Four Reasons You May Have Failed the Uniform Bar Exam - JD Advising
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Four Reasons You May Have Failed the Uniform Bar Exam

Four Reasons You May Have Failed the Uniform Bar Exam

If you failed the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE), we promise it is not the end of the world (even though it may feel like it for a little while). One important step you can take to make sure you pass the next bar exam is to ensure you are not studying the exact same way you did before. It is important to figure out why you failed the Uniform Bar Exam so that you can address your weaknesses and pass next time!

We talk to students who fail the Uniform Bar Exam every administration. Below is a summary of four common reasons that examinees fail the UBE and what you can do to overcome these pitfalls.

Four Reasons You May Have Failed the Uniform Bar Exam

Reason #1: you focused too much on one portion of the UBE.

There are three components to the UBE: the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE), the Multistate Essay Examination (MEE), and the Multistate Performance Test (MPT).

As a reminder, the MBE consists of 200 multiple-choice questions and accounts for 50% of your total UBE score. The MEE consists of six essays and is worth 30% of your total score. The MPT is comprised of two “real world” legal tasks like drafting a complaint or client letter and accounts for 20% of your total score.

Some students are better at multiple-choice questions, while others do better with written problems. There’s nothing wrong with this, and doing better on one portion might boost you a little bit if you don’t do as well on another portion. But, keep in mind the multiple-choice portion (MBE) and the written portion (MEE and MPT) of the UBE are given equal weight. So if you do really poorly on one portion, it’ll be much more difficult to achieve an overall passing score. (If you are wondering how you did on each portion, check out this article on “What does my Uniform Bar Exam score report mean?” here.)

Recognize your weaknesses at the onset; then take the time to focus on these weaknesses. If you struggle with multiple-choice questions, make sure you dedicate some extra time to practicing past MBE questions. If you struggle with writing, focus on completing full essays and MPTs. But, make sure you stay balanced—you can’t dedicate 90% of your study time to one portion over the other and still expect to do well overall.

We tend to see more people focus on the MBE, neglect the MEE, and really neglect the MPT. If this is you, check out our post on five reasons to take the MPT seriously.

Reason #2: you didn’t know the law.

This may seem obvious, but you have to know the law if you want to pass the UBE. If you don’t know the law, then you obviously won’t be able to apply that law to get the right answer.

A huge mistake we see is when students go right from lecture to trying to do practice problems. They do not take the time to memorize their bar exam outlines. This can be very detrimental.

Or, some students review their outlines and notes over and over without ever truly grasping the rules. They do things like make notecards but never review them or rewrite their outlines with the TV on in the background. This is ineffective and unproductive. Many MBE questions are specifically drafted to trick or mislead you. Certain multiple-choice answer options will seem correct at first glance, particularly given your limited time to answer each question. If your knowledge of the law is shaky, chances are you’ll end up guessing on a fair share of the questions.

It’s the same situation with the MEEs. If you don’t know the law, you’ll not only be unable to state the correct rule. You’ll also be unable to apply the correct rule to the fact pattern. This will make it extremely difficult to do well on the essay portion of the UBE.

So, even if you understood the law, ask yourself if you truly have it memorized. If not, it may be time to work on memorization strategies!

Reason #3: you knew the law but didn’t practice enough!

Another reason students fail the UBE has nothing to do with their knowledge of the law. More commonly, they have a strong grasp of the actual law but have problems applying the law to the facts.

The UBE is as much about testing skills as it is about testing the law. In other words, knowledge of the law is not enough to pass the UBE. You need to practice applying the law to the facts.

For the MBE, this obviously means practicing multiple-choice questions. But, don’t just do them; take the time afterward to review the answer and explanation for each question. Even if you got the right answer, you need to make sure you got that correct answer for the right reason!

For the MEE, you need to practice by writing out full essay answers. It’s not enough to just issue spot or outline an answer. You need to familiarize yourself with using the IRAC format and appropriate headings. Basically, you want to practice drafting your essays in a readable format that will make it as easy as possible for the grader to award you points!

For the MPT, you also need to practice by drafting full MPTs. A lot of students tend to procrastinate on preparing for the MPT. This is likely because there is nothing to memorize—the bar examiners give you all the law you need. But don’t make the mistake of not practicing. As noted above, the MPT portion is worth 20% of the overall UBE score. Make sure you know the format the examiners want you to use, and practice that format. This is a great way to boost your overall Uniform Bar Exam score!

Reason #4: you didn’t practice effective time management.

You’ve heard it a million times—the best way to study for the UBE is by doing actual questions. As we noted above, this is 100% true. But, as you get closer to the actual UBE, just doing practice questions is not enough. You need to time yourself when you do the questions!

If you pay attention to timing and practice under test-like conditions, you’ll know well ahead of the UBE if timing is an issue for you. And, if it is an issue, you’ll still have plenty of time to make adjustments and continue practicing. If you don’t practice under timed conditions, you risk running out of time before you can answer all the questions.

Remember: it doesn’t matter how much law you know or how many practice questions you’ve done if you run out of time during the actual exam!

You are not alone if you failed the UBE. Check out this detailed post on what to do if you fail the Uniform Bar Exam. If you’re looking for some additional guidance, you can view our top five UBE study tips here.

Go to the next topic, Step 4: Figure out Why You Failed the Uniform Bar Exam.