Why Do People Fail The Uniform Bar Exam?
Every administration of the bar exam, in every single jurisdiction, bar exam applicants who did outstanding in law school, who are very smart, and who one would expect to pass the bar exam with flying colors do not pass. In this post, we discuss some of the common reasons why smart people fail the Uniform Bar Exam.
Why Do People Fail The Uniform Bar Exam?
1. They don’t put in the time.
One of the most common questions we hear is, “how much time should I spend studying for the bar exam?” The average amount of time necessary to study for the bar exam is approximately 400 hours. That means a student who is able to study full-time (40-50 hours per week) should start studying 9-10 weeks prior to the exam. A student who is unable to dedicate 40-50 hours per week to studying for the exam should start studying earlier (15-20 weeks prior to the exam).
It is also important to note that this time should be spent actively working. Turning on a pre-recorded lecture and not paying attention is not productive. Nor is doing 2-3 practice questions, and then taking a 15-minute break. Or trying to memorize with the TV on in the background. Active studying involves removing other distractions and actually focusing on the material for extended periods of time.
Students who fail the bar exam often do not put in the time required for studying. For some people, it is a matter of having too many other obligations (work, family, personal responsibilities). Studying is low on the list of priorities. For others, it might come down to overconfidence and thinking that studying is unnecessary because they did well in law school. Making the bar exam a priority and actually spending enough time studying are crucial to achieving success on the exam.
2. They don’t memorize.
One of the most common problems we see among examinees who fail the bar exam is that they did not memorize the information. Instead, they attend lectures and then immediately start working on practice questions. This approach misses a crucial intermediate step: memorization. It is so important that you learn and memorize the material prior to practicing it so that you can effectively answer the questions!
One theory that some students have is that doing lots of practice questions will help them memorize the material because they will see the rules tested over and over. While there may be some benefit to this method, there is a bigger benefit to memorizing before doing practice questions. You will see the “big picture” of a subject and learn where the various rules fit into that big picture, instead of learning small pieces of the rules and exceptions bit by bit.
Additionally, many people mistakenly believe that they are only memorizing so that they can accurately recite the rules on the essays. Memorization is also the best way to boost your score on the multiple-choice portion (MBE) of the bar exam! Having the rules memorized will allow you to more quickly answer questions and avoid being tricked by wrong answer choices that incorrectly state the rules or state irrelevant rules. Be sure to check out our Bar Exam Memorization Tips for more information!
3. They don’t use practice MBE questions effectively.
There are students who complete thousands of practice questions prior to the bar exam and still fail. The reason is that they are not using the practice questions effectively and they are prioritizing quantity over quality.
So, how do you use practice questions effectively? When answering practice questions, you should answer them one at a time, immediately checking your answer after answering the question. When checking your answer, read the answer explanation and make sure you understand why an answer is correct or incorrect. If you are still confused after reading the answer explanation, go back to that portion of the outline and try to figure out what went wrong. Take the time to write down any rules you didn’t know that caused you to get an answer incorrect.
Students who fail but did thousands of practice questions complete the questions quickly, do not take the time to read the answer explanations and, therefore, do not learn from their mistakes. They often report seeing similar fact patterns again and again, but continue to get the questions incorrect because they did not take the time to understand why they got the question wrong the first time. Slowing down, reviewing the answer explanations, and learning from mistakes is a great way to improve your MBE score!
4. They don’t tailor their writing to the bar exam.
Writing an essay for the bar exam is different from writing an essay for a law school exam. Law school exams often require the examinee to spot the issues, argue both sides, and the conclusion usually doesn’t matter. Bar exam essays, on the other hand, ask very specific questions that do not usually require issue-spotting, ask examinees to argue one side of an issue, and have a correct conclusion.
For these reasons, it is important to do practice bar exam essays to understand the best approach to such an essay. While practicing, it is also important to take the time to carefully compare your answer to the sample answer or Examiner’s Analysis and evaluate your performance. Take note of anything you missed and give yourself an honest grade on your essay. Reviewing plenty of practice essays will also expose you to the common issues that are tested again and again on MEEs, making it easier to tackle such an issue should you see one on the bar exam!
For more information on how bar exam and law school exams differ, check out How MEE Answers Are Different From Law School Exam Answers.
5. They don’t prepare for the MPT.
Because the MPT does not require any outside knowledge and usually (but not always) requires examinees to complete a task that they have likely completed before, either in law school or during employment, many students overlook the importance of the MPT. On the UBE, the MPT portion of the exam is worth 20% of the total score!
The biggest obstacle to the MPT is timing. Under normal timing, you will have three hours to complete two performance tests on the UBE (approximately 90 minutes per performance test). The only way to overcome this obstacle is to practice. Here are our Top Five MPT Timing Tips. Be sure to practice a wide variety of tasks that have appeared on past MPTs. That way, you will have a strategy for attacking each task. Check out our MPT Attack Outlines for all types of MPT formats. Again, the MPT is worth 20% of the total score. Therefore, you should consider allocating 20% of your study time to the MPT! At a minimum, you should practice at least one timed MPT per week.
We hope this post of why people fail the Uniform Bar Exam is helpful in your bar prep!
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