How does it feel to fail the bar exam? - JD Advising
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fail the bar exam, top five best uniform bar exam books, MBE Seminar, #1 law student, graduate as the #1 law studentHow does it feel to fail the bar exam?

If you fail the bar exam, you are probably feeling a lot of things. One of the frustrating things about failing the bar exam is that it is hard to sort through feelings. A lot of feelings go unacknowledged (“it’s just a test – you can retake it!”) or ignored (“time to start studying again”).

We think it is best to take some time to process feelings if you fail the bar exam. In this post, we list some emotions that you may feel if you fail the bar exam.

How does it feel to fail the bar exam?

Here are some of the emotions you may feel if you fail the bar exam. Note that you may not feel all of these–or you may also feel other emotions if you fail the bar exam. Some emotions may be heightened if you fail the bar exam. You probably feel these emotions most intensely soon after you find out you failed the bar exam. (You will gradually feel better, as we discuss at the end of the post.)


Unsurprisingly, one of the deepest feelings that students feel is sadness or depression. You have worked very hard toward something and you were unsuccessful. This can be deeply saddening and disappointing.


Sometimes sadness/depression is combined with despair or a feeling of hopelessness.  You may feel as though you cannot possibly do anything different. You may feel like you will never pass the bar exam. This is very common among those who fail the bar exam.

(Note: if sadness, depression, despair, or hopelessness becomes unbearable or lasts too long, please seek professional help.)


Many students who fail the bar exam have never failed anything in their life. (You may have always been an overachiever!) Surprise is a very common feeling. You may also be surprised that you failed the bar exam given the amount of work that you did, given that you completed your commercial course, or given the fact that you didn’t feel like you failed when you walked out of the exam.


You may instantly feel stressed out if you fail the bar exam. Not only will you likely plan on studying again. But failing the bar exam can affect you professionally and personally. It can put a strain on your relationships and your life.


There are so many reasons that smart and successful people fail the bar exam – and you probably know this intellectually. But many students report feeling dumb or inadequate when they fail the bar exam.


You may be annoyed at your friends that passed the bar exam (and keep posting about it on facebook or instagram). You may be annoyed at anyone who passed who did not work as hard as you. You may be annoyed at your loved ones who are trying unsuccessfully to comfort you. Annoyance is a very common feeling. And can sometimes turn to anger.


You may be angry at yourself, at others who pass (especially those who are not subtle about it), the board of law examiners, at the fact that you have to take a multiple-choice test to become a licensed lawyer. Anger is a very common feeling after failing the bar exam.


It is common to feel jealous of people who did pass the exam. This is especially the case when people post about it or talk about it. Or when you see people moving on with their lives and careers while you feel stuck.


You may feel dread at having to study again, figure out what went wrong, dedicate free time to this momentous task. You may feel dread at having to tell others you failed – your friends, relatives, parents, boss. You may feel dread at the prospect of even thinking about sitting for the exam again.


You may be embarrassed about failing the bar exam. This is heightened if a lot of people knew you were taking the bar exam or if you had a lot at stake (e.g., a job offer).


Disappointment is a common feeling. You may feel as though you have disappointed themselves and disappointed others, particularly close family members or employers. You may have felt a lot of internal or external pressure to pass the bar exam. And not passing the exam can dash your hopes and lead to a feeling of great disappointment.


Lastly, while it seems like an unusual emotion to list when you find out you fail the bar exam, some students feel a little bit of relief. They were not ready to be lawyers or look for jobs or start their careers. This doesn’t necessarily make the “bad” feelings go away. But it is something you may feel a little bit of.

Will these feelings ever change?

Yes. While most feelings associated with failing the bar exam are powerful and negative, the good news is that they do not last forever. Of course, there are consequences of failing the bar exam that will last beyond just a few days (e.g., you have to re-study for the exam, let your boss know you failed the bar exam, etc.). However, in our experience, students are a lot more resilient than they give themselves credit for.

Negative feelings will move aside. You will come up with a game plan. You will realize you are not starting from scratch–after all, you have a bar exam under your belt. The bar exam is not that far away and you will likely be licensed within 6-8 months. Perhaps your family, boss, or significant other will be extra supportive. You will find hope. You may even find something positive about failing the bar exam.

None of this should minimalize what you feel now. Failing the bar exam is dreadful, awful, frustrating, and a whole mixture of other emotions, just a few of which are above. And you should take time to feel all of these emotions and process whatever you feel. However, remember that these feelings are not permanent.

Note: if you are considering suicide or feel hopeless or depressed after failing the bar exam, please seek professional help immediately.

A few posts to check out if you fail the bar exam:

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