As of last weekend, applicants in all 50 states have received their results from the February 2020 administration of the bar exam. For many, the news was disappointing (in fact, MBE scores hit an all-time record low on this exam). If you’re one of the thousands of applicants across the country who did not pass the February 2020 bar exam, you may be wondering what to do now that COVID-19 has impacted the administration of the July 2020 bar exam in a number of states.
If you failed the bar exam and are wondering what to do given the current uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, this post will provide some things for you to keep in mind as you decide what to do next. As you evaluate your bar exam options for the future, try to stay calm and maintain a positive outlook — this moment will not define you, but how you react to it will.
1. Take a Few Days to Grieve
Very few people walk into the bar exam without having invested a considerable amount of time and energy into preparing for the exam. If you failed the bar exam, this can feel like a setback that will impact the rest of your life and career. Fortunately, this is usually not the case and many people go on to pass the bar exam on their next try.
It’s okay to feel a range of emotions right now, including sadness, anger, grief, and anxiety. Give yourself a few days to work through those emotions. Once you’ve had some time to process your feelings, start thinking about your options and next steps.
2. Determine what your State Plans to do about the Next Administration of the Exam
At Bar Exam Toolbox, we’ve been carefully monitoring developments about how COVID-19 will impact the bar exam across the country. You should also check the website for the bar association in your state for definitive announcements and updates on application deadlines, testing dates, and exam administration. Some states plan to administer the bar exam in July, while others will administer the exam on one of two dates in September. Other states are waiving the bar exam requirement altogether and will allow recent graduates to practice on a limited basis until the exam can be safely administered. You may want to consider taking the bar exam in another state if your state has cancelled or postponed the exam.
3. Decide whether to go forward with the Next Administration of the Exam
Once you determine what your state plans to do about the bar exam, you’ll need to decide whether sitting for the next administration of the bar exam is right for you. Be honest with yourself about whether you feel up to preparing for the exam and can carve out time to do so this summer. The COVID-19 crisis has been difficult to deal with, and you may not feel ready to take the exam in July or September given your current stress levels. If that’s the case, put your mental wellbeing first and consider skipping this next administration of the bar exam. If your state plans to administer the bar exam in person, you must also consider whether you feel safe sitting for the exam in light of the risk of illness.
If you feel ready to take the next bar exam, you’ll need to complete your application by the applicable deadline and pay the fees for the exam. Then, you must begin the process of learning from your mistakes preparing for the exam.
4. Assess what went wrong
In most states, applicants who are unsuccessful on the bar exam receive their scores and a copy of their essays and performance test. This is a great assessment tool that you should use to determine what went wrong on the exam and how you can adjust your bar preparation methods this time around.
Did you miss the mark on your essays across the board? This is a sign that you need to refine your writing, issue spotting, rule statements, and analysis. If you scored well in some subjects but performed poorly in others, you probably need to focus more time on your weaker areas. If the MBE or performance test hurt your score, this is a sign that you’ll need to do more timed practice for these sections of the exam. Spend time critically reviewing your February 2020 exam so that you can avoid these types of mistakes in the future.
5. Make a Study Schedule
Developing a study schedule is one of the most important things you can do to set yourself up for success on the bar exam. If you live in a state that has postponed the exam, the traditional 10-week study calendar might not work for you. You’ll need to create a study schedule that takes into account this longer window of time. And remember, preparing for the bar exam is a marathon (not a sprint). This is true no matter when you plan to take the exam!
In an Uncertain Time, Do What’s Right for You
After failing the bar exam, deciding whether or not to take the next exam is a deeply personal decision. This is especially true during the unprecedented situation we find ourselves in now as a result of COVID-19. Remember, you must do what’s right for you when it comes to the bar exam. If you need additional help preparing for the next administration of the bar exam, our experienced private bar exam tutors can help.
Good luck, and please take care of yourself. Don’t let this temporary setback keep you from reaching your goals!