Many aspiring lawyers have faced many ups and downs to finally get admitted as lawyers and be allowed to practice in this beautiful profession throughout the years.
One of these obstacles is no other than the bar exam. Some are lucky to pass the exam the first time, but some fail on their first or even second attempt. The question that comes to mind – why do so many law students fail the bar exam?
There are several reasons why some law students flunk the test. Read further as I will share some of the reasons why law students fail the bar exam.
The bar exam is the legal profession’s standard and, for most, the peak of years of hard work in law school. However, only 60% or higher of the candidates pass the exam, and most states have low passing rates. A majority of first-time takers do not pass the exam.
If you have joined the ranks of those who will retake the exam, I remind you that you are not alone. Throughout the years, some of the well-known figures such as mayors, governors, Congress members, military generals, attorney generals, judges, and law school professors have failed in the bar exam as first-time takers.
What are the reasons why law students fail the bar exam?
There are several reasons why many law students fail the bar exam every year. I highly recommend taking a close look at these reasons so you will learn to avoid these drawbacks to help you pass the coveted test on your next take.
• Attempting to learn every detail of the law.
It is important to note that the bar exam requires minimum proficiency comprehension of the law. Nevertheless, the majority of test-takers become stunned at the extent of material that they need to review. Due to this, they try to study in the same way as they did back in law school, studying every small detail.
In most cases, it results in hours of listening to audio lectures and creating flashcards or outlines but dedicating limited time in checking the most tested sections of the law. When you end up buried with many details, it can affect your chances of passing the bar exam. If you focus on the small details, you will overlook the heavily tested areas of the law on the exam, which might be one reason you failed.
• Unable to practice and seek feedback
Many law students fail the bar exam since they did not have time to practice. I consider this an issue since practice is essential when studying for the bar exam.
In California, applicants are required to take a performance test as a prerequisite to the bar exam and other states.
Nevertheless, students often go easy on practicing for this challenging part of the exam, even though previous performance tests were available for free online. Essays are also an integral component of the bar exam in most states.
With this in mind, I suggest dedicating time to practicing this part of the test. If you are going to retake the bar exam, you can find free questions online, familiarize yourself with the material, and practice writing essays or performance test scenarios.
When practicing, I recommend comparing your answers to the sample answers, self-assessing your work, and rewriting sections if needed. Additionally, if your bar exam review program provides feedback, make sure to turn in all assignments to get as much feedback as possible. If achievable, you can even hire a tutor to help you with this task.
• Ignoring the “MBE”
The bar exam includes a Multistate Bar Examination. This is a standardized bar test created by the National Conference of Bar Examiners, which is given to applicants taking the bar in almost all states in the country. Just like with sample performance tests and essay questions, you can quickly obtain free MBE questions from previous bar exams. I strongly suggest practicing with real MBE questions since they are written in a particular style.
You can check out the National Conference of Bar Examiners since they offer free MBE questions from previous exams, which will surely come in handy regardless of the state where you plan to take the exam.
• Lack of personal care
Law students who do not take proper care of themselves can put themselves at risk of getting sick and burnout, anxiety, and inability to focus. This increases the risk of not passing the bar exam.
Although preparing for the exam is not the right time to start a new diet and workout routine, you do not want to be in bad condition when you take the exam. I recommend not skipping out on taking care of yourself during your review. Remember that your physical body’s overall condition is an essential element in increasing your chances of passing the bar exam.
• Engaging in self-sabotaging behavior
When it comes to self-sabotaging behavior, I believe it can come in various forms. A good example is agreeing to volunteer for a long summer program but lacks time to study.
You might be spending a lot of time online or socializing with friends instead of dedicating time to study. You end up with fights with your significant other or family member, in some cases, leaving you emotionally drained from studying.
Tips on how to effectively prepare for the bar exam
With the substantial amount of material covered on the bar exam, it is vital to study smart. Ensure that you will use your study time effectively, so you are in the best position to pass the exam. I will share some tips on how to prepare correctly for the bar exam.
• Create a personalized study routine
If you are taking on a prep course, a detailed study schedule might be provided. This will come in handy but make sure that you follow a study regimen that best suits your needs.
Since you know the learning techniques that are effective for you, your level of understanding, and your schedule, you can create your study schedule. Make sure that your schedule stays flexible as you move through the preparations.
• Use good-quality materials
Using good-quality materials is vital for effective studying. I might suggest avoiding those with extensive outlines or guides that cover details that will not turn up on the exam.
Make sure that you are utilizing outlines and guides that present the information that makes sense to you. Do not forget to use the multistate bar exam (MBE) questions and the essay questions.
When preparing for the exam with the help of the MBE questions issued by the National Conference of Bar Examiners, it will help you get acquainted with the types of questions on the exam.
• Focus on the highly tested topics
The subjects and topics in the exam are not tested equally. Some issues frequently appear, making them the “favorites” of the bar exam. It is vital to dedicate the right amount of time to each subject and topic based on how likely it is to show up on the test.
I find it time-consuming and a waste of time to spend hours memorizing every detail of a topic that will not show up on the exam.
• Emphasize memorization
Quickly jumping from lecture notes straight to practice problems is not a practical approach in studying for the bar exam. One way to do well during the exam is to remember the appropriate rules upon interpreting the fact pattern.
On the essay portion, you must reproduce the rules for the grader. With this in mind, I highly recommend dedicating time to memorizing your outlines so you can properly apply the law to the facts.
I will share a useful tip – do not wait until the week before the exam to memorize it. Start from the beginning of your bar exam preparation.
• Practice smart
Most applicants make the mistake of rushing through the practice problems. One way to effectively prepare for the exam is to work systematically through the problems.
If you happen to get an MBE question wrong, try to figure out why you did so. When writing an essay, take some time to self-grade it and interact with the model answer.
Once you feel more comfortable with the law, do not forget to practice your timing. Steadily build up to finish a full-length exam.
Remember that if you failed the bar exam on your first take, do not feel discouraged and avoid beating yourself up regardless of the reason. At this point, give yourself time to breathe, and I recommend figuring out what went wrong and what you can do to fix it.
Consider getting a tutor or enrolling in a specialized prep course. I suggest exploring the alternatives to the main prep programs that most people use since more of the same is unlikely to produce a different outcome.
Lastly, if you failed the bar exam, you are not alone. Several recognized figures such as Hilary Clinton, Michelle Obama, JFK Jr., David Paterson, Kathleen Sullivan, Benjamin Cardozo, Ed Koch, to name a few, all failed at least once when they took the bar exam, some up to three times. With this in mind, do not feel down if you failed on your first take. Simply get up and start all over again until you pass with flying colors – no matter how many times it takes.