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If you or someone you cared about did not pass the February bar exam

It might not be in these words, but those who learn tonight that they failed the bar exam may well feel not just like the proverbial rug was pulled out from under them, but that the entire world has turned upside down.  Too many times, I have heard, “I just found out that I failed the Bar Exam. I am devastated. All that work for nothing.  I don’t see how I can pick up and go on and do that [expletive] thing again.”

Know that you are not alone.  You have friends, family, and significant others who love you and support you, and think just as highly of you today as they did yesterday. They were and are still your team, and they will not abandon you.  

Also know that your frustration, sadness, and anger is completely understandable. You worked hard in law school. You prepared hard for this exam, maybe harder than on anything else in your life.  And, it did not turn out as you expected.  The result is that you have another mountain ahead of you to climb. Anyone who says, “No worries” or “No big deal” just doesn’t get it.  It is a big deal, and you likely are worried.  

But you can climb that mountain.  And, you will.  You will need a while to heal, to go through the stages of grief, and then to get the reliable information you need to figure out what contributed to your missing last time and how to get you where you need to be next bar exam.  But just like you got up as a child when you fell and learned to walk and even run, so too will you pick yourself up from this experience, learn what you need, and soar to heights you cannot begin to even imagine now in your future careers.  

And, believe it or not, (lemons to lemonade and all that) there are even some advantages you have as a repeat taker, that when you are ready to see them will become clear:

     • Your effort is not all for nothing. The harder you worked before, the easier it should be to pass the next time you take the exam. While you may feel that you forgot some (or even many) of the rules, you did not forget what you learned but merely what you memorized.

     • You likely won’t be as nervous as students going in for the first time. You know what to expect. “Been there, done that.” Use your relative comfort level as an edge and try to remember just how worried everyone around you really is. Stay calm and focused. You want this, and you can do it.

     • You can make a thoughtful plan as to how to improve. You will have raw data – the scores from your past exam(s) to tell you what you have to work on. Aware of your strengths and weaknesses, you can tailor your studies for success.

So, let yourself have the time you need this weekend to grieve.  Next week, get going. Go out and get on the path to success for this next bar exam.  The next bar exam is yours to pass.

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Collecting Bar Exam War Stories

For years I have collected bar exam war stories, and I am renewing that mission now. Many have heard tales of something horrible that happened during the bar exam: earthquakes during the bar exam, people passing out during the bar exam, and applicants continuing to write as a fellow test taker was taken out of the bar exam test site on a stretcher. But there are so many untold near tragedies, and a few really comic ones at that.  Do tell!

Just a few days ago a student told me that on Tuesday of this past February Bar exam in California, apparently the fire alarm went off at 8:45 am, at the Ontario location. Allegedly the bar exam applicants all had to leave their seats and started moving towards the exits, just minutes before start time.  Thankfully, the situation was resolve and they did not lose any time in taking the actual exam.

A recent graduate told my class of her stories of being seated near the back of the room during her bar exam, close enough to the bathrooms to literally hear people throwing up throughout the exam.  She said in a perverse way it made her feel better.  (She may have been nervous but at least she wasn’t literally sick, she was better off than the folks she was hearing through the walls.)

A close friend of mine had a contact lens drop out on day one of his bar exam, just as he was about to read the first essay.  (He did not have glasses with him.)

What is your bar exam horror story?  Please share!!

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IRAC or IRPC? That is the question!


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How many Practice Tests should I do to pass the bar exam?

How many #barexam practice tests should you do?  Well, think about how many practice shots great athletes take?  Michael Jordan once said, “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

Many of my students who passed this last bar exam completed anywhere from 3000-5000 multiple choice questions, another 30-50 essays, and at least 1-2 dozen performance tests.

It’s not all about quantity.  Vince Lombardi put it this way: “Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect.”  With bar exam studies, you get to the perfection (or competence —after all, it’s a pass fail test!) by practicing and learning and improving from quality sample answers.

So how many practice questions should you do?   A whole lot, with quality study of reliable sample answers –working every step of the way to improve.  Start now!


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Failed the Bar Exam? No, you just haven’t passed yet! February is your exam to PASS!!!!

“To bear failure with courage is the best proof of character that anyone can give… ” Maugham, W. Somerset

One of the biggest barriers repeat takers face is moving past the hit to your confidence.  Even for people who accurately diagnose what needs to be fixed, it may be rough to shake off bad feelings. Remember, you are not a failure. You never have been.  You never will be.  This is not a referendum on who you are or what you are capable of.  It is news, not good news but news that can inform you if you let it.  You can learn a great deal about what path to take next on your road to success. 

Learn from your past; don’t let it define you. If you weren’t frustrated you would not be normal. How can someone invest so much and not be. You put in years of study –your time, your money, your sweat and your pride. But, you are not alone, and you can turn it around. You did not pass this past bar exam, but you did not fail as a person. Once you get over the disappointment, you can turn this into a challenge, go into problem solving mode –figure out how to pass next time. If you think “success” means never failing, think again. Learn from this so-called failure and make it your step to success this next bar exam.


The passage above is excerpted from Pass the Bar Exam: A Practical Guide to Achieving Academic & Professional Goals, 

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Taking the Bar Exam in July 2015?? Make sure you certify your laptop.

Read carefully through the important instructions on your state bar’s website. If you read the instructions when you first applied to take the bar exam, re-read them again now.  Be sure you know everything you need to know BEFORE EXAM DAY!!!!  

Among the many pieces of key information you must know are instructions about laptop usage, security, photo identifications, what you may and may not bring in to the exam site, etc.  

Note: these instructions differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction so read your state’s instructions.  Also, note that in some jurisdictions, there are different rules on the MBE day than on the other bar exam test days.


As examples, here below are some links for information on the California Bar Exam and the New York Bar Exam.

If you are taking the California Bar Exam, be sure to read the instructions below:



Taking the NY Bar Exam?   Read the important information at

See also,  “Exam Day Instructions” from the NY STATE BAR WEBSITE


Exam Day Instructions from the New York State Bar


EXAM DAY INSTRUCTIONS – Some important reminders for exam day:

  • Review the Board’s Security policy prior to arriving at the examination.
  •  Do not bring prohibited items (bags, cellphones, notes, etc.) to the examination – leave them at home, in your hotel room, or in your car.
  • You must pass through a security checkpoint before entering the examination room. You may not bring any prohibited items (bags, cellphones, notes, etc.) through the security checkpoint. 
  • If you bring items to the examination site which must be checked, you must arrive early enough to first go through the coat check line AND THEN go through the security line. 
  • Coat checks are open by 7:00AM each day. You are discouraged from relying on the coat check for storage of prohibited items. The exam will NOT be delayed due to long lines at the coat check. 
  • All coats and jackets MUST be checked and will NOT be permitted in the exam room. 
  • You must be in your seat 30 minutes before the start of each exam day: 8:30AM on the New York day (Tuesday) and 9:00AM on the MBE day (Wednesday). 
  • Once you enter the exam room, you may not leave it at any point except to use the restroom with permission of a proctor. If you violate this rule you may not be allowed to re-enter the exam room and you could be disqualified from completing the exam.
  • List to the oral instructions given at the exam, and read the written instructions on your examination materials.
  • No applicant may leave their seat during the last 15 minutes of the session for any reason.
  • Applicants who do not immediately stop writing or typing when time is called will be reported to the Board and may be found guilty of violating the Board’s rule prohibiting Fraud and Dishonesty. 
  • Your proctor will provide you with your EXIT PASS after you have turned in all your examination materials. 
  • You must have an EXIT PASS when you complete each session, and you must give your EXIT PASS to security to leave the exam room after each session.
  • After you leave the exam room, you may not re-enter until the next testing session. 
  • Do NOT remove examination materials from the exam room. 
  • NO writing is allowed on either side of the Seating Ticket.
  • NO SMOKING is allowed during the exam.  


Whatever state bar exam you are taking this July, be sure to read all the instructions carefully so that you know exactly what the rules before you go in to sit for the exam. 

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Happy July 4th, Bar Exam Takers!

Take the day off, if you want.  Yes, that’s right, entirely off.  It’s ok to take a full day’s break at certain points in bar review, and this is one of those days.

If you need to re-charge your batteries (and everyone does around now), and you are able to relax for a full day off, take off today.  You have earned it!

Others of you are too nervous to take a full day off.  Leaving the books may stress you out more than it helps. That is perfectly normal.  Do not think you are odd.  Over the years, I would say at least half my students work on July 4th and that’s what they have decided is in their best interests.  If that is you, a compromise is to study half the day and take off the afternoon/evening for a barbecue, food and fun, drinks and fireworks.

You may want the evening off, but prefer to watch fireworks on TV, curling up on your own couch, with your favorite food and drink.  All good.  If you don’t want to socialize, do not feel obligated.  People inevitably ask how bar review is going and you may not want to get into it.  On the other hand, you may have friends and family who are supportive and hanging out with them for the evening reminds you that at the end of the day, this is just a test.  And, it will be over in August.  You are in the home stretches, and there is a world going on out there that you just are taking a long study break from.  It can help to know that they will still be there when you are done studying.

Whatever you do today, treat yourself well.  Today is a day to reflect on how much you have learned and how hard you have worked, and to pat yourself on the back a bit.  Enjoying today in whatever way best works for you will make you more motivated to learn tomorrow, and then next day, and the next.  And, that’s what it’s all about.

You still have another several weeks to work steadily and learn and hone your skills.  You still have plenty of time. (Think about how much you learned in just a few days before some of your final exams.)

This July is your bar exam to pass.  You can do this!   Know it and believe it.

Happy 4th of July!!




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Bar Review Starts: You CAN PASS this coming Bar Exam!

Here are excerpts from a talk I gave my students when they began bar review:

You are competing in the July 2015 Olympic Games, your Olympic Games.  You qualified to compete. We watched you, this Saturday at Graduation.  You proved yourselves these past three or four years.  Now, what do Olympians in training need after qualifying?

1) The ability, which you have!

2) A great coach, and we and your bar review are here for you as coaches.  And,

3) Time focused on hard work.  Hard work —every day, sweating, falling down and getting hurt but getting back up and trying again, every day all day until “the games” begin.

This is your two months. It is all about you.  You have everything you need.  Now bring it.

Bring your grit, your commitment, your stubborn need to learn as much as you can and get as competent as possible in taking Essays, MBEs and PTs. Those are the three events you are competing in!  Just as the athlete in your shoes is now ready to give it her all, you too must you give this your all.

You must need to pass.  Don’t just want it. Don’t just try. Need this. Hunger for it. Push for it. Do everything in your power to make it happen.

Now take a moment and picture yourself at the Swearing In ceremony after you pass the exam. That is our Medal Ceremony. Imagine yourself raising your right hand and taking the attorney’s oath as the newest members of the state bar.  It will be a day of joy, of pride –your sense of accomplishment will be unparalleled.

Keep that image concrete in your mind.  Then stop thinking about what is next. Just get licensed.  Have that power tool in your arsenal: your law license.  Then, decide what to do with it later. If you have a job, great; don’t think about it until August.  If you don’t have a job, don’t worry about it until August.  Everything is on hold until August. Whatever you decide to do in the future, you will be better served because of the effort you put in now.

Everything is about now, about this summer.  Get as much as you can out of every minute of every lecture; read, study, and practice, practice, practice.  

Remember, you CAN do this!  You can pass this bar exam!!!

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The Power Trio of MBEs, Essays & Performance Tests

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7 Tips to Prevent Bar Exam Burnout

Note: This post is relevant to everyone studying. Whether you are in high school, college, law school or any other graduate study, if you are giving it your all, you will burn out from time to time. Here’s how to re-charge!  

You are perfectly normal if you are thinking, “Not another day of this stuff!  I cannot handle any more studying.  Not another lecture, paper, or practice test.  I need to sleep.  I need a day off.  I need my life back!” You will have your life back when exams are over.  But, for now, “Another day of this” is precisely what you must do. Another, and another, and another –all in  high gear.  You must remain totally motivated, batteries fully charged, util the last “time” is called on the last day of your last exam.  For the upcoming bar exam, that is a full month away still.  So you have lots of time.  But you must make the most of it.

How to re-charge?  How does one maintain that kind of persistent motivation?   It’s not easy.  I remember the first week of July when one of my classmates said, “Just bring it on already.  I am so [expletive] sick of studying.  I just want the test now.  I’m tired.”  I have to confess at the time I felt so un-ready for the Exam that I could not relate at all.  I wanted every single day that remained to practice.  I wanted every minute to get ready.  I was happy to wait.  But, I can relate now.  Thousands of students later, I see how some people have just had it even by this time.  Others want even more time to pull it all together.  (They wish the exam were two more months later.) Wherever you fall on this spectrum, give yourself a break if you are feeling stressed and burned out. Stress and burnout are normal

Bottom line, you have no choice.  You are taking this exam at the end of this month, are you better believe with all your heart, soul, and might that you going to pass!  Done deal.  No options.  (To quote Apollo 13: “Failure is not an option.”)

What will you do on actual bar exam days?  You will go in and do your very best. That is what you owe yourself.  That is what must be done.  So, how do you get through from now until then?

Here are 7 Tips to Prevent Bar Exam Burnout:

1) Exercise. 

Most people are stressed, quite normally so.  The best way to burn off the excess stress is to burn it out, with exercise.

Do something active every single day.  Walking, yoga, biking, swimming, weight lifting, jogging, spinning, skating.  Whatever you do, don’t skip a day.  You must think of time exercising as an investment in your own success.  It is never a waste of time.  (If you simply cannot justify taking “time off” to exercise, then study while you are on a treadmill, or walk while playing a bar review lecture in headphones (or listening to a recording of yourself reading rule statements, see below.)

2) Pace yourself. 

Take breaks.  Remember even during the bar, you get close to a 2 hour lunch break between the morning and afternoon sessions.  So, feel free to take long lunches now, each day.  Stop fully and relax.  Then get back into it.  And, when you’ve put in a full day of studying, take off at night to relax before you get a good night’s sleep.  And, make sure to get a good night’s sleep, each and every night.

3) Reward Yourself –daily and weekly.

Give yourself some daily reward.  At the end of each evening, do something before you go to sleep that acknowledges a hard day’s work.  (For some, that’s a mindless TV show.  For others, a glass of wine.  For others, a few minutes on social media.) And, give yourself a bigger treat to mark the end of each week of hard work.  Every Sunday night, for example, go out to a really nice dinner, or watch a movie.

4) Plan (and book) an after-bar vacation.  For those in college or graduate school, plan something fun for Spring break and summer!

Schedule something as soon as possible after the exam, something you really look forward to.  Just thinking about that and knowing that you have something definite in August will help alleviate some of the burnout today.  It can also be a great way to reward family and a significant other for letting you have time and space to study this June and July.

5) Shake up your study routine.

If you are tired of reading quietly, read aloud to yourself.  One of my students found the way to keep motivated (and better retain the material) was to read aloud in a funny accent and record her voice reading rules.  She played them back to herself  while driving and laughed while learning.

Try charting, try flashcards, try re-typing sample answers.

Study in a different location one day.  Explain the rules/theories you are most afraid will be tested on the bar exam to a lay person.  (If you can explain something correctly to someone else, likely that means you have mastered it.)

Variety can go a long way to helping stop burnout before it drags you down.

6) Get comfortable with “practice test days.”

Practice days are critical.  They will help you train the skills to pass.  And, if your practice work has simulated the intensity of the real thing, you will be able to walk in to the actual exam with power and strength.  You will have a  ”been there, done that” attitude and confidence.

7) Above all, be kind to yourself.

This IS one of the hardest times in your life, one of the steepest mountains you will ever have to climb.  The good news is, once you get through, it’s a lifetime license.  You never have to do it again.  Just pay your yearly dues and remain ethical, and you’ll keep your license for life.

PS. Be sure to eat lots of chocolate, and ice cream!  It won’t add brain cells, but it should put a smile on your face!!!!!

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