Five simple steps to take if you fail the bar exam

By Ashley Heidemann

Ashley Heidemann is the owner and founder of JD Advising, a law school and bar exam prep company offering services ranging from LSAT tutoring and application assistance to bar exam tutoring, courses and seminars.

No one wants to fail the bar exam, and receiving that result can be devastating. However, it is important to remember that failing the bar exam isn’t the end of the world. Some of our nation’s most successful attorneys, politicians, and leaders have failed the bar exam and still went on to do great things. All of your goals are still in front of you! You just need a new plan. In this post we discuss five simple steps to take if you fail the bar exam.

Step One: Let it sink in

Finding out that you failed the bar exam is a shock to your system. It can provoke many different reactions, both mentally and physically. In order to move forward, however, the first thing you need to do is take a step back and let it sink in. Take some time to come to grips with the result. While it might seem like worst-case scenario, try to remember that failing the bar exam isn’t a predictor of your future success. This is just a speed bump in the road. Take some time to gather yourself, recover and allow you mind to reach a better place. This will allow you to move forward with a more positive mindset, which will be beneficial when you make your next plan of attack.

Step Two: Examine your score report

It is important to determine exactly where you went wrong so that you know what to focus on more for the next administration. Your score report will help you determine whether writing is a strength or that maybe you should seek additional help in developing this skill. Maybe you excelled on the multiple choice portion, or maybe you need to pursue aid in developing new strategies for answering these questions. Your score report will reveal a lot about what went right and what went wrong, and you can use this information to help you prepare for the next exam.

Step Three: Request your essays (if possible)

Many jurisdictions allow you to request your essays and performance tests. If you failed the bar exam, you should definitely take advantage of this opportunity! Reviewing your writing can help you understand where you may have lost points. Perhaps you failed to spot an issue, stated an incorrect rule, didn’t support your argument with facts, or simply ran out of time. Going over your essays can show you what aspects of your writing need word, which can then guide your practice and help you pick up more points next time.

Step Four: Evaluate your previous study plan

If you failed the bar exam, it could be due in part to how you prepared. Thus, it is important to consider what habits you utilized and evaluate what worked and what didn’t. How many hours per day/week did you spend studying?  Did you use a commercial course? Was there a specific aspect of the course that you did or didn’t find helpful? Did you find lectures effective? Did you find yourself easily distracted? Knowing the answers to these questions will help greatly with the final step.

Step Five: Don’t do the same thing twice!

If something didn’t work in your preparation for your failed exam, make sure you don’t repeat it! Do not do the same thing twice and expect a different result. Thus, when you develop your study plan for the next administration, retain the strategies that benefited you, but eliminate the strategies that didn’t. Otherwise, you are just wasting your time! If you didn’t pass using one commercial course, you probably need to look into a different one. Try to find one that offers features that mesh best with your learning style. Maybe you should start studying a little earlier, or in a different environment. Making changes in your study plan is the best way to change your result!

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