If you’ve ever failed at anything in life you’re probably already aware that there’s no shortage of motivational songs and quotes created to get you back on the bandwagon and ready to take on the world. We’ve all heard them right? “If at first you don’t succeed, dust yourself off and try again,” or perhaps you’ve heard, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” However, if you’ve ever failed at anything in life, you probably already know that these words of inspiration do very little to actually make a difference.
Oftentimes we view failure as a state of permanence from which we can never escape. As a result, we frequently miss the opportunity to use failure as a learning mechanism. If you’ve failed the bar exam once, twice or even three times before, I can probably assume that your gut reaction was not that these failures could actually serve to prepare you for the next time you sit for the exam, but probably something along the lines of shock and sadness. While the latter reaction is perhaps the most natural reaction, what do you do after the shock has worn off and the sadness has tapered? What you do at this point can be crucial to your performance on the next bar exam. While I won’t touch on all the ways that you can adequately prepare for the bar exam after a failure, I do want to touch on one excellent method that frequently gets overlooked. Today I will cover three ways that a bar exam failure can make you more prepared for the next time you sit for the exam.
1. Failure Can Give you the Adrenaline to Prove Yourself Wrong
I know I can’t speak for all law students, but from personal experience, I know that many law students possess the personality trait of being their own biggest critic and many are also very competitive. How about pulling these traits together to get to a better outcome? I’m not saying that you should be super hard on yourself if you fail the exam, because it’s an objective fact that this exam is tough stuff! But instead of criticizing this failure and wallowing in despair, how about using this as a testing opportunity to prove that you can overcome this beast of an exam? Allow your competitive side to kick in and push yourself to the limit during your next round of bar preparation. The mind is a very powerful thing and if you can challenge yourself to be successful, I have no doubt that you will prove the critic within you absolutely wrong when results drop.
2. You Already Know What to Expect
It probably goes without saying, but if you failed the bar exam, the experience has probably provided you with a better understanding of what to expect the next time you sit for the exam. Although it may not be clear what the substance of the questions will be, you can at least have a realistic expectation of what could happen on that day. No more wondering how many students you will have to drown out around you or if you’ve slipped up on the rules and brought in a prohibited item in your clear Ziploc baggie. No more guesstimating exactly how much caffeine you need to make it through all 200 MBE questions or how much protein you need to consume to prevent your stomach from growling. I know these may all seem like minor issues but, trust me, it’s the compounding of these issues that can induce anxiety and serve as a major distraction during the exam. Having a better idea what to expect on the day of the bar gives you an edge over first time takers. So use this to your advantage!
3. You Have Solid Material to Improve Your Exam Strategy
Perhaps the most important way that a bar exam failure can make you more prepared, is the fact that your experience has enriched you with solid material to improve your exam strategy. Once your scores come in, you will know what area of the exam did you in the last time. If your MBE score was much lower than your essays, then you know that this area will need more work during your next preparation round. If your essay score is lower, then you know that this area may need to be your core focus. Whatever it is that brought you down, you now have access to that information and can curate your preparation to make improvements. If you did self-study, maybe this failure means that it would be best to utilize a bar prep course going forward. If you used a bar prep course and intend to re-use it, you can now structure your schedule to focus on the areas that you now know you’re weaker in as opposed to following the schedule your course offers.
At the risk of sounding too cliché, we all know that knowledge is the key to success. Therefore, simply knowing where you went wrong can make all the difference in not making those same mistakes again.
If you take anything away from this article, I hope it is to embrace your failures and use them as a catapult for success.