As 2020 closed and perhaps the most bizarre and uncertain bar exam season comes to an end, we are now faced with the reality of bar exam results.
For the majority of examinees who were guinea pigs for the first remote exam administered in their jurisdiction, awaiting these results must have been especially hard amid a pandemic.
Faced with an unprecedented scenario, examinees had no mentor who could truly help to manage their expectations for this experience. Furthermore, the anxiety of waiting must have been magnified by the fear of having to re-sit the exam with no end to the pandemic in sight. A fear that has been realized for many examinees who have received a failing score.
So, what next?
If you failed the 2020 bar, with the next examination just a few weeks out, you’re probably wondering whether you should re-sit the next bar exam in February or even later in July. The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly made bar prep an almost impossible experience; therefore, these are valid concerns to have.
If you’re wondering whether you should re-sit the exam during the pandemic, consider the below factors.
1. Your Physical and Mental Health.
The first factor you should consider in deciding when to re-sit the exam is your physical and mental health. To put things lightly, you’ve been through a lot in 2020. You’re just now beginning to catch your breath after making it through a notably stressful exam season. Furthermore, as the pandemic worsens, every day you leave your home you put yourself at risk of contracting a deadly virus.
Therefore, before dusting off your bar prep books and flashcards, ask yourself:
How are you doing physically? Do you feel healthy enough to jump into a new season of studying, or are you spent from the past several months of bar prep? Have you had COVID and are still dealing with the repercussions or do you have a clean bill of health?
How are you doing mentally? Have you, like many others, been dealing with the ordeal of mental illness that the pandemic has triggered, or have you just found it difficult to mentally process your bar exam result? Do you feel mentally stable or do you feel anxious or depressed?
Your answers to these questions should help to guide how ready you are to sit for the next bar exam. If your self-assessment reveals that you are not physically or mentally healthy, then it may be best to use the February 2021 exam season to recoup and then consider later on whether you are in a good space to sit the July 2021 exam.
2. Have Your Study Conditions Changed?
Another factor to consider is whether your prior bar study conditions negatively impacted your preparation. The mandatory lockdown at the start of the pandemic and the continued quarantine for many states may have placed you in a situation where it was very difficult to focus or study.
Were you quarantined with other people, do you have children to homeschool, have you had to assist family members who may have contracted COVID? Regardless of the scenario, these are all priorities that could certainly make it difficult to study. Therefore, as you decide whether you should sit for the next exam, truly assess whether your study conditions will be any different.
If you have a better opportunity to focus this time around, if you have more time to dedicate to studying, if you have fewer distractions overall, then you may be all set to take the February 2021 exam. However, if you find that your study conditions are still essentially the same and you believe that this limitation negatively impacted your score, then maybe consider putting off the exam for a later time.
3. Will Delaying the Exam Impact Your Job?
Finally, another important factor to consider is how delaying the exam could affect your job. Employers typically allow incoming legal associates at least two opportunities to sit the bar exam before terminating their position. It is also likely that employers may relax their bar exam passage protocol considering the pandemic. Additionally, the pandemic has opened new ground for bar examinees. Some states have in place provisional practice rules that allow someone who is unlicensed to practice under the supervision of an attorney.
If your employer has relaxed their bar passage protocol or if you have the opportunity to practice as a provisional attorney, sitting the next bar exam may not be incumbent. If you have this flexibility, it may be helpful to take additional time to prepare for the exam. However, if you don’t have this flexibility and risk losing your job if you don’t pass the next bar exam then you may need to sit for the February 2021 exam.
Regardless of your decision, be kind to yourself. The bar exam is tough stuff and the added state of the world has intensified this experience for 2020 examinees. You have already excelled because you made it through the exam the first go around. You already have the tools for success whenever you decide to re-sit this exam.