Is It Common To Fail The Bar Exam?
One of the most frequent questions we get is the ever-dreaded “is it common to fail the bar exam?” question. Before we get into the details, let’s start with a disclaimer. Asking whether it’s common to fail the bar exam is probably not the best way to approach bar prep. In our experience, there are very few who find themselves better off having asked it. Nevertheless, many students want to know what their chances are of passing the bar exam on the first try. We discuss this in more detail below.
Is It Common To Fail The Bar Exam?
Statistics by State
To start, if you’re interested in whether it is common to fail the bar exam from a statistical standpoint, a trip to the NCBE website is in order. The NCBE breaks down bar passage rates by jurisdiction and regularly updates this portion of their website as states release scores.
Common Ways to Fail
There is a myriad of ways in which students can, and do, fail the bar exam. The most basic and obvious is simply not studying. But there are many other reasons that contribute to bar exam failure. In a previous post, we listed the The Six Most Common Reasons for Failing the Uniform Bar Exam where we explained that students who strictly conform to a uniform bar prep schedule without making any modifications to accommodate their personal study style are often headed down the wrong path. Similarly, failing to practice MPTs and not using real MBE questions can also mean students are not entirely prepared when sitting for the bar exam. As you put together your study schedule, do not forget to take your own learning style into consideration, and be sure to practice all components of the exam.
Uncommon Ways to Fail
There are also those who are ordinarily very successful (in law school or otherwise) who wind up failing the bar exam. In our post “Why Smart People Fail the Bar Exam,” we explain that those who tend to think big and beyond the confines of the law may inadvertently get off course and deviate too far from the well-defined rules being tested on the bar exam. It may feel less than satisfying to write what may seem like a “boring” answer, but in this case, boring is good! The bar exam is not the place to craft new and unique legal arguments. You’ll have plenty of time to do that once you become a licensed attorney!
Another consideration when asking if it is common to fail the bar exam is to look at your mental toughness and resiliency. Do you find that you often get in your own way? Do you tend to take on the most pessimistic viewpoint? This type of thinking can seriously impact your ability to be successful on the bar exam. We previously wrote about several red flags that indicate you may need to adjust the trajectory of your bar prep. Refusing to focus on the topics that you know will be on the bar exam, failing to write out essays, and feeding into self-doubt are all surefire ways to make the bar exam more difficult (and make it less likely that you will pass).
Insights from Failure
When asking whether it’s common to fail the bar exam, you may consider why some have failed the bar exam in the past. For example, in our post, Four Reasons You May Have Failed the Uniform Bar Exam, we noted that students who exclusively studied one portion of the UBE to the detriment of the other parts were at a disadvantage. Students who failed to study the law often run into trouble, but those who knew the law but failed to practice essays and MBE questions, also encounter significant challenges. Finally, time management can impede bar exam success.
Failure to Success
While you obviously came here asking how common it is to fail the bar exam, we encourage you to change your focus. Take a look at what students do who achieved success on the bar exam! Focusing on what you can do, what habits you can implement, and how you can improve will make it more likely that you will ultimately pass the bar exam! JD Advising offers endless resources, including outlines, courses of study, professional tutoring, and a comprehensive blog that addresses any issue you could think of related to bar prep. And many of those resources are free!
Self-Analyze, Then Approach
Since you’ve landed here, you’re already considering what it takes to be successful on the bar exam. Now the key is to determine your strengths, and more importantly, where the challenges lurk. Taking an honest self-assessment and looking at not only your legal skills but also your ability to work through an intense amount of stress will help you identify where you might need the most help. Don’t forget, JD Advising is always here to assist.
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