If you are still feeling nervous about bar exam results, you are not alone! So many bar exam takers (that I have never met!) email me each administration and reserve their spots for private tutoring or a course or an appeal – because they are sure they failed. They say they have a “sick feeling” they can’t get rid of. They dream they failed. They know that they missed it because the MBE was impossible and they are certain they messed up some essay questions. Yet, many of these students (to their surprise!) end up passing! How can they be so certain they failed and yet then pass?
There are a few reasons for this:
First, feelings frequently do not correlate with results. In many cases, feeling nervous is actually a good sign because it shows you probably spotted a lot of the difficult issues!! (Students who walk out of the bar exam who say they are “sure they passed” make me much more nervous than students who are nervous that they failed.) The fact that you recognized the difficult issues that you were presented with says a lot.
Second, when you walk out of the exam, you tend to walk about thinking about the questions you didn’t know the answer to. Nobody walks out thinking, “I’m so happy I nailed that battery question!” Instead, you walk out thinking “What the hell was that civ pro question about?” It is human nature to remember the questions you didn’t know rather than the ones you did know. (Even for the essays, my students spend 90% of their time talking to me about one essay question they didn’t know the answer to rather than the fourteen questions they did know the answer to!) This feeling is especially exaggerated if you leave time at the end to revisit questions you were unsure of. Mulling over these questions that you answered incorrectly (or think you answered incorrectly) only exaggerates this feeling of nervousness.
Third, you may also feel nervous if you ask about (or involuntarily overhear) the responses that other students say they wrote for an essay question. The only advice I can give you is: Don’t listen to what other people wrote. Half of them will be super confident about their answers (and dead wrong!). Even if you did answer an essay question incorrectly, you may not have scored that low anyway (especially if it was a hard question!) Graders seem to naturally be slightly more generous with points when everyone gets a question wrong.
Fourth, you may have suffered some bar exam mishap — but remember that you are probably not alone. Did you misread a question? Mislabel a subject? Run out of time? This happens to students every single time. I had a student last February who ran out of time on both portions of the essay portion and she was sure she failed (but she ended up with a passing score!). Why? Because she was not alone (people always run out of time)! Whatever mishap you encountered, I can say with some degree of certainty that you are probably not alone. And it may not make or break you. Why not? This brings me to my next point:
Fifth, You do not have to do well to pass. You do not have to have a perfect score. Or an “A”. Or “B”. Or even a “C”. You need (in many states, including Michigan) a score of 135 out of 200 which is a 67.5% or a D+ SCALED. This means they will add points on to everyone’s raw score to achieve this result. (You do not need a raw score of a D+ –you could probably get a D- and as long as it scaled to a D+, you are in luck.)
Lastly, remember your intellect and remember your effort. If you took bar prep seriously and give it your all, you can likely achieve a passing score.
Another thing I recommend doing to get over any nervousness or fear of failing, is to consider that possibility. What if you did fail? Even though it may seem like the worst thing that can happen to you, I find that the fear of failure is often worse than failure itself. It is certainly a burdensome feeling in the beginning, but in the end you come up with a plan, conquer it again, and end up being more resilient and better-versed in the law for it. (We will even help you come up with a plan if you find yourself in that boat–you are not alone!)
We recommend you read this note to those who fail the bar exam even before you get results! We also recommend you come up with a Plan A (if you passed) and a Plan B (if you didn’t pass) and spend your time waiting productively. See this post on the art of waiting for bar exam results for guidance on how to do that. This will help you channel your feelings into something productive, rather than falling prey to this ominous feeling.
If you are still nervous about bar exam results and cannot shake the feeling, read this post a few times, read the note to those who failed the bar exam, write in a journal or do whatever you need to do to help you work through your feelings (rather than avoiding them!), come up with a Plan A and Plan B, and then remind yourself that there is nothing that worrying about bar exam results is going to do for you now. You gave it your all!
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