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Failed the Bar Exam: Pass this February

You did not pass the July bar.  You are facing this crazy reality that you have to retake the exam.  But it still feels like a bad dream.   The feelings are coming at you like internal arrows:  anger, sadness, frustration, defeat.  “Why me?” you want to shout.  

How to cope.  First, know that you are not alone.  And, in the next months you will need to get reliable help from supportive people: a bar coach, a trusted law professor, a true friend, someone else who did not pass, and your bar review.  Second, get the negative emotions out now.  Express whatever you are feeling in a safe place, now, before Thanksgiving.     

This coming week will be hard, don’t kid yourself, especially if you are going to a Thanksgiving celebration with family and friends nearby.  Prepare yourself.   Know what you will say when people start in with the “Too bad you didn’t pass.” Prepare specific lines to “keep in your back pocket” to excuse yourself from conversations you do not want to have such as:

  • “Thank you for your concern.  You are right; the results were not as I had hoped. I am preparing a different strategy for the next exam ,and it’s important now for me to focus on the positives.  We can talk more about this in next spring. n How are you doing? 

Or, the shorter variation

  • Let’s talk about you.  How are you?

You do not owe anyone an explanation.  You don’t have to excuse yourself or apologize for yourself.  You don’t even have to answer comments/questions about the bar exam. And, you certainly must not spend one minute thinking less of yourself.

So, eat, drink, and go through your anger and frustration this week.  Then, after Thanksgiving, get up, brush yourself off, and get ready to pass this next bar exam, using the past experience as a learning tool.

Allow yourself this week to acknowledge sadness and disappointment, and whatever else you feel.  Then, like the stages one moves through in grieving (but faster), move on to a place where you can turn all of these negative emotions into fierce determination to pass the next bar exam. 

Failing the bar exam is a mere bump in the road to success.  Make that bump smaller and smaller each day by working toward becoming stronger and more prepared each day to pass next Exam. 

You are still on that  road of accomplishment, the road to great success, that you set out on by going to law school in the first place.  No one and nothing can take that away from you.

Decide today, that you will move forward, as an even wiser and stronger and more prepared person than you have ever been!

And, don’t forget to reach out when you are ready –to reliable academics who can help you.  Determine where you need to shift your strategy: MBEs, Essays, certain subjects, performance tests, time management,  all of the above?  Where do you need “strength training”?

Whatever else you may be thinking, keep this the closest: you are not defeated. You have experienced a bump in the road, a mere bump, a blip, but you are still moving forward, slowly and steadily on the great road to long-range success!  

Hang in, and stay determined.  Do not let this slip derail you. You deserve better.

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Final Exam Success Tip of the Day

Many law students and college students are in the home stretch now, with final exams in the next two months.  That seems like a long way off.  It is not.  Now is the time to start thinking about finals –not the week before the exam.

It is an empowering feeling to walk into a final exam ready and prepared to the best of your ability.  It is an uncomfortable destructive feeling to go into an exam knowing you are winging it.  The choice is yours.  Start now!

How to take advantage of the lead time?

  • Prepare a timeline.  Note when any papers or other assignments are due between now and final exams.  Note when each of your exams will take place.  Write what each exam will test and in what format.
  • Try to clear your calendar as much as possible to prioritize your studies in these last laps. Tell people (family, friends, etc.) you will see them more in June (or after your exams are completed) and lay the groundwork to declining all social invitations when you need to prioritize studying.  Say No to any new commitments such as with organizations, clubs, and internships.
  • Plan a study schedule that allows you to spend time on each course respectively –paying attention to factors that allow you to determine which finals (which courses) will demand more of your time and energy to adequately prepare.

Future posts will provide other final exam preparation tips, but, for Today’s Tip of the Day, as part of your slow and steady final exam preparation:

  • Find out if any of your professors have released any of their former exams and if so, get copies of those exams.  Exams given by your professor(s) in the past will often give you insights into how particular professors test, what might be covered on the exam, etc.  In addition, it can be helpful try to obtain “practice exams” from other professors who have taught the same course.  It can be helpful to take past exams as practice exams, under timed conditions, to prepare.

Set yourself up for success.  Start on finals preparation now!

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Bar Results

Much of the country has already received results from the July 2015 bar exam.  I have received great news from many students across the country.

But Californians wait, and wait.  (And, apologies to Tom Petty, but The Waiting Is the Hardest Part.)  Hang in. Soon enough, you will know.

If you are waiting for results from the July Bar Exam, I hope you learn soon that you never need to take another bar exam, unless of course you want to be licensed in another jurisdiction.

If you or someone you are close to ends up having to retake the exam, remain as calm and compassionate as possible.  It’s a tough kick to the teeth, but one that so many great and powerful lawyers have recovered from. It is just a slight trip, not a major fall (not unless you let it take you down.)  You will be stunned, angry, sad, frustrated, and then you will figure out where you can improve, create a new plan, and get busy working for success in February.  (Keep ready to say “I will pass this February.”)

So, plan for success now, and here’s hoping November 20th will be a HUGE party for you and yours, but know that if your is success is to be yours February rather than this past July, you will be fine.  You cannot control these results but you can control how you handle them.

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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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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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Professor Berman’s Ten Top Tips for Ten Days Before the Bar Exam

In sessions I regularly lead each week before the bar we talk about pertinent issues of the week.  This week it’s all about how you are spending the last days before the exam.  Next week, we’ll walk through each exam day and evening and talk about how to stay strong until the last time is called, and how to prevent derailments.

Today, Professor Berman’s Ten Top Tips for Ten Days Before the Bar Exam:

1. Be sure you have your admission ticket. 

2. Read the rules on what you can and cannot bring into the exam.  (And, note differences on different bar days.  In some jurisdictions, MBE days have different rules.)

3. Keep working on one-page “cheat sheets” that summarize the main points of each of the tested subjects.

4. Keep reviewing practice questions and studying sample answers.  (Look out for frequently tested areas.)  At this point you may be issue spotting and outlining more than writing exams out in full, but still do some practice questions under timed conditions so you are on target with the speed as well as accuracy.

5. Continue training your critical reading skills.  Missing questions because you did not read carefully is most frustrating.  Keep practicing reading every word, and reading with your eyes, ears and fingers.  (Mark up fact patterns and write in the margins as you read, so you do not miss anything.)

6. Memorize rule statements.  Work those flashcards.  The biggest difference between knowing rules for MBEs and for Essays is that on the latter you have to be able to quickly and concisely articulate those rules.  So practice.  Practice writing rules, and saying them out loud.

7. Stay away from destructive people. (Re-read the section on Supporters and Saboteurs in Pass The Bar Exam.)

8. Make any last minute arrangements so there is nothing other than the bar exam to worry about during bar days. (Pay any outstanding bills, arrange for childcare, dog-sitting, etc.)

9. Take a minute to plan something fun for yourself and if you have a family or significant other you want to include do so.  It can really be helpful to have something to know you will be doing as a giant reward after that last time is called.  And it will really help keep those who love you from going stir crazy in the next two weeks just watching you.

10. Exercise and eat right.  It’s critical to maintain the stress levels now.  From this moment, until the last “time” is called by the proctors during your bar exam, you must stay strong and and be able to turn anxiety into action, and panic into power.


You got this!

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The July Bar Exam: Looking ahead; get ready now!

Many of your colleagues and classmates just finished the February Bar Exam.  For them, May (and results) are what concerns them the most.  Hopefully they will find a way to put the bar exam aside for a bit, focus on jobs, resumes, gaining practical experience volunteering in law offices, and, perhaps most important, reconnecting with friends and family after that time away studying.

For you who are taking (and you better also be expecting to pass, if you are planning to take) the July Bar Exam, what are you doing now to prepare?  There are many things to be done now to “get ready” to pass the July Bar Exam.  I’ll list a few here, and do get a copy of Pass the Bar Exam to read in full now so you can get all the tips and strategies you will need:

1. Work on mastering the performance test portion of the bar exam as part of an effective “early start” strategy.  Do this with Pass the Performance Test, both the online course and Study Guide.  Get in now and learn how to effectively write passing answers to any performance test question that they may throw at you. Because this is an open book portion of the exam, it is the best part to start on early, and master.  Once you learn the skills, you won’t forget how to do a PT.  (Essay and MBE work, by contrast, depends on both memory and skills!)

2. Handle details and logistics that will come up in May-July now, and/or determine what can be postponed until August. (Get finances and housing squared away, arrange child-care, secure time off from work, etc.)

3. Prepare your family and friends that you will be gone from May-July. (Much more on that in Pass the Bar Exam including a full chapter on dealing effectively with friends, family, colleagues, supporters and saboteurs.)

4. Enroll is a reputable full service bar review company, a program that you trust and will follow.  If you want to get a head start, enroll now in a supplemental writing and/or PT course such as those offered by Professor Steve Bracci at and/or go to to sign up today.   If there is a particular law school course you did not take or feel weak in, now is a good time to take a special class on just that subject to fill in the gaps.

Now is the time to learn the subjects you will be tested on so that bar review is really a review.

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Surviving the Holidays for February Bar Takers

I spoke with a graduate today , someone who passed the bar exam already but is taking time out of his holidays to help others who are prepping for the February bar exam. He recalled how lonely it was this time last year.  No welcoming friends and family over to admire gifts.  No after Christmas shopping.  No Boxing Day.  No creative re-imagining of holiday leftovers.  (Now, everyone might not find that culinary pastime one of the most enjoyable parts of the holiday season, but I happen to love it.)

No, no, no.  Those taking the February Bar Exam, I told you it was OK to take Christmas day off (either entirely, or better still, to have simply enjoyed part of the day with family and friends after studying a good half day!)  And, I will suggest the same for New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.  Take off from 8pm to 12:30am for a great meal and champagne toast, ringing in a happy, healthy, prosperous and successful 2014. But that’s it.  Really.  On January 1st, work an 8-5 day, then take off again for a nice dinner.  Or have a New Year’s breakfast with family 8am-10am, then study and take practice tests from 11am-7pm, then eat.  Do a New Year’s Day performance test in the afternoon.  And, write at least one practice essay in addition to studying your lecture/outlines/notes.

Now a quick note of caution.  I am advocating working hard, working daily, working more than you ever thought you could work and doing so consistently every single day (essentially) between now and the February Exam.  But I am not advocating exhaustion.  If you want to pass the bar exam, here is no point in powering, staying up so late that you are not focused and on the next morning.  The bar exam preparation period is not like finals; it’s not a crazy two weeks and then over.  It’s a long haul.  It’s two months you must maintain your intensity and focus.  So, instead of killing yourself, pace yourself.

To pass the bar exam, study each day as if it were a full work day –so something like 8-12 hours of serious, focused work.  Then,

  • Be sure each day includes at least 6-8 hours of sleep –more if you need that to stay focused;
  • Exercise daily;
  • Reward yourself with something small each day and something more “special” each week;
  • Vary your study methods, so you don’t fall into a rut or get bored.  (Hard to imagine being bored studying for the bar but it happens);


PASS Bar Review Courses: enroll now at  More tips and strategies for success on the bar exam in PASS the Bar Exam: A Practical Guide to Achieving Academic and Professional Goals (ABA Publishing 2013).



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Who supports your goal of passing the bar exam? And, who doesn’t???

Look around you.  Are there people in your life you doubt really care if you pass.  Or, worse, are there people who hope you will fail the bar exam??? 

Be honest.  Figure out who they are, and do what you can to get as far away as possible from anyone who doesn't fully support your passing the bar exam this July.  (Don't try to confront or argue people out of such positions now. You don't have the energy.  Your focus needs to be on passing.  Just identify the "suspects" and distance yourself from their negative energy.)

This may be easy. 

It may be as simple as deleting texts or not reading emails from the competitive study partner who is driving you crazy telling you how many hundreds (thousands) of MBEs that person has already done. That person may say he or she hopes everyone from your school passes, but if you really sense that person is just dying to gloat the she passed and you failed, let her go.  You can walk away from such people at bar review, or just not sit with them in the lecture hall. 

It may be saying "No thanks" to "friends" who are not high-achieving at the moment and are repeatedly asking you to hang out and do stuff with them.  You may have to cut such people loose altogether, or you may find a way to tell them you are simply gone until August.  Either way, eliminate the influence of (or at the very least, dilute the effect of) such people, starting right now. 

But this may be tricky, especially if a person you live with or someone you love is sabotaging you –impliedly or expressly. 

Too many people belatedly put together a pattern of a spouse picking fights on the eve of final exams all through law school.  If this is you, don't turn a blind eye.  See it.  Acknowledge it, at least to yourself, and decide what to do about it.  In the case of a spouse or partner, if the person is abusive (or just not nice about it), or you know the relationship is ending, you may well choose to put as much distance as safely possible between yourself and that person from now through the end of July.  Period.  Then, get the help you need and deal with the issues in August. 

If someone you know has not been supportive during law school, there is a likelihood that person will not be someone who supports you this summer.  Be very careful.  Find ways to study away from your home.  And, plan to stay in a hotel near where the exam will be given.

Some spouses, partners, boyfriends, girlfriends, even close friends are, however, just scared that they will "lose you" when you become a lawyer.  That person may need to be reassured.  They will "lose you" temporarily, for many hours each day when you are studying, so be available each day for at least some dependable time.  Plan perhaps on every night eating dinner with your spouse, even if it's just one hour, make it reliable.  It's a good break for you from studying and a good way to keep your partnership on track.  You can also plan a special vacation for you and your spouse, partner, or family for when you finish, in August.  That's a great way to reassure the people who love you that your studying intensively does not mean you are gone for good.  And be sure to say "Thank You" to those who are sacrificing for you to be able to study –whether it's someone doing more than his share of household chores so that you can be in bar review, or someone helping to pay your bills.

The person "sabotaging" you may be a parent (or parental figure) who really thinks you should have pursued another career and doesn't approve of your becoming a lawyer.  In some cases, it's a parent who doesn't want you to have a career at all.  If this is you, stay strong.  You have invested too much to turn back now.  And, if you didn't want this, you would have changed course after One L.  You graduated from law school.  You already made the choice.  And, you don't need anyone's approval now.  End of story. 

Watch out for people pulling you into family commitments this June and July.  Yes, you know it's Aunt Mary's 80th birthday, but you cannot be there.  You must be studying. 

It will get easier after the first, "No."  And, yes, while people may be annoyed with you at first, they will eventually get over it. 

And, keep this in mind: they are not sitting for the bar exam; you are!  Protect yourself and protect your time.

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After Bar Fun

Have you planned where you are celebrating on Thursday night when it’s done? You will work as hard as you possibly can, until the very second “time” is called. Afterward, be ready for good company, comraderie, and some serious FUN!

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