Failing the Bar Exam – What to Do Next
It’s the morning that bar exam results are set to be released and you are anxiously preparing for the news. You have been waiting for this day to arrive for a few months. Your fingers are crossed as you await the (hopefully) positive news. Unfortunately, the results are in and you find out that you did not pass. After the initial shock sets in, and you can internalize exactly what you are feeling, an important question comes to mind: What do I do next? In this post, we provide some steps to take if you find out you did not pass the bar exam.
Failing the Bar Exam – What to Do Next
1. Rally your village for support
It’s easy to isolate yourself when you get the news that you did not pass the bar exam. Some students have difficulty processing the news, others simply feel ashamed about not passing, and others are worried about what others will think. Try not to get caught up in this mindset! Many students are not successful on the bar exam the first time around, but they go on to become very successful attorneys! Instead of isolating yourself, make it a personal mission to lean on those who support you the most. Chances are, they are more than willing to lend a hand as you figure out how or if you want to appraoch the bar exam again. Use your support system to re-energize and re-focus as you determine your next steps!
2. Figure out whether you want to retake the bar exam
Preparing for the bar exam is a very stressful process. The long nights studying, being away from your family, not being able to hang out with your friends—it can be a mentally isolating experience. Determining whether or not you want to retake the bar exam is a big decision, and rightfully so!
One question that many applicants must grapple with is whether passing the bar exam is necessary for their career. Does what you want for your career really involve the need for you to have a bar license? Can you reach your career goals without taking the exam? Can you afford to take the exam again financially? Do you need to take an administration off before applying to take the exam again? There might be additional factors that are worth your consideration as you consider how you want to proceed. By taking these items into consideration, you can weigh the pros and cons of going through the exam process again.
3. Review your score report
You’ve taken a couple weeks to let the initial shock set in and you focused on being around the people who love and support you through your life journey. You sat down, weighed the pros and cons, and decided that taking the bar exam is the best decision for your future. Congratulations! You’ve officially conquered your first hurdle when dealing with the aftermath of failing the bar exam. Now, it’s time to hit the ground running with a strategy for passing the exam!
Reviewing your score report is a crucial step in understanding what may have gone wrong on the bar exam. While score reports vary by state, all reports generally paint a general picture of what sections of the exam you struggled with the most. Reviewing your score report may also help you to reflect or recall specific areas of the exam that went well or didn’t go as well as you hoped. You may be able to say, “Yes, I actually do remember getting a little stumped on Property MBE questions.” Or you might remember running short on time for an MEE that received a low score. By spending some time with your score report, you’ll know where you need to improve for next stime.
Some students don’t like to look too closely at their score report because it’s a reminder that they did not pass. If you find yourself struggling to get over that hurdle, try going over your score report with a professional. Working through your bar exam score report during a bar exam consultation can help you not only strategize for the next bar exam, but also ensures that you’re not reviewing it alone.
Don’t stop with your score report, though! As you review your bar exam experience, make sure you account for issues that you ran into on exam day. Also, take note of how you felt on exam day. Did your laptop falter during the exam? Was your hand cramping up after writing just a few essays? Did you find the exam room to be too hot or too cold? Was your anxiety out of control? These are all things to work through as you determine how to approach the bar exam for a second time!
4. Figure out whether to retake bar prep with the same bar prep company
After you finish doing a detailed assessment of your score report, it’s time to decide whether you want to use the same bar exam test prep company. As you consider your options, think about how your bar prep went. Did you feel like you could engage with the material? Were you able to set aside enough time to memorize the material and stay caught up in the course? The bar exam prep course you previously used might not have been the best fit for you. Or, perhaps the course was a good fit, but you didn’t utilize it as much as you should have.
In any event, if you do plan to use the same course again, coming up with a strategy that better utilizes the course may be beneficial. Many students are a couple of points away from passing the bar exam only to wind up failing again by a few points because they approached bar prep exactly the same while expecting a different result.
Selecting a bar prep course might be a decision that has already been made for you. For example, if cost is a factor, utilizing a bar prep course’s free retake might seem like the only option available. If you find yourself in this position, working on a new strategy while using the same materials might just be the ticket!
5. Put together a study schedule
Staying organized can be an invaluable tool as you prepare for the bar exam. Part of being an organized student is being prepared and having a plan of what to study each day! The best way to prepare to study for the bar exam is by creating a study schedule that not only the material but plenty of time for practicing and memorization. This is likely a task that will take more than ten minutes. By spending a few hours to craft a study schedule that takes into account your obligations, you’ll know exactly where you’re headed when it’s time to hit the books.
The first step to making an organized study schedule is keeping track of your day-to-day obligations. Maybe you will be working when you take the bar exam so you might be focusing your studying on nights and weekends. Perhaps you have responsibilities watching over children or a loved one so you plan to work early in the morning or during naptime. Make sure to take account of these obligations so you’re setting aside time to tend to them in addition to your studies. Maybe you are a studier who is married with toddlers running around and it’s best for you to get some study time in the mornings before the kids wake up. Make sure to keep track of these obligations and set aside time for them when you put together your study schedule.
Once you have determined the best days and times to study, decide how you want to tackle each topic of the exam. Reviewing your prior bar exam results should provide you with some insight into this part of the process. Most bar exam prep courses also offer sample study schedules to help you make your way through the content. You will likely know which subjects you may need to devote more time to or which subjects you want to start with that interest you enough to keep you engaged. Make sure to incorporate areas where you excelled on the bar exam into your study schedule. Some students only focus on areas that they missed, and wind up decreasing their score in other areas.
Finally, make sure that you add some personal time to your study schedule. Take a day or afternoon off occasionally. Make sure to incorporate your brother’s wedding or your grandparent’s anniversary party. By adding personal events to your study schedule, you know you’ll be on track with assignments so you won’t feel guilty spending time with those who care about you.
6. Discuss next steps with your employer
One aspect about retaking the bar exam that can be difficult is that life is continuing to move around you. This means that your work obligations might continue, bills are due, and other obligations will come up even though you’re preparing for the bar exam.
If you plan on working while studying, make sure to discuss expectations with your employer. Will you be able to take time off to study? Can you cut back to part-time? How can you and your employer work together to better handle office assignments as you prepare for the bar exam? These are all questions that are better to answer at the beginning of bar prep instead of at a time when you are overwhelmed with studying. By setting expectations in advance (and incorporating any obligations into your study schedule), you’ll have a better idea of how to manage your time when bar prep begins to pick up.
7. Work on your mindset
It’s no secret that studying for the bar exam requires mental toughness. Getting into a good mental state can be incredibly difficult as you prepare for the bar a second time. Make sure to listen to your body and try to protect your mental health! One way to accomplish this is to simply try and put yourself in the mindset for success. Remember that you can pass the bar exam on your second try! Just because you did not pass the first time doesn’t mean that you will not pass on the second try. Not sure where to start? Try writing some positive affirmations! Start with “I am capable of passing the bar exam,” or “I will pass the bar exam.”
Finally, go easy on yourself. Don’t continue to beat yourself up for failing the bar exam. Instead, channel that energy into studying for (and passing!) the upcoming bar exam. Making a positive mindset a top proprity will surely take you a long way on your journey.
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