If you failed the bar exam, we want to start by saying we’re sorry! We know it can be extremely disappointing and disheartening. (If you have not already, we suggest you read this note to those who failed the bar exam).
If you failed the bar exam, one of the decisions you will have to make is whether you want to take the next bar exam or put off the bar exam until a later time. In general, we recommend taking the following bar exam. So if you failed the July bar exam, take the February bar exam. If you failed February, take July’s. Note that there are times when we truly believe that it is best to skip a bar exam and wait. But generally speaking, the advantages of taking the next bar exam in line are numerous.
The advantages of taking the next bar exam:
The advantages of taking the next bar exam in line rather than waiting to take the bar exam are as follows:
- You will remember a lot more than you think you do! And whatever you don’t remember will come to you a lot more quickly than it does when you are learning it the first time.
- You are much less likely to give up completely. People who wait for a long time to take a bar exam tend to never go back!
- You will likely get free books or materials if you took a commercial bar review course. You can talk many of them into giving you free books even if you wait in between bar exams, but it is generally automatic if you simply take the next exam.
- You will be licensed in less than a year from today−you are not missing out on that much time of being a licensed attorney! You will minimize the negative effects of failing a bar exam and you can start looking for attorney jobs that much sooner.
We really encourage the vast majority of students to gear up for the next exam and get it over with. However, there are some scenarios when we recommend you wait instead of taking the next bar exam.
Scenarios when you may want to wait to take the bar exam are as follows:
- If you are completely burnt out. This is different than the disappointment that comes with failing the bar exam. Rather, this is a persistent state of being that you cannot shake off. People who are burnt out usually cannot even imagine opening a book or studying one more minute. They wake up every day feeling exhausted at the thought of studying. They need a break and they know it. We generally see students who are on their third or fourth time taking the bar exam experience burnout. (Most students on their first or second time taking the bar exam do not experience true burnout, although we are sure there are exceptions.)
- If you failed by a lot of points and require a longer time to learn the material. We have had a few students in this position. For example, someone will fail by the February bar exam by several points and get their results back mid-to-late May. Some of these students will likely not pass the July bar exam even if they study full time. Thus, we encourage them to wait, and start studying early for the February bar exam. After all, the last thing you want to do is take bar exam after bar exam without ever fully preparing. That leads to a vicious cycle of failing again and again.
- If you have a time-consuming commitment and are unable to put in the time you need to study for the next bar exam. We have had some students with internships that they cannot get out of, or a wedding to plan, or some other large commitment. If you find yourself in this scenario, then it may be best to wait to take the bar exam until you know you can put in the time.
A few tips we also recommend:
- Just don’t think about which bar exam you’ll take for a few days. If you just found out you failed, give yourself time to be sad and feel whatever emotions you have to feel. It is not a good idea to make big decisions when you are feeling extra emotional. Sometimes if you just wait a few days without thinking about what bar exam to take, the right decision will crystallize in your mind anyway.
- Make it a priority to take as much time off work as possible. Don’t mess around with trying to work full time and study full time if there is any possible way you can take time off work!
- Figure out what you can change about the way you study. Sometimes you really just need more time to learn the material. Or you might need a completely different approach — whether that is tutoring, buying different outlines, or using different practice questions.
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