even passing the bar exam several years ago. Even if it is true that you passed a very difficult exam, and even if it is true that some of those lessons can be helpful to him, this can be extremely hard to hear.
7. Help him see the silver lining of failing the bar exam.
Lastly, even though it is difficult to see, there are actually good things that come from failing the bar exam. Many of our students tell us they are glad they failed the bar exam before they come to us. Please read this “note to those who failed the bar exam” if you curious as to what good things can come from failing the bar exam.
We hope this post helps if your boyfriend failed the bar exam!
Christine, one of our bar exam tutors, wrote this post. She has passed three bar exams, including California, New York, and New Jersey. Christine scored in the 95 percentile on the MBE, and specializes in helping students raise their uniform bar exam scores!
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