When you find out you failed the Uniform Bar Exam, it is devastating. It is hard to get started on a plan moving forward. Many students wonder what they could have done differently. Or, they feel helpless. If they completed 95% of their program and still did not pass the bar exam, what can they possibly do this time to pass? It is easy to feel lost after failing the bar exam. In this post, we give you tips for retaking the Uniform Bar Exam. Particularly, we tell you how to get started.
You may not believe us, but if you spend 20-30 minutes going through this post and honestly answering each question, you will feel better about retaking the bar exam by the time you are done!
Retaking the Uniform Bar Exam: Tips to Get Started
1. First, examine your score report.
A lot of students get mad after they fail and the last thing they want to do is study their score report. This only reminds them that they failed the Uniform Bar Exam! However, it is critical to examine your score report as it is a great source of information! We have an article here on how to dissect your Uniform Bar Exam score report, but the basic thing you want to do is as follows:
First, examine your MBE score. Your MBE score is worth 50% of your overall score. This is important to study! Look at this chart from the Illinois board. It will tell you your approximate percentile. For example, if you scored a 105 on the MBE, you are in the third percentile. This means you scored higher than 3% of people taking the bar exam. A passing MBE score for most jurisdictions is around a 133-135 (for jurisdictions requiring a 266-270 to pass, but you can check your jurisdiction here). So you need to move this up so that you are in the 50th-55th percentile. In other words, you have a lot of work to do. And that is okay. It is better to know it right off the bat. It is also very possible to improve your score significantly – we help students do so every single exam.
If your jurisdiction is nice enough to give you a breakdown of your percentile on each MBE subject (Washington and New York do this!), pay close attention to this! We see a lot of students score lower in subjects that they were sure they felt comfortable with – e.g., Torts. This is valuable information because you can make a note to spend more time on those lower-scoring subjects for the next exam.
Next, look at your written score and determine how high you scored. This will help determine if you need help with your written score. Compare your MPT scores to your essay scores to see if your MPT is where you fell short. (Since many people put off the MPT to the last minute, we often see MPT scores are lower than people expect!)
If your jurisdiction allows you to examine your essays and MPTs, it is very worth it to do so. Make sure to get ahold of these!
2. Second, examine how you studied for the last exam.
Many students have important realizations about their study habits once they examine them critically. Instead of thinking about course completion or generally saying “I don’t know what I could have done differently”, think about what you found helpful in your studying and what you didn’t find helpful. It is an important step if you are retaking the uniform bar exam. For example, some questions you want to ask are:
- 1. Did I find lectures helpful?
- 2. Did I understand the law well enough? (Be honest with yourself here. Could 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…) These are just a few examples, but don’t automatically assume you understood the law!
- 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 do enough essay questions?
- 7. Did I know the highly tested areas of law on the essay portion?
- 8. Did I use actual released bar exam questions, or was I using course-invented questions?
- 9. Did I do enough MBE questions?
- 10. Did I have a good MBE strategy?
Answer all ten questions honestly, preferably on a separate piece of paper, then move on to the next step.
3. Figure out what you need to change for next time.
Understanding the law – Questions #1 and #2 above
Questions 1 and 2 above go to how well you understood the material. If you found lectures helpful but you cannot explain many of the concepts in Question 2, then it may be time to change your approach. You could re-listen to lectures if you found them very helpful (though most students do not find them helpful and do not re-listen to all of their lectures). You could also join a study group. If you really struggle, consider getting bar exam private tutoring.
It is going to be difficult to memorize the law and apply it if you do not understand it! So this is a critical first step if you are retaking the Uniform Bar Exam.
Memorizing the law – Questions #3 and #4 above
If you struggled with memorization and find you cannot answer many of the questions in #3 above, it may be time to spend more time on your outlines! Read this post on how to memorize your bar exam outlines and try different techniques!
Multistate Essay Exam – Questions #5, #6, and #7 above
Q#5: If you struggled with essay structure, check out this post on how to structure an MEE answer. Also, if you never felt comfortable with MPTs, check out this post on how to get comfortable with the MPT portion of the exam. These are two basic things to do before practicing essays!
Q#6: If you did not practice enough essays, you are certainly not alone. (This includes MPTs!!!).
You can also start making your bar exam study schedule and regularly including both timed and untimed exams. Unfortunately, many commercial courses do not emphasize how important MEEs and MPTs are, so many students don’t practice enough. (In our Uniform Bar Exam full-service course we assign 5 essays/MPTs a week, but we know that is certainly not the norm!)
Q#7: If you were not comfortable with the highly tested issues on the MEE, check out this post and watch a great free video (and download a helpful PDF!) on the highly tested issues.
Multistate Bar Exam – Questions #8, #9 and #10 above
Q#8: If you were using course-invented MBE questions and you were really surprised by the MBE questions you saw on the exam, get real MBE questions this time! There is nothing better than the real questions to prepare you for what you will see on the exam!
Q#9: If you did not practice enough questions, incorporate more time to practice MBEs in your schedule. You don’t have to go crazy and answer 5,000 questions, but if you did not make it a regular part of your routine to practice, increase the number of questions you answer!
Q#10: If you felt you like you were answering a million questions and never improving, check out this post on how to improve your MBE score. It will help you slow down and answer questions well, rather than flying through them!
4. Make a bar exam study schedule.
Once you figured out what went wrong, make a bar exam study schedule for the next exam! Here, we have a helpful post on how to make a Uniform Bar Exam study schedule! Having a study schedule will make you feel instantly better about retaking the Uniform Bar Exam. After all, you went from not knowing what to do to having a great plan!
5. Consider other resources if necessary.
Most people do not find it helpful to simply repeat their full course. (As you can see firsthand, it likely will not help you to do the exact same thing again and expect a different result.) It makes much more sense to tailor your UBE schedule to what you need. However, you may wish to consider other resources as you begin to prepare to take the bar exam again. Here are some ideas:
- 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 even our full-service Uniform Bar Exam course – 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 Uniform 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 Uniform 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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