Retaking the bar exam can be dreadful to think about. If you have failed the bar exam, you are most likely not looking forward to getting started studying again. Maybe you feel as though you did everything you possibly could the last time you studied. You may also feel burnt out, depressed, and not know where to begin.
Here are a few tips that we have found especially helpful for repeat bar exam takers. (If you are in a Uniform Bar Exam state, jump to this post, where we specifically discuss tips for Uniform Bar Exam repeat takers.) These tips will help give you direction and make you feel more confident and hopeful as you approach the next bar exam.
Retaking the Bar Exam: Tips for Repeat Bar Exam Takers
1. Carefully review your score report and request your essays, if possible.
We know that nobody enjoys reviewing their score reports or their past essays. It forces you to confront areas of weakness when you are already feeling down. However, if you want to move past the bar exam and become a licensed attorney, this is one of the most productive things you can do.
See what your MBE score means by reading this post. Review your essay and MPT scores according to the rubric provided by your state. If you can request your essays (or set up a time to review them) do so! The more information you have to work with, the better off you will be.
2. Examine your preparation.
Many students say “I did everything I could.” And that may be true. You may have truly put in your best effort. And if so, you should be proud of that. You are closer to passing the bar exam. And, you do not have to start from scratch. You will remember more than you think–and what you do not remember will come back quickly.
However, recognize that you should prepare differently this time. If you prepare exactly the same, do not expect a different result. We’ve listed a few questions to ask yourself here. Answer these questions honestly. We recommend you take time to write down answers so that you can take the necessary time to reflect on them.
- 1. Did I find lectures helpful? (Most students do not rewatch bar exam lectures if they fail once. If you did not find them extremely helpful, we don’t recommend you rewatch them. Read more here.)
- 2. Did I understand the law well enough? (Don’t just say “yes” and move on. Be honest! Can you explain the dormant commerce clause, privileges and immunities of Article IV, proximate causation, joint-and-several liability, the difference between present recollection refreshed and past recollection recorded…?) Ask yourself which areas of law you really understood – and which ones you didn’t.
- 3. Did I spend enough time memorizing my outlines? (Be honest with yourself! Ask: What are the four elements of a dying declaration? What is larceny by trick v. false pretenses? When does the 6th Amendment right to counsel attach? What are the four ways to sever a joint tenancy?) If you struggle with these, you may need to work on memorization!
- 4. Do I have good memorization techniques?
- 5. Did I spend enough time on essay structure?
- 6. Did I answer enough essay questions? (If you only answered a few throughout bar prep, that is not enough!)
- 7. Did I know the highly tested areas of law on the essay portion? (If not, this may be a sign you have to practice more essay questions!)
- 8. Did I use actual released bar exam questions, or was I using course-invented questions? (Don’t feel bad if you were using course-invented questions. Many examinees do not realize that real MBE questions exist.)
- 9. Did I do enough MBE questions? (If you have answered several hundred, you are on the right track.)
- 10. Did I have a good MBE strategy? (If you were flying through questions without seeing score improvement, you may want to work on your strategy!)
- 11. Which subjects do I know well?
- 12. Which subjects do I still not feel comfortable with?
3. Determine your strengths and weaknesses.
Now that you have examined your score report and answered the questions above, figure out:
- (a) what you did well during bar prep
- (b) what subjects you feel comfortable with (#11 above)
- (c) what you need to improve on
- (d) what subjects you need to work on more (#12 above)
Make a list! Then use this list as you move on to the next step.
4. Make a study schedule.
You will feel better as soon as you have a study schedule in place! A study schedule gives you a sense of control and a feeling of hope. You go from having no plan to having a detailed plan!
The nice thing about making your own schedule is you can tailor it to your strengths and weaknesses. If you love Evidence and hate Constitutional Law, you can spend significantly more time on Constitutional Law. If you ignored the essay portion of the exam last bar exam, you can make it part of your routine to practice essays five days a week. Your study schedule will truly be your roadmap to success!!
5. Explore your resources.
Many smart students simply depend on their bar review courses the first time that they study. However, now that you are retaking the bar exam, you can explore other resources. Here are some ideas or resources that may help you.
- Google! Some resources are free – for example, start googling thing you have trouble with if you need persuasive brief MPT tips, or if you don’t understand the dormant commerce clause. Google has a plethora of helpful information and better yet, it is free!
- Your school: You can also check with your school to see what they offer bar exam takers. Many schools have free programs or resources for students. (Schools keep close track of their bar exam statistics and have every incentive to help you pass!) We have teamed up with many schools across the nation and offer discounted prices on some of our resources. (Or, if we have not teamed up with your school yet, we are happy to. Just send us an introduction to your academic success director!)
- Your employer: If you work at a firm or a job where your license will be an asset, consider asking your employer to make a contribution to your studies! You would be surprised at how many times we have employers pay for our MEE course, or MEE one-sheets, or a course like our MBE course for repeat takers – it happens more than you think! We have top Am Law firms paying for our courses as well as smaller firms. We even have non-firms pay for courses as many businesses find it to be an asset to have an employee with a law degree.
- Our products and services: We have a lot of high-quality resources for bar exam takers, which you can read about below. We understand that not everyone has thousands of dollars laying around to invest in retaking the bar exam, but many customers find it very helpful to invest in our products and services. We also have a lot of free products and services as well.
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