Most people who took the July 2016 bar exam started bar prep the week of May 13th or 23rd which meant 9-10 weeks of study time. Ask anyone who studied for that exam- it was a pretty intense period and did not feel like enough time. Let’s look at the calendar for the February 2017 bar exam which will be administered Feb 21-22/3. In order to have 9-10 weeks of study time you’d have to start the week of Dec 12th or 19th. For those of you still in school, this is probably right in the middle of your law school exams. However, you cannot wait until January 1. This would mean only 7 weeks of bar studying and that is just not enough time. The bar exam tests more subjects and topics than ever and your brain needs time to take in, process, learn the material as well time to practice the different skills tested.
Should you start studying for the bar exam now? Sort of.
What you can start doing now is planning and organizing. Your goal is to finish the semester as efficiently as possible so you can start bar prep either the week of December 19th or 26th. You will not have a lot of down time but you can take steps to make sure you aren’t exhausted. You might not have much control over your exam schedule, but you do have control when it comes to “paper” classes. Look at your calendar, talk with your professor(s), manage your time, and don’t wait until the last minute or deadline to submit your paper.
None of this sounds fun and you’d rather enjoy the holidays, celebrate graduation, hang out with family and friends. But you also want to pass the bar exam. Giving up 1-2 weeks of fun time now is a lot better alternative than failing the exam.
Bar results are posted and you didn’t pass. It’s ok to feel upset, angry, and disappointed. However, you need to set a time limit on these feelings because you need to regroup and refocus your energy into passing the next time.
Success is not final,
failure is not fatal:
it is the courage to continue that counts.
The most important thing to recognize is what YOU can do better the next time. External factors are out of your control so it does you no good to blame failure on this. You must first look inward and self-assess. Identify what you did well and areas in which you can improve. The first place to start is with the results themselves. Don’t look so much at the overall score but the different components: was your MBE score below average? Did you do poorly on the MPTs? Were your essays ok but none were high scoring?
Also look back at your study habits. For example, did you put in enough time into both learning and practicing? Did you study steadily over the entire prep period or was it mostly in the last four weeks? Did you focus when you studied or did you allow too many distractions? Did you prepare for all bar exam components or rely on being a good test-taker to get you through?
Next, get feedback from someone else- the bar support person from your law school, a bar examiner, your bar coach from commercial bar prep. You need someone to give you objective feedback on your work. You need someone to be honest with you on both the good and the bad.
Failure is never fun but it is the best learning opportunity around. Failing the bar exam is a personal experience but don’t take it personally. We learn best from mistakes so take advantage of the opportunity to succeed.
The State Bar of California has announced changes to the bar exam. California has been a three-day bar exam with six one-hour essay questions, two three-hour performance tests, and the MBE. However, beginning with the July 2017 test administration, the exam will now be two days:
- One morning session with three one-hour essay questions.
- One afternoon session with two one-hour essay questions, and one 90-minute performance test.
- One morning and afternoon session, each with 100 MBE questions.
The written portion and MBE will be weighted equally at 50% and the scope of subjects tested has not changed. At this time, the State Bar hasn’t determined the exact dates of the test or other test details so make sure to check the State Bar website regularly if you are considering taking the Calfornia bar.