How To Change Approaches As A Repeat Bar Exam Taker
If you did not pass the bar exam on your first (or second, or third) attempt, you are not alone! Many people do not pass the bar exam the first time. If you plan on taking the bar exam again, the key is to be willing to change your approach! In this post, we discuss how you can change your approach to studying as a Repeat Bar Exam Taker
How To Change Approaches As A Repeat Bar Exam Taker
Evaluate Where You Are At
If you did not pass the bar exam, you should request as much information as possible from your jurisdiction. Some jurisdictions will release information such as a detailed score report, a breakdown of your performance on the MBE questions, and your essay and/or performance test answers. Although it can be hard to review these things and hold yourself accountable for what went wrong, it is crucial that you use this as a learning opportunity to evaluate what you need to change for next time.
If you were close to passing (say, just a few points away), you likely don’t need to change much about your approach. Look for any areas of weakness on your score report. Did you do significantly worse on the multiple-choice portion versus the written portion? Did you do decently on all of the subjects except one? If you were close to passing, you just need to figure out where you can pick up a few additional points the next time you take the bar exam and spend additional time working on that particular area.
On the other hand, if you were more than a couple of points away from a passing score, you likely need to overhaul your approach to the bar exam. If you have a significant number of points to make up to reach a passing score, the only way that you are going to be successful on the next bar exam is to change your approach drastically. Below are some ways that you can think about changing your approach.
We also have a detailed overview of this in our free guide on What to do if you Failed the Uniform Bar Exam.
Consider What Worked and What Didn’t
Try to think about how you felt during the bar exam. Feel like you knew the laws, but weren’t sure how to apply them as you were looking at the fact patterns? Did you find yourself wracking your brain for the rules to apply? Did you run out of time?
Now think about what you actually did as you were studying and how it helped (or didn’t) in those areas you felt good about. Did you learn the laws from making your own outlines? How did things “click” as you were self-grading your essays? Did you notice that the material was sinking in during the lectures? Those are the things you want to keep on your study schedule the next time around.
If there were things you were doing that seemed like a waste of time (watching lectures multiple times, doing thousands of practice multiple choice questions, and anything that just felt like “busy work”), DON’T DO THEM AGAIN! One mistake we commonly see students make is doing exercises simply because their course has assigned them, when the students are not really getting anything out of the assignment. If you can ascertain that something clearly did not help you prepare for the bar exam, you should not include it in your study plan!
On the other hand, we have had students who skipped key aspects of bar prep. For instance, some students admit to not doing a single practice essay prior to the bar exam, and then not feeling comfortable with writing an essay on the exam. We have also had students who try to finish 3,000 practice multiple choice questions, but don’t actually take the time to try to learn the material. It is difficult to well on the bar exam if you don’t know the law! You have to strike a good balance between memorization and application as you are studying. As you think about what you are going to do differently leading up to the next administration of the bar exam, try to come up with a study schedule that evenly balances these important aspects of bar prep.
Utilize Different Materials
Some bar prep courses allow you to re-take their course for free or at a discount if you did not pass the bar exam the first time you took the course. Before you sign up for the course again, be sure that it is the right move for you. If you put in the maximum amount of effort the first time you took the course and you know that things will be different the next time in that you will be able to focus and accomplish more from the same course, then you should absolutely take advantage of that offer.
However, if you know that you put in 100% effort and still didn’t achieve the results you wanted, ask yourself if a different course might be a better option. (For example, check out our variety of bar exam courses!) Perhaps the way the course laid out the materials was not conducive to your learning style. Maybe the lecturers were dry and difficult to pay attention to. Maybe you did not receive sufficient feedback to give yourself an accurate picture of how prepared you were to take the exam. Although it may be pricier to try different bar prep materials at this point, the amount of money will be a drop in the bucket compared to your investment in law school! You have come too far to let a small amount of money stand between you and the practice of law!
Instead of (or in addition to) a different course, perhaps you need more personalized direction at what you should be working on. Or someone to hold you accountable and ensure that you actually put in the time to study for the bar exam. You may want to consider hiring a private tutor for the next administration of the bar exam. A private tutor will be able to evaluate what did and/or did not work well for you, and how you can (and should!) change your approach for the next exam. JD Advising’s private tutors also assign homework and provide extensive feedback to not only make sure you are staying on track, but also that you incorporate changes to fix anything that is not going well! Check out our bar exam private tutoring services here.
Remember You Don’t Have to Start Over from Scratch
The good news is that you already (hopefully) have a foundation on which to build your law-related knowledge for the next administration. Studying should be slightly easier the second (or third, fourth, etc.) time around because you should have learned some of the law previously. Now, the goal is to pick up additional details and hone your knowledge. However, you cannot ignore things that went well and assume that they will go well again next time. Many students make the mistake of ONLY focusing on areas that did not go well on the bar exam, and then when they take the exam a second time, fail again, but this time due to poor performance on things that went well the first time. Again, the key to success will be balancing the different things you must do (learning, memorization, and application).
Your bar prep should include study time for each aspect of the bar exam (multiple choice questions, essays, performance test, and anything else included on your jurisdiction’s bar exam). You should, however, adjust the time spent on each area. If you did better on multiple-choice questions than essays, set aside more time for practice essays each day then for practice multiple-choice questions. If you did well on one particular subject, spend less time learning that subject (but don’t ignore it!) and more time learning a subject that you didn’t feel as comfortable with. These small adjustments will make a big difference for a bar exam repeat taker!
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