Why You Failed The Bar Exam: 5 Common Reasons
If you recently received the unfortunate news that you did not pass the bar exam, you may be wondering what exactly went wrong. After putting in months of studying, it can often be difficult to understand why you did not achieve the results you worked so hard for. Studying for the bar exam is much different from studying for law school, and it can often be hard to know what you should be doing and how you should be spending your time when you are studying for the bar exam. In this post, we will go over some of the common mistakes that students make that lead them to fail the bar exam.
Why You Failed The Bar Exam: 5 Common Reasons
1. You did not use your course efficiently.
Many students get too caught up in completing the course and not doing things that are actually helpful in studying for the bar exam. As you completed assignments in your course, did you actually find them helpful, or were you just doing them so that you could check an item off your task list and get one step closer to completing the course? If you answer the latter, you likely did not use your course efficiently.
However, you are not alone. Commercial bar prep courses provide a suggested schedule of study tasks, but that schedule does not work for everyone. You should tailor the assignments to your needs and what is most beneficial to you. If you struggle with Evidence but feel comfortable with Contracts, you should spend more time on Evidence, and cut back on the time you are spending on Contracts. Not a strong writer? You may need to complete additional practice essays. If the material is not sticking, you may need to spend additional time memorizing the material.
Remember, the goal is to pass the exam, not to finish the bar prep course!
2. You did not memorize the law.
Many students confuse recognition with memorization. To pass the bar exam, you need to memorize the law, not just recognize the concepts. For example, can you actually state the standard applicable to a dormant commerce clause question? What is the standard of review? What are the exceptions? Sometimes students walk into the exam having an idea of what the dormant commerce clause is (and might also be able to identify the facts that trigger a dormant commerce clause analysis) but can’t accurately state the applicable standard. If you find yourself in this position, you should spend some additional time memorizing the law.
3. You did not complete enough practice questions.
We recommend that students complete at least 800 MBE questions (that is about 120 questions per subject) and 50 essays prior to the exam. Many students do not complete nearly enough practice questions prior to the exam! If if you are a strong writer, and feel comfortable writing essays, it is still a good idea to review lots of essays to gain exposure to the highly tested issues that you might encounter on the exam. Similarly, with MBE questions, even if they are going fairly well, doing a substantial number of questions to gain exposure to more issues that are tested and how they are tested will help prepare you for the exam. If you fell short of these numbers, you may need to complete additional practice questions as you prepare for the next exam!
4. You did not spend enough time studying.
Sometimes students simply do not put in the time and effort necessary to pass the bar exam. For first-time bar exam takers, we recommend spending about 400 hours studying for the exam. This works out to about 40 hours per week for 10 weeks. If you had personal obligations like working while studying or simply treated the time between the end of law school and the beginning of your legal career as a break, you probably did not dedicate enough time to studying for the bar exam.
We recommend trying to take time off work or finding help with other personal obligations while you are studying so that you can give the exam your full attention. If you are unable to give the exam your full attention for 10 weeks, you may want to consider beginning your studies earlier than 10 weeks before the exam so that you can spread out all of the studying that needs to be completed.
5. Something went wrong the day of the exam.
Sometimes, no matter how much you prepare, something happens on the day of the exam that causes you to perform below your potential. Think carefully about the day of the exam and analyze whether anything could have gone differently. For example:
- Did you suffer from fatigue during the exam? You may need to practice better sleep patterns in the weeks leading up to the exam and/or work on stamina as you study.
- Did you suffer from anxiety on the day of the exam? Consider seeking medical help for ways to cope with anxiety, and practice meditation techniques to help you remain in a calm mindset during the exam.
- Did you have timing issues? If you didn’t finish a portion of the exam, you may need to work timing exercises into your study schedule.
- Were you unfocused? Think carefully about what you had to eat and/or drink the day of the exam. It is possible that you didn’t eat enough, ate too much and felt like you needed a nap, or were simply tired on the day of the exam.
Understanding what went wrong on the bar exam is the first step to changing your approach for the next exam so that you can change your approach! We hope you can use this post for why you failed the bar exam to adjust your approach the next time.
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