Failed the bar exam? It will be okay. Here’s why!
So, you’ve been checking the mailbox, have been compulsively refreshing your email, and are following all of the blogs that might give you any sort of hint as to when bar exam results might be arriving. Then, you get the news that you’ve been dreading. You didn’t pass the bar exam. Before you figure out what to do next, pause for a moment and take a deep breath. Remember that you are capable of passing the bar exam even if it didn’t work out this time. Know also that we are here to help. We are so sorry that you didn’t pass the bar exam, but it will be ok! We have included some guidance below.
Failed the bar exam? It will be okay. Here’s why!
You’re in good company.
While not passing the bar exam can feel incredibly lonely, know that you are in good company. Many students do not pass the bar exam on their first try (and some take multiple tries to pass the bar exam!). Chances are, there is someone at your law school, within your friend group, or at your law firm that did not pass the bar exam on the first try.
Many celebrities also didn’t pass the bar exam on their first try. President Franklin Roosevelt, First Lady Michelle Obama, President John F. Kennedy, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Vice-President Kamala Harris all failed the bar exam before going on to have incredibly successful careers. More recently, Kim Kardashian passed the baby bar exam after multiple attempts. The bottom line? Failing the bar exam is not a predictor of the amount of success you will have as an attorney. Many attorneys go on to have very fulfilling and rewarding careers despite failing the bar exam!
Are you gearing up to take the bar exam again? Are you having trouble finding the motivation to start studying? It’s time to get inspired!
One way to remain positive as you begin studying is to surround yourself with supportive and positive people. You might already know who these people are based on the first time you embarked on your bar exam journey. Other students might be reevaluating their support system for the bar exam this time around. Having people to lean on and can turn to when you need help is important!
Don’t be afraid to ask your support system for the help that you need while preparing for the bar exam a second time. Remember, they are likely more than willing to do anything they can in order to help you! Know who might be up for a phone call when you need it. Don’t be afraid to meet up for a cup of coffee or dinner so you can take a well-deserved break. Ask around to see who might be able to hang out with your dog or watch your kids for a few hours while you catch up on studying. Knowing who to turn to during the preparation process can relieve some stress and help you stay inspired in your studying efforts!
On a similar note, try to find a support system that can encourage you throughout bar prep. Sometimes just hearing someone say that they believe in you can help you feel just a bit more confident as you gear up to do that practice essay or those practice MBE questions. See if you can figure out a way to get excited about the bar exam. Turning nervous energy into excitement as opposed to trying to calm nervous energy can lead to increases in productivity and success. Sticking by others who are trying to remain positive about the bar exam can also be incredibly helpful and provide you with the confidence you need to pass!
Do you prefer inspirational quotes as a way to stay inspired and motivated? We’re including some below!
“If you get tired, learn to rest—not to quit.” ~Banksy
Studying for the bar exam is certainly exhausting. One way to avoid burnout and stay focused is to make sure you’re taking enough breaks while studying. Make sure that whenever you stop studying, you put yourself in a position where you can start again. Too often, students plan a short break and wind up taking the entire day off. While this may be necessary to do from time to time, it is not a good idea to make this a daily ritual. Likewise, sometimes students burn themselves out with studying and minimize efforts moving forward which doesn’t always result in positive results. Be sure to rest when you need it, but do so in a way that motivates you to keep going!
“Just keep swimming.” ~Dory
Although this quote might seem incredibly simple (it’s from a children’s movie, after all!), it’s a great reminder. When studying for the bar exam makes you want to give up pursuing the entire profession, keep going! Remember, the bar exam doesn’t always correspond with the practice of law. After all, issues facing clients don’t come with four possible answer choices. If you can keep working (or in this case, swimming) to pass the bar exam, you’ll find yourself in a position where you can leave the multiple-choice questions behind and instead get engaged in the practice of law. Don’t give up!
“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face.” ~Eleanor Roosevelt
You’ve already taken the bar exam at least once. You’re familiar with what to expect. You know what it takes to finish the exam. You have an understanding of how the exam is structured and what you need to study. Even though you might have to repeat the exam, you’re going to be able to walk into the venue stronger and more confident than you did the first time around. After all, now you have such a better understanding of what to expect. Don’t completely block out your prior experience taking the bar exam; it can be put to good use when you decide to retake the exam!
Plan to Pass.
Don’t underestimate the importance of putting together a plan to pass the bar exam. Even though you have already taken the bar exam, there is still plenty to think about! Not sure what to consider? We discuss some items definitely worth your consideration in more detail below!
Review Your Score Report
Reviewing your score report is a great starting point as you try to figure out how to approach the bar exam for a second time. How close were you to passing? Did you perform substantially better on the MEE, MPT, or MBE? These can be great indicators on where to focus your efforts. For example, if you didn’t do much practice on MPTs and scored poorly on the MPT portion of the UBE, make sure you incorporate MPT practice into your study schedule! This can be a great way to accumulate a few more points (and there’s minimal memorization!).
How did you perform on the essays? Did you run out of time on any of the questions? Some states even break down your score report by essay so you know how you performed on certain subject areas. These factors can assist you in determining what you might need to focus on when you prepare for the bar exam a second time. Make sure you’re doing plenty of practice essays so you know exactly what to expect on exam day!
Was your MBE score lower than you wanted? Think about how you prepared for the MBE. Many students think they did poorly on the MBE because they did not practice enough multiple-choice questions, but often students didn’t memorize enough material in order to get that high score. Were MBE practice questions a regular part of your study schedule? Did you use “real” MBE practice questions? It may be worth investing in “real” MBE questions released by the NCBE to supplement your bar exam prep course questions if they do not provide “real” MBE questions. Most students find that “real” MBE questions are more like the questions they saw on the MBE than questions that might be simulated by a bar prep company.
Evaluate Your Bar Prep Program
Depending on what bar prep program you selected, you might have some decisions to make. Some programs offer a refund if you didn’t pass the bar. Others offer a free retake. Still others offer both and leave it up to the test-taker to decide how they want to proceed. Did you find that your bar prep program was a good fit for your learning style? Did your bar prep course provide you with enough time to memorize the material that is to appear on the bar exam? If you didn’t like how your bar prep program was structured or otherwise thought it wasn’t a good fit, consider other options! Bar prep is not a one size fits all program, and different programs might better suit your learning style.
Gauge Whether You Need Extra Support
Was your bar exam score not close to passing? Was your score close to passing but you have no idea where to begin in terms of how to improve? It may be worth considering getting a bar exam consultation or using a bar exam tutor!
A bar exam consultation can help you work through your score report and help you put together a plan for studying as you revisit the exam. A tutor not only helps you put together a study schedule, but they can accompany you every stop of the way. Working directly with a tutor can provide you with insight on the subjects where you need to spend a little bit more time, and they can also let you know when to move on from a specific area of the law. If you found yourself afraid to move on from topic to topic the last time you prepared for the bar exam, working with someone who can provide insight as to your proficiency can be invaluable!
Consider When and Where to Study
In planning on how to approach the bar exam moving forward, determining when and where to study is crucial. Consider how you studied the last time you took the bar exam (as opposed to what you studied). Were you in an environment where you could focus? Did you find yourself getting distracted by other people, a phone within reach, or the tv? Did you wait until mid-afternoon to start studying and stay up until the early morning hours to finish up your work?
Consider changing when and where you study if you did not think your environment was conducive to bar exam preparation. For example, try a new environment if you thought your prior studying environment was too distracting. If you felt yourself losing focus by the end of the day, maybe having two spots to study (morning and afternoon) would work better for you. Students who study later in the day to the early morning hours can certainly still pass the bar exam, but if you found yourself exhausted on exam day, getting your studying done during the hours where the bar exam will take place helps train your body for what to expect on exam day.
We said this at the beginning, but we want to make sure we emphasize it here at the end as well. Take a deep breath and remember that it will be ok that you didn’t pass the bar exam the first time.
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