If you failed the bar exam, the last thing you want to do is relive the experience. But in order to pass the bar, you need to examine your process of studying and exam taking from start to finish to identify what went wrong and what you can improve next time. Take charge of factors in your control, and learn from past experience. To get started on your plan for bar success, consider the following:
- Bar review provider: If you took a commercial bar review course, were the review materials useful? Were the lectures engaging? Did the format (live classes, online, etc.) work for you, or did they foster inattentiveness and procrastination? Did you receive sufficient feedback to identify your strengths and weaknesses and modify your tactics? Consider choosing a new provider and a fresh approach. For example, you may benefit from more personalized feedback than you’ve received so far.
- Substance and skills: Bar success depends on two primary factors: knowing the substantive law and conveying your knowledge in the expected manner. You need both legal knowledge and exam skills. Evaluate your performance on each of these criteria.
Perhaps you knew the law but didn’t express your analysis adequately, writing poorly organized or unfinished essays. Perhaps you wrote clearly but didn’t know the law well enough to identify and analyze every issue. Assessing your performance in terms of both substance and skills will help you ascertain where to focus your efforts going forward.
- Sticking with the program: Did you follow the bar review schedule and complete all assignments? Did you incorporate feedback and modify accordingly, such as drilling weaker MBE areas and rewriting essays? A bar review program can only help you pass if you fulfill its requirements and take advantage of its support.
- Study time: How much time did you devote to studying? Did you spend too much time socializing? Working? Caring for family? Try to reduce your obligations as you study for your next bar exam. This might mean temporarily limiting your social life, arranging a leave of absence from work, or delegating family responsibilities. It may be difficult to reorganize your life, but it’s a temporary burden with a potentially enormous reward.
- Study schedule and environment: When and where did you study? If you’re an early bird or a night owl, did you study at your optimal time of day? If not, try to modify your schedule next time around. Also consider your study location. Some people study effectively at home, while others are easily distracted by roommates, family members, or household tasks. If you studied primarily at home, try changing your environment by going to a local library. If you were unable to tune out the distractions of texting, social media, email and the Internet, you’ll need to overcome this tendency; discipline yourself to ignore the outside world while studying. You can check in and catch up later.
- Wellness: Was your performance affected by illness – either chronic or episodic? Did anxiety or other mental health issues overwhelm you? Consider how you might try to avoid or gain control over such problems next time. Seek professional guidance and advice if necessary.
- Accommodations: If you have a learning difference or ADHD, did you seek accommodations on the bar exam? If you had accommodations in law school, apply for them for the bar. Having extra time, for example, may make the difference between failing and passing.
- Test day: Did you arrive at the last minute due to traffic or some other unforeseen delay? Did your computer crash? Did you get a poor night’s sleep or miss breakfast? Plan ahead to try to avoid a recurrence of these scenarios.
- Visit your law school: Contact your school to see if the office of bar programs provides support for alumni who fail the bar exam. If your school has a low pass rate in its primary jurisdiction, there is a good chance this is a matter of concern for the administration and that resources, such as individual counseling, may be available.
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Did you find this post helpful? Check out some other great articles:
- Steps to Making Your Own Bar Exam Schedule
- Why Really Wanting to Pass the Bar Exam Isn’t Enough
- What You Can Do Now to Prepare for the Bar Exam
- Train Like an Athlete for the Bar Exam
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