What to do if Your Child Failed the Bar Exam
If your child failed the bar exam, you are probably experiencing a lot of the same sadness and disappointment that they feel. Nobody wants to see their child sad or disappointed after failing the bar exam. Further, if your child failed the bar exam, they will have to retake it, which puts a lot of stress and pressure on families. Here, we tell you want to do (and what not to do) if your child failed the bar exam.
What to do if Your Child Failed the Bar Exam
1. Let them grieve.
Failing the bar exam can be very difficult. Give them some time (and space, if they prefer it). Don’t immediately give them advice or ask to come up with a plan. Give them a little bit of time to grieve in their own way. Trying to come up with a gameplan when they are extremely disappointed, sad, or angry is not going to be productive anyway. So, first just focus on being supportive.
You know your son or daughter better than anyone else — so this may mean that they want to talk about it. Or it may mean that they do not want to talk about it.
2. Reiterate how difficult the bar exam is.
If your child failed the bar exam, it is important to reiterate how difficult the bar exam is. A lot of our bar exam students feel frustrated that those around them don’t understand how difficult the bar exam is. It is not a test with a 90% pass rate. In some states it has a 50% pass rate or less. (The California bar exam pass rate has been close to 30%!) If you reiterate how difficult the bar exam is, this will be helpful. Your son or daugther will feel more understood.
When you do this, it is also helpful if you don’t analogize the bar exam to a test you had to take (to become a CPA, doctor, etc.). Even if you have taken the bar exam in the past, it has changed in terms of what is tested and its level of difficulty. So instead, focus on the task your son or daughter has in front of them — passing the next bar exam — rather than drawing on personal experience. If your child wants your advice, you can give it a little bit later.
3. Remind them how far they have come!
When someone fails the bar exam, they usually feel inadequate or dumb. This is bad for self-esteem and it makes it difficult to stay motivated and prepare for the next exam. So rather than focusing just on the task in front of your child, remind them how far they have come. Remind them that they have:
- succeeded in undergrad
- taken the LSAT
- got admitted to law school
- completed law school
- graduated from law school
These are all huge accomplishments. Now they just have one hurdle left. If your child failed the bar exam, it can help them to hear how much they have accomplished. And it will also be helpful for them to hear that you recognize how much they have accomplished. This will boost their self esteem at a time when they really need it and it will motivate them to study for the next test. The bar exam will feel less insurmountable if they see how much they have already accomplished.
4. Help them figure out what went wrong (if they want your help).
Offer to help your child figure out a plan.
Your child should receive a bar exam score report that tells them how far they were from passing. (We have tons of information on how to dissect a score report, including how to dissect a Uniform Bar Exam Score Report here and how to dissect a New York Bar Exam Score report here.) You can help them “dissect” their score report. Or you can send it to us and we are happy to tell you which areas they excelled in and which areas they need to work on.
Figuring out what went wrong and how to tackle these areas the next time can be helpful.
If your child failed the bar exam, they probably have some ideas about what went wrong. So it may be helpful to ask them what they think first.
5. See how you can assist.
You should encourage your child to not do the exact same thing when they study for the next bar exam. Generally, those who use the same course or the same study plan get the same result. This is especially the case if your child was far from passing.
One way you can help is by offering monetary support for a new approach. We specialize in helping repeat takers pass the bar exam. We differ from most commercial courses in that we keep close track of each student and offer tailored, individualized feedback, accountability, and help. A lot of students simply don’t learn well from watching pre-recorded lectures and like courses that offer more accountability. Or work well with a private tutor.
You may also be able to assist in other ways.
- See if you can assist in chores or household tasks that may save them time and give them more time to study
- Offer emotional support when your son or daughter needs it
- Tell them you understand if they cannot attend every family function or event while they are studying (they will appreciate this!)
- Consider cooking them healthy meals to help them stay healthy when they study
These are just some ideas of ways you can assist if your child failed the bar exam. And you may think of many of your own.
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