Failed the Bar Exam – then PASSED!
Inside Tips from Repeat Takers
Here are tips from our repeat takers who failed the bar exam, then passed!
We specialize in helping repeat takers pass the bar exam – second, third, fourth, fifth+ repeat takers. (We just helped someone pass the bar who had been taking it for ten years!) So, we have access to a lot of great tips! Note that some of these are relatively small changes that can make a BIG difference in your overall score.
Failed the Bar Exam – then PASSED!
Here are the tips to keep in mind if you want to turn that unsuccessful score into a success story!
1. Get motivated!
Mental state is often overlooked. When you fail the bar exam, a lot of people have all kinds of advice – do this, do that, etc.
But before you can productively do anything, you have to get in the right mindset.
Hearing all of the things you have to do isn’t going to be helpful if you are not receptive to doing anything! So here are a few tips from our repeat takers for getting in the right mindset.
Step One: Feel.
First, feel all the emotions you need to. Be annoyed. Be sad. Be angry. Be hopeless. Call your best friend or journal, or go running, or bake a lot. Do whatever you need to do and get it out of your system.
Step Two: Reframe
Did you fail the bar exam? Did you really “fail” it?
Maybe your score is passing in another jurisdiction (if you got a 260 or above on the UBE, it is).
Maybe even if you did not pass the bar exam, you still took it. And that is a success in its own right. So yes, maybe you did not get a passing score. But you learned a lot and you will learn even more about resilience, courage, and going after your goals. So, in a lot of ways, that is not at all failure!
“Only in the darkness can you see the stars” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
Step three: Redefine.
The bar exam does NOT measure how smart you are.
It does NOT measure how hard-working you are.
It does NOT measure whether you’ll be a good attorney.
It does NOT measure how successful you’ll be.
The bar exam measures…how you perform on the bar exam.
You can go on to have a STELLAR career (and even be the VP!) after failing the bar.
2. Commit to changing your approach.
If you do what you did, you’ll get what you got!
If you want different results, you have to try a different approach!
If you say “I am going to pass the bar exam” but you are using the SAME course, SAME outlines, SAME practice questions, SAME approach….I hate to state the obvious, but you will probably get the SAME (non-passing) score.
So consider a different course, new outlines that you aren’t completely sick of looking at, a fresh set of practice questions so you get a clean slate to start from, and a different approach.
(Note: our on demand course is less than $100/month with our current sale!)
In general, people don’t like change. But this change will be refreshing and motivating. And more importantly, you’ll see positive results!
3. Figure out what went wrong.
Now you have a new outlook (tip 1), and you are starting with a clean slate because you are open to changing your approach (tip 2). Good. Now let’s zero in on your weaknesses. This will help you be most fruitful in your efforts.
You actually have a huge benefit – you have already failed a bar exam! This means you have great data about what went right and what went wrong.
A lot of students just assume they know what went wrong.
For example, they say, “I am terrible at multiple-choice”. But then we look at their score report and it was really the MPT portion that brought them down. Or they struggled with timing. Or their rule statements were not all that great.
So do not ignore your score report. Review it carefully so you can pinpoint your areas of strength and weakness. (Here is a key to analysing your UBE score report or your New York Bar Exam score report).
If you have the opportunity to review your essays, please do so. This is a source of valuable information.
4. Try a few quick fixes.
You may need some major changes – especially if you are a repeat-repeat taker. Or if your score falls significantly below a passing score. However, there are also some quick fixes that you should make immediately.
The nice thing about “quick fixes” is that they can get you motivated and jump-start your bar exam studying.
A few quick fixes that come to mind:
- Instead of trying to learn everything, focus on the highly tested areas of law (here are highly tested areas of law on the MEE, MBE, CA bar exams)
- Use released MBE questions if you have not already used them. (So if you are just using a plain Barbri or Kaplan course without released questions, it is worth it to use real NCBE questions.)
- Switch up your outlines or materials. Using the same outlines can be a huge energy drainer. It is hard to use a different approach when you are using the exact same study materials. Consider a new approach (and see a sample of our outlines here).
- Incorporate charts and diagrams into your outline. Most students tend to be visual learners. So, instead of just staring at your outlines, make them come to life with charts and diagrams. For example, it may be easier to memorize contract formation if you have a chart like this.
Lastly, if you have resources to expend on accomplishing this goal of becoming a lawyer, consider private tutoring. So many of our students have found this to be the easiest, fastest path to success!
I have taken the Bar Exam twice because I didn’t pass the first time. Matt’s tutoring focused on building my confidence that I knew the material. He gave me techniques to help break down my “overthinking” and “making the question harder than it was.” We worked specifically on two of my weakest subjects. Matt gave me nice encouragement and was patient with me. I would recommend him to everyone who needs a tutor for the UBE. The JD outlines were easy to follow and great for memorization. I used a lot of the phrasing of the rule statements in those outlines when writing my essay answers. Specifically, I liked the Real Property outline and the drawing of how the easements work. It added a more visual learning experience than my bar prep did. Overall, my scores improved drastically. I scored a 256 on the UBE my first go around, and needed a 276 to pass. I ended up scoring a 281 this time. My essays were my saving grace because I could better issue spot after working with Matt.
5. Make a study schedule.
You will feel better as soon as you have a plan in place. I promise. So many of our repeat takers feel better as soon as they have a plan in place. And one of the number one pieces of advice we hear is: make a study schedule!
If you just say “I am going to study again”, there are a few reasons that is generally not successful:
- You will be quickly unmotivated due to not having a different or solidified approach
- You will get distracted easily
- You will feel like you are “drifting” around but not making a lot of progress
So, on your very first day that you plan to “study”, don’t dive into reviewing your same old stale outlines and practice questions.
Instead, clean off your desk, get a big cup of coffee, and come up with your approach.
- Review your score report and your essays
- Consider signing up for a new course so you have a new set of materials (new outlines, new practice questions, etc.) Our on demand course is less than $100/month!
- Dissect your score report and your essays
Lastly, plan out your own study schedule! If you take a course, then you will most likely have a study schedule planned out for you. But if you are not taking a course, then you will have to chart your own path. Don’t be overwhelmed! We have a sample 45-day bar exam self-study plan available for you to use!
Note: if you are looking for a hands-on, detailed approach, we recommend you also:
- sign up for our free webinar on what to do if you failed the bar exam
- download our free guide on what to do if you failed the bar exam
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