Figure out Why You Failed the Uniform Bar Exam by Asking Seven Key Questions - JD Advising
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failed the ube, failed the uniform bar exam, failed bar exam, retaking ube, retaking uniform bar examFigure out Why You Failed the Uniform Bar Exam by Asking Seven Key Questions

Now that you have dissected your Uniform Bar Exam (UBE) score report and read about four common reasons that examinees fail the Uniform Bar Exam, it is time to figure out why you failed the Uniform Bar Exam. Below, we list seven key questions to reflect on.

Even though there are only seven questions, we recommend you take an hour or so to go through these questions and write down your answers. You will gain a lot by reflecting on your last bar exam experience and you will probably have a lot of insight during the process.

Here is precisely what you will gain by reflection:

  • Reflecting will reveal your strengths and weaknesses.
  • It will bring clarity and give you confidence moving forward.
  • We suspect you will feel better immediately when reflecting on these questions.
  • (There is no better feeling than having a well-defined plan!)
  • Most importantly, it will reveal important steps on your path, going forward, to passing the UBE!

Reflecting on what went wrong, and what went right, is a much more efficient process than simply re-signing up for your bar review course, crossing your fingers, and hoping you pass! Rather, reflection provides a way to plan an intelligent and effective plan moving forward. Here, we tell you the seven key questions you should reflect on if you failed the Uniform Bar Exam.

Seven Key Questions to Ask If You Failed the Uniform Bar Exam

1. What does my Uniform Bar Exam score report tell me?

Your Uniform Bar Exam score report does not mean everything, but it does mean quite a bit. Please make sure that you take the appropriate amount of time to review your score report. You should examine:

  • How far your overall score is from passing. (If you were two points away, that is very different from if you were 20 points away, which is also very different from if you were 60 points away. The farther you are from passing, the more drastic changes you likely have to make.)
  • How you scored on the Multistate Bar Exam (MBE)
  • How you scored on the Multistate Essay Exams (MEE) and Multistate Performance Tests (MPT)

If possible, you should also request your essays and MPTs so you can review those. (Not all states allow you to review your essays/MPTs, but many states do.)

Your score report does not mean everything, but it does show you how you performed on the actual Uniform Bar Exam. So it is very significant. It is one of the most important factors we evaluate when making a bar prep recommendation to students.

Note: If you have failed the bar exam more than once in the past, it is critical to compare your score reports and see if you have improved and, if so, by how much. If you have failed the bar exam multiple times, you likely need to make some real changes or seek outside assistance. 

2. What doesn’t my score report tell me?

Your score report says a lot, but it doesn’t say everything. For example:

  • Perhaps something unexpected happened while you were studying—a relative died or you suffered an unexpected loss or illness. Not only could this eat into your study time but it could also make it very difficult to focus and study effectively.
  • Perhaps you were working full time or otherwise unable to dedicate the time necessary to study. If this is the case, your score report may not accurately reflect your true capabilities.
  • Perhaps on exam day you were sick, suffered from extreme anxiety, ran out of time, or had issues with your laptop. So, your exam day performance may not reflect the time and effort you put into studying and your knowledge of the law.

Some things you cannot plan or account for. But others, you can. For example, if you know you did not dedicate your full effort to studying because you were working or had another full-time obligation, there are steps you can take to minimize this in the future (e.g., start studying earlier, take time off work if possible, seek tailored assistance like tutoring).

If you struggled with anxiety and/or timing on exam day, there also are steps you can take to combat this. For example, you can seek therapy, try medication, or try stress-relieving exercises like meditation to help ease anxiety. If you struggled with timing, make timed exams a priority during this next round of studying.

3. Were my outlines helpful, easy to learn, and well organized?

Some students fall behind in prep simply because their outlines are very difficult for them to learn. A few common mistakes students make:

  • Some students try to learn outlines that are way too long (e.g., 100 pages per subject), or way too short (e.g., if a Real Property outline is five pages, it is too short!). In the first instance, you are going to be overwhelmed by information and never get through it all. In the second instance, you are simply not learning enough material.
  • Some students spend too much time cross-referencing several versions of the same outline. For example, they look at four different versions of a Real Property outline and spend time looking over each version, comparing outlines, and studying from each outline. This leads to confusion and a hyperfocus on (often) insignificant discrepancies.
  • Some students try to make their own outline for every subject. If you are not starting significantly early, this will take up too much time. It is okay (and even a good idea!) to do this for one or two subjects that you struggle with. But, you should not attempt to do this for all 14 UBE subjects.
  • Some students find commercial course outlines to be very ineffective (and may not use outlines at all, as a result). If you fall into this category, consider a new approach (like our Uniform Bar Exam Full-Service Course). We pride ourselves on the quality of our outlines. An alternative is that you can order outlines online from other sources like Amazon or eBay to see if any other courses set the subject up differently and in a way that makes sense to you.

Having effective outlines for the Uniform Bar Exam is critical. If you do not have effective outlines, it is going to be very difficult to understand the law, learn it, and apply it. Having detailed (yet manageable), well-organized outlines is a critical first step.

4. Do I truly understand the law?

This is another one of the seven key questions to ask if you want to figure out why you failed the Uniform Bar Exam.

A lot of students think they understand the law, but when push comes to shove, they really don’t. For example, how do you feel about responding to these questions:

  • What is the Eleventh Amendment?
  • What is the dormant Commerce Clause and what are the two levels of scrutiny a court will use to evaluate a dormant Commerce Clause issue?
  • How are mortgage priorities determined if there is a “wild deed” in the chain of title? (And, what is a wild deed?)
  • What is the difference between actual and proximate causation in torts?
  • What is felony murder and what are the limitations on the felony murder rule (e.g., agency vs. proximate cause jurisdictions, the redline limitation)?
  • Explain the difference between use and transactional immunity.

Some of these may be easier for you to answer than others. But the important thing is to see if you can actually explain some of these concepts or if you struggle.

If you struggle with understanding the law, the solution may be:

  • Rewatching helpful course lectures on the subjects you struggle with
  • Getting bar exam private tutoring for the Uniform Bar Exam
  • Joining a study group
  • Spending more time in your outlines

The point is to not assume you understand the law. But instead, test yourself and see if you really understand it. If you can teach it, that is a sign you know it!

5. Did I have the law memorized?

This is another key question to ask when figuring out why you failed the Uniform Bar Exam. It is very common for students to not know the law well enough.

Many students have a “decent idea” of the law but do not know the nuances. In other words, they get the bigger picture but do not memorize the details.

Unfortunately, the multiple choice and written portion of the Uniform Bar Exam test the nuances and details of the law! So, it is very important to learn the nuances and details well. This means you should focus on memorizing elements of the law.

If you do not have the law memorized, you will simply not be able to effectively apply it. Try covering up your outlines and see if you can restate the elements of the law. Or, take one of our UBE quizzes and see how you do. If you cannot state the elements of the rules, taking time to memorize your bar exam outlines is going to be a crucial next step for you.

6. Did I study for the test (or, did I just “study”)?

Some students study for the test. Others just “study.”

If you study for the test, that means a few things:

  • First, it means you are focusing on the highly tested MEE topics and highly tested MBE topics rather than trying to learn all subjects and topics equally. (If you tried to learn every word of every outline and you do not even know what the highly tested areas of law are, this is a sign that you were just “studying” rather than studying for the test.) Make sure to study effectively.
  • Second, it means you pay attention to how each portion of the test is scored. The MBE is worth 50% of your score. The MEE is worth 30%. And, the MPT is worth 20%. If you neglected the MPT, you were not studying for the test. If you spent 90% of your time on the MBE, there is no doubt you were studying, but you weren’t studying for the test.
  • Third, studying for the test means you spent time actually practicing test questions (and practicing some under simulated conditions, which we talk about next). If you did not practice sufficient MBE, MEE, and MPT questions, you were not studying for the test!

Remember your goal is to pass the Uniform Bar Exam, not to learn every area of every law. You need to study for the test. If you didn’t do this last time, refocus and remind yourself of your priority—to pass the bar exam so you can become a licensed lawyer!

7. Did I practice applying the law in the most effective manner?

This question has a few sub-parts:

  • Did you practice applying the law? That is, did you actually answer MBE, MEE, and MPT questions? And if so, did you answer enough?
  • Did you use real questions? That means, you should use real MBE questions, and actual MEEs and MPTs written by the National Conference of Bar Examiners. If you relied on Barbri or Kaplan, there is a good chance you were not using real MBE questions.
  • Did you take the time to evaluate your answers after you practiced? That is, did you “self-grade” your essay and MPT answers? Did you take time to slowly review the MBE questions you answered (both the correct ones and incorrect ones)?
  • Did you practice under timed, simulated exam conditions? You don’t have to only take timed tests (in fact, we think it’s a good idea to incorporate untimed practice into your study schedule). But, you should incorporate some timed, simulated exams into your schedule. This will boost confidence, ease anxiety, and help you make sure you have timing under control on test day. If you struggle with timing, it is important that you take timed exams early and often.

Go to the next topic, Step 5: Come up with a Plan on How to Pass the UBE.

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