How to Pass the Bar Exam the Second Time Around–5 Things to do Differently: If you were like a lot of people on your first time taking the bar exam, you took Barbri, or Kaplan, or some commercial course. You probably spent a lot of time watching lectures and feeling like a stenographer mindlessly filling in lecture blanks. Then you probably spent a lot of time doing “AMPS” or doing whatever work your course assigned you, or feeling guilty about not completing it, or constantly comparing yourself with your friends to make sure they didn’t complete the assignments either. You may have also spent a lot of time telling yourself “I am putting in so many hours, I have to pass.” Or “If so-and-so passed, I can pass.” Or, “My course says that if I do whatever they say, I will pass.” But here you are. And now you have failed a bar exam. If you just found out you failed, you will need to take some time to move past it. But if it has already been a week of crying, hating everyone on Facebook, sending your BFF depressing emojis, eating a lot of cookies or drinking a lot of wine, or whatever it is you do when you are stressed out — it is probably time to move on.
You might wonder where to start or what to do differently: Should you complete the entire commercial course again? Should you get all new books and rewatch the lectures? If not, what in gods name do you do instead?
In this post, we talk about how to pass the bar exam the second time around (or third, or fourth time around, wherever you find yourself!). In particular, we are going to tell you five things that you should do differently to maximize your chances of passing.
5 things to do differently to pass the bar exam your second+ time around:
1. Stop watching lectures. Please don’t retake your course.
There is a saying that goes something like: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity. So don’t be insane. Don’t do the same thing and expect a different result.
And what we mean is, please don’t retake your course from top to bottom.
There is no reason to pass up free books or a free course if they are offered to you. But do not plan on simply repeating it again, watching all the lectures, filling in the blanks, and slowly going crazy. (Maybe you are tempted to watch one or two lectures again? That is okay! Read this post to find out why you should not rewatch all the lectures, but when it is okay to rewatch some.)
Okay, so that is the first thing you have to realize: Repeating your exact course of action is not going to help you achieve a passing score. So what do you do with all your free time? See steps 2 through 4 :)
2. Practice real MBE questions.
Enough of these questions invented by Barbri or Kaplan. A lot of students don’t realize that these are not actual released questions. A lot of students also don’t realize it is really easy to get a hold of actual released MBE questions!
You would have been crazy if you used anything other than “actual official LSAT questions” when you studied for the LSAT. And it is the same with the bar exam!
You may not have realized that these questions existed before. So you had an excuse. But now you know, so you have to get them.
If you want real MBE questions, purchase Adaptibar (which is all online). Or the Strategies and Tactics Sixth Edition (which is a book you can order off amazon for less than $100). Or the four exams from the NCBE (which are probably the worst option of the three, but still an option). (Read this post to see a comparison of these sources for MBE questions.)
“But I don’t have any money.”
Some students say this to us when we tell them to practice released questions. Find the money. Borrow it. Sell some of your old law school books on eBay. It is expensive to take the bar exam, but you know what is more expensive? Failing it.
If you need some inspiration, read why failing the bar exam is not in your budget.
And, by the way, when we say “practice” real MBE questions, practice them the right way.
Start doing them right by following this method and you may actually see improvement in your score. Don’t race through them so you can check another thing off your to-do list. (And then get a low score and then race through them again. Lather, rinse, repeat.) Instead, develop a methodical strategy to approaching them. Use some of the hours you save by skipping lecture to actually study correctly!
3. If your state has an MPT take it seriously for godssakes!
One of the biggest mistakes we see is that students do not take the MPT seriously. They put it off. They say, “I can write! And I don’t even have to know law for the MPT.” Then they go back to racing through MBE questions to try to improve their score.
Well, guess what? If you are in a UBE state (or any state where the MPT is worth 20% of your score) the MPT is worth the same as 70 MBE questions! Yes, you read the right! So, do you think it is harder to get 70 MBE questions right, or improve your MPT score by making yourself sit down and do some practice tests?
If that is not enough for you to take the MPT seriously, read this post, which gives you five reasons to take the MPT seriously! Practice MPT’ing early and often. Don’t miss out on this great chance to boost your bar exam score on a section that you do not even have to know any law for.
4. Actually learn the law.
One of the biggest mistakes that students make when they complete a commercial course is they don’t learn the law! They spend the first half of their day in lecture, every day. Then they spend the second half of their day practicing multiple-choice or essay problems. They never leave time to actually memorize their outlines!
To pass the bar exam, you need good outlines that you are able to comprehend. Then you need to learn them! Then you need to practice applying them to multiple-choice and essay fact patterns.
If you do not know the law, you will have nothing to apply to multiple-choice or essay problems. You need to know the law well before you dive into practice problems! Again, use the precious time you are saving on lecture to actually memorize the law!
You are probably thinking one of the following three things:
“But I don’t know how to memorize!” Here are some great strategies to memorizing your bar exam outlines. Perhaps you never learned to study. If you take these seriously and commit time to learning your outlines, you can do it!
“I am terrible at memorizing!” No you aren’t. Stop making excuses! Anyone can memorize an outline. It takes time and hard work and repetition. And maybe you are terrible at putting in the time, or working hard, or repeating the same thing over and over again. But if you use some of the strategies above, you will find you can do it!
“I learn by doing.” Yes, you may learn some finer points of law by answering problems. However, you cannot learn a whole outline by answering multiple-choice or essay problems. You will not have a larger context in which to place the finite points of law that you learn. You need to start with getting this bigger picture. Then you can move on to nailing down some details through practicing. If you try to do the opposite, you will be frustrated. And waste time, And find that you actually do not know the law that well.
One last note about learning your outlines: After you learn your outlines, don’t put them away for eight weeks before you look at them again. If so, you will find that you have forgotten everything you spent so much time learning!
Instead, make it a plan to look at them frequently in the beginning of your review — and then at least once a week after that. Again, that takes time. But you will be happy you did it!
5. Take some time to critically think about what went wrong. Then come up with a plan.
Another big mistake students make when they fail an exam is they get nervous and dive right into practicing without ever taking time to contemplate what actually went wrong. They never examine their score reports. (After all, who wants to look at that?!) They would rather die than order their essays from the state bar. (Again, no need to revisit bad memories, they tell themselves.) And they do not think for one second about what worked for them — and what didn’t.
So take some time to figure out what went wrong. Read the questions in this post called “what to do if you failed the bar exam”. Take an hour or so to go through them. Answer them honestly. You may find that this hour makes the difference between you passing and failing the next bar exam.
Remember, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing again and expecting a different result. Take a minute to pause. Reflect. Then move on in a more intelligent and efficient way!
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