How To Bounce Back After Failing The Bar
If you failed the bar exam, chances are you aren’t feeling so great. Feelings of disappointment, sadness, and frustration can distract you from moving forward on your bar exam journey. But we’re here to tell you that just because you failed the bar exam doesn’t mean that you won’t ever pass the exam! With a little bit of reflection and planning, you can turn your first bar exam experience into a powerful tool that will help you to succeed on the second exam. We’ve provided three tips you can use from your first exam experience to help you bounce back after failing the bar exam and to shape your subsequent bar exam preparation.
How To Bounce Back After Failing The Bar
1. Write to Reflect
Grab a journal and your favorite writing pen. Then find a cozy nook and a cup of tea. Free writing and focused writing are two methods students can use to reflect on what went well and what went not so well during bar exam preparation and the bar exam itself. To clear your mind, start a timer for three minutes and then write. Write what? Anything. Just make sure that you keep writing. The point is to get everything out of your head (no matter how mundane, bizarre, or frightening) and on to the page.
After three minutes, answer the following question: where did I struggle on the bar exam? Like when answering the first question, again, the idea here is to just keep writing. When you’ve answered that question, then write the opposite: where did I succeed on the bar exam. Yes. Succeed. Think about what went well on the bar exam. By answering the question both ways, much like building a legal argument, you are forcing yourself to think about both sides of your bar exam experience.
If you’ve failed the bar exam, it’s easy to think that nothing went well, and that’s rarely—if ever—the case. Maybe the multiple-choice part of the exam was difficult for you and maybe the essays weren’t. Maybe both the multiple-choice part and the essays were hard, but you knew that you did pretty well on Torts throughout the entire exam. Did you finish each section? Did you complete both days? (For a list of writing prompts, check out this post “I failed the bar exam. What should I do?”). Whatever the writing prompt is, it’s important that you are honest in your answering—and honesty includes documenting your failures and successes.
2. Reflect on Your Writing.
Once you’ve answered the questions, re-read what you wrote. Next, pick one thing that you wrote that you found interesting. Circle it. Underline. Draw stars around it. Then take that word, sentence, or paragraph, and work with it. What exactly does that mean? Well, first consider why you picked the portion of your writing that you did. What was it that made you stop on those words? What does it mean to you? Were you surprised? Did something “click?” With that in mind, set a timer for five minutes, and then write about that writing.
Consider the following example. When writing what did not go well on the exam, you find yourself writing that you were really anxious, and it was difficult to concentrate on the questions. You may then consider thinking about other times in your life where you were anxious. What were they? How did you work through that anxiety? Do you notice any commonalities between your experiences? Does your writing have a certain tone? Is it nervous? Afraid? Cautious? Words evoke feelings and those feelings, if left unchecked, can get in the way during stressful times. By paying close attention to your writing, you’re paying close attention to yourself, and in so doing, learning how to work with who you are on (and after) the bar exam.
3. Use Your Writing to Plan
Once you’ve completed writing about your writing, it’s time to think about ways in which you can take what you learned from the writing process and use it to your bar exam preparation advantage. For example, if you wrote about struggling to stay focused on the multiple-choice portion of the exam, you might then consider ways to start to train your ability to focus. If you wrote about running out of time on the essays, you may design a bar exam schedule with that in mind. Your answers can also help you identify patterns you may have that are holding you back and is one way to determine what the source of your challenge might be.
Once you’ve identified a pattern, that information can be shared with a friend, professor, or tutor. Whatever you learn, be sure to put your effort where it will most benefit you. In addition to your bar prep course, writing is a simple, free, and easy way to help you bounce back after failing the bar exam.
To recap. To help you bounce back after failing the bar exam, we recommend a three-step writing process.
- Free write for three to five minutes.
- Then, write about what went well on the bar exam and then write about what did not go well on the bar exam.
- Pick out something that you wrote that stuck out to you, and then write on that.
Once you’ve used this three-step process, we encourage you to apply what you’ve learned from that exercise by creating a bar preparation schedule that accounts for those lessons.
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