The word “failure” can sound brutal. Changing how we see failure, as a part of success and the process of growing in the legal field are game changers, especially as you prepare your mindset for another round of bar exam preparation. Reframing failure away from something to be ashamed of, and instead to something to be learned, will help you to move forward and bounce back and stronger than before.
Learning from failure
Instead of asking why, how can I take what I have experienced and learn from it? What have I already learned from it?
Embrace another chance to do things differently. In your re-attempt, you’ll likely have moments where you realize you now have an actual or deeper understanding of a concept that you did not previously get. You may have realizations that working during certain blocks of time improves your time management and efficiency. Perhaps you realize that solely relying on commercial attack outlines aren’t the best way for you to organize information. Those moments will help you learn from your experience from the last time you prepared, and make the right changes for you.
In my own personal experience, my self-reflection showed me that a lot of improvements could be made. I was preparing while dealing with pandemic fatigue and experienced remote exam technology crashes, which broke my focus. Having another chance to do things differently, such as preparing under calmer circumstances and dealing with my emotions around my failure was exactly what I needed to do to be successful.
Reflect on how you prepared, including how many MPTs, MBEs, and essays you completed and reviewed for understanding. Did you have a helpful method to track your progress? If not, maybe you need to develop one. Did you mainly use commercial materials and not create your own materials? If you spend some time doing that, would that help you retain the material? Were you using sample answers to review your own?
Using your scores for improvement
If you did not pass, most states will provide you with a breakdown of your score in a report. Examining this score sheet can help you reflect on what happened and pinpoint areas you can prioritize.
For example, if you were very close to passing, but your essays and MPT held you back, then you at least know that the MBEs are your strong point, and you can make a plan to develop your essay and MPT skills. Most importantly, you will want to develop a plan so that you can keep up your MBEs or whichever area you performed well in. No worries if all areas need work, this is important to know as well for your starting point. It simply means you can benefit from dedicating time across all areas of the exam. Later down the road, you can self-assess whether you need to modify that plan.
Even better, if you have additional score sheets from past administrations, you can really compare and contrast between score sheets to show trends. For example, notice if your strong subjects later became your weak areas. This can point you to an important strategy— maintaining your knowledge and skills in your strong subjects, so that they do not become your weaknesses. This can be challenging while you simultaneously improve subjects you tend to not do as well in, but awareness is key to ensuring that you achieve balance and competency across the tested subjects.
Share your lessons learned
Reach out to a friend who may not have passed or that is preparing to take the exam for the first time. Sometimes not being successful on the bar exam can trick us into thinking that we don’t have much to offer someone preparing for the exam but remember that your experiences and lessons learned can really be just what someone needs before they get started. It is also uplifting to help someone out and will help you remember how far you really have come in terms of how much you do know, and how close you are to the finish line.
Embrace your journey
Do what you need to do this time around to completely focus. If seeing posts from people moving forward and on after the exam stresses you out, then remember you don’t have to log on or look. Take this time to embrace that your legal career journey and your timeline are yours alone. Comparing yourself to someone else’s path is easy to do, but it’s not helpful and almost always inaccurate. Focus instead on yourself; what brought you to law school, the moments that showed you where you want to go with your career, and the different paths that you can take to get there. You create your own timeline, and if you need to postpone until you’re ready, or take the next exam but in another jurisdiction – it’s totally up to you.