When You Don’t Pass the Bar Exam

Most states have released February bar exam results and while many are celebrating, some are not. Not everyone passed which means the journey is not over. When you don’t pass the bar exam, you not only have to do it all over again but you have to do it differently. In order to change the outcome, you have to change the input.

Failure is simply the opportunity to start again. This time more intelligently.

-Henry Ford

Instead of identifying all the things you did “wrong,” start with what DID work. For example: you put in 50-60 hours a week for 10 weeks, completed all of the commercial bar prep lectures, submitted all the graded essays, etc. From there you can take a look at areas where you can improve: was your MBE score below average, were your essays ok but not great, did you get low scores on any particular essays? The next step is to ask “why?” and trying to do this yourself is not easy. Get feedback from someone- the bar support person at your school, a bar examiner, the bar coach from commercial bar prep, a good friend who was successful.

Through all of this, remember that you are not starting from zero. You did a lot of things right. You can pass the bar exam and you will pass the bar exam.

Failing the Bar Exam: how to regroup, refocus, move forward


Failing the Bar Exam: how to regroup, refocus, move forward

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.
-Winston Churchill

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.