In California, some law students find themselves needing to study for and take the First Year Law Students’ Exam (also known as the Baby Bar or FYLSE). Although this exam might not sound very challenging (it is only one day and covers only three subject areas), the pass rates are painfully low: June 2013 had a 24.1 percent overall pass rate (26.7 percent for first-time takers) and October 2013 had a 19.2 percent overall pass rate (23.5 percent for first-time takers).
So the question becomes why do students perform so poorly on the Baby Bar. Here are the top five reasons I believe people fail the Baby Bar.
1. Studiers Don’t Take It Seriously
When I was 15 years old, I went to the DMV to take my written driver’s test to get my learner’s permit. I had taken Driver’s Education a year before (and had gotten an A) so I figured I really didn’t need to study for the test at all. I was golden! Or so I thought. When the lady at the DMV failed me, I was crushed. I went out to the car feeling entirely defeated. When I told my mom, she asked, “Did you study?” I said, no, that I didn’t need to study because it was just the silly written test. She reminded me that even smart, good students have to study sometimes to learn facts tested on an exam. She was right. I came back two weeks later after reviewing the driver’s manual and passed with flying colors.
What lesson can we take away from this and apply to the Baby Bar? Although as students you have already taken the subjects tested on the Baby Bar, you are still wise to spend time studying for it. Even if you did well in class, maybe you still need to take the Baby Bar due to your law school not being accredited. Sure, you may have known all those rules when you took your criminal law exam, but do you know them now? Can you recall them quickly? Are you experienced in taking criminal law multiple-choice questions? If you don’t take the exam seriously and actually study for it, you might find yourself having to take it again. And who wants to do that? So although this exam isn’t as challenging as the full bar exam, make sure you do give it the respect it deserves.
2. Studiers Don’t Allow Adequate Time to Study for the Exam
Along with taking the exam seriously, you also need to set aside adequate time to study for the exam. This can be a challenge if you are either still taking law school classes or working full time. But it is important that you set aside adequate time to study and that the time spent studying is effective. For example, I have seen too many students trying to fit in studying late at night or early in the morning around class time or work. Unfortunately, these study hours don’t offer much “bang for your buck” when it comes to preparation. When you are exhausted after a long day or tired because it is really early, you are unlikely to be at your best to study and absorb the material. So think through when and where you will be able to study effectively.
3. Studiers Don’t Do Enough Practice
This is likely my top issue with how people study for the Baby Bar. Many students refuse to do practice until the very last part of the preparation period. That is a huge mistake. Practice is one of the most important preparation tools you have. The California Bar is kind enough to release past Baby Bar questions, so there is very little reason for concern about finding enough practice. The bar even releases sample answers for comparison and feedback. It is a win-win. Since practicing (essays and multiple choice) is a form of active learning, you need to practice both parts of the exam throughout the preparation period.
4. Studiers Don’t Reach Out for Help When They Need It
A portion of Baby Bar takers are those who are on academic probation with their school and need to pass in order to be readmitted to continue law school. If you are in this situation, I know how frustrating that can be (I work with a lot of students who are on academic probation). You should, however, look at the Baby Bar as an opportunity to work on the exam skills that led to those disappointing first-year results. By improving your writing and multiple-choice skills in preparation for the Baby Bar, you will find yourself better prepared when returning to school—after receiving your passing score.
The problem is some students are unsure what is causing their grades to suffer on their law school exams in the first place. If this is you, you must reach out for help. You don’t want to spend time, energy, and money studying for this exam without understanding how to best present yourself to the grader. This may mean investing in a commercial bar review course for the Baby Bar or even hiring a tutor who specializes in the bar exam. Either way, getting the help you need will allow you to put this exam behind you and move on!
Good luck to those studying!
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Did you find this post helpful? Check out some other great articles:
- What is the First-Year Law Students’ Exam (or the “Baby Bar”)?
- Seven Reasons the Bar Exam is Hard
- Four Things You Can Do to Make Sure You are Ready for Bar Season
- Does it Make Sense to Skip This Bar Exam?
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