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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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Top Ten Reasons why People Fail the Bar Exam. And, how you can pass your next bar exam!

Do any of these sound familiar?

  • You were not worried enough.You got by in law school—maybe not the top 10%, but hey, you passed, so you thought you’d nail the bar exam. Many people you know (some not nearly as smart as you) passed their Bar exam so you thought, “It can’t be that tough.”    It was that tough.

The bar exam is a whole different ball game, physically and mentally, from law school finals. First off, it is two full days, not a few hours. You will be exhausted, more tired than you’ve ever been in law school. Second, it is way more material than you’ve ever had to deal with on a single exam. Third, the anxiety level is much higher. People around you are terribly stressed out, and rightly so since so much of peoples’ future rides on that outcome.  Get with the program. Word hard, really hard, now; relax when you pass. If you’re working while studying, realize that you may not be able to do it all. Think about taking out a loan so you can give the Bar exam two totally concentrated months of full time study.

  • You were too worried. You were filled with so much anxiety that you cannot relax enough to learn the material.

To pass the bar exam, you have a lot to study and you are right to be concerned, but you cannot absorb the law if you are completely stressed. Stop. Slow down.  As you work toward success on your next bar exam, sleep more. Take breaks. Do deep relaxation and physical exercise. You cannot study effectively for 20 hours a day, and you don’t need to in order to pass. Just be diligent, disciplined and give it a good 6-10 hour day. Remember: slow and steady won the race. Also, realize you are dealing with more material, more subjects, but the depth of analysis is not nearly as intense as a law school final or law review article. You are not trying to be Justice Holmes, or have your Bar Exam answers published in the Harvard Law Review. You just want to pass.

  • You have not learned the law. Did you brief cases on your own in law school? All your cases Do you really know and understand what a case is—what the difference is between a holding and dicta? Do you know what an easement is? Do you understand UCC Section 2207? If you don’t REALLY get it, it o.k. to admit that now. You can learn before it’s too late. But don’t set yourself up to fail. We all know that people can get by in law school, passing all their classes without really ever having the whole process of legal analysis click.

To pass the bar exam this next time around, do what it takes to learn everything thoroughly.  Be able to teach every testable concept to someone else, know it that well.

 

  • You were the Dreamer. You went beyond the scope of the fact patterns. You read into things. You assumed facts not in evidence.

Next bar exam, read slowly and force yourself to stay awake. Recall what you read, take notes, and then analyze them thoroughly. Stay away from saying, “But what if the party were an adult?” If the facts say the party is a minor, work with that. Why bother with the “what ifs?” The party is a minor, period, end of story. Analyze the facts and the law accordingly.

  • You have weak reading comprehension skills. You really didn’t understand what you were reading. Either you were too nervous, trying to read too fast, or you had not trained your reading skills thoroughly enough.

The Bar Exam, like all standardized tests, is largely a test of reading comprehension. Your reading must be in top shape to pass.

Do lots of practice tests and study the model answers. Figure out what you did wrong. Re-read instructions. Also, if you want a good exercise: try reading, and summarizing in one to three sentences, all the articles in the opinion section of the newspaper each day; this will train your skills and keep you informed at the same time!

  • You are a Practicing Attorney in Another Jurisdiction. You were licensed to practice in another state, and trying to get licensed in a new state. You may have been practicing for years. You are angry at having to take the Exam in the first place. You are an attorney, after all. You are licensed. You have done your time. You shouldn’t be asked to have to take another test. It’s been a while since you were a student and you resent this imposition.  You are also knowledgeable in the real world.

It’s possible that you know too much, especially practical aspects of law. You think of too many realistic concerns and issues and get hung up on them. You need to pretend you are back in school. Think BIG issues, and write a complete analysis. And, stick to the fact pattern.  

This is not shorthand; you are not resolving a client’s problem on a bar exam essay question or an MBE. This is long hand. Give a complete analysis to prove your skills for the grader –demonstrating why the facts prove or disprove every element of every relevant rule.  You often get just as many points for showing why a plaintiff (or prosecutor) should not prevail on a bar exam as why another should prevail.

“Show the math.” In other words, make your reasoning explicit.  Write in step by step IRACs. Also, lay off the jargon unless terms are used in the problem. Don’t use flashy terms to impress the grader; you won’t. Don’t use “heretofore,” “the party of the first part” “said party” or “said issue.” Just write out a simple and logical IRAC (issue, rule, analysis, conclusion), in short but complete plain English sentences.

  • You have poor typing skills and/or you write illegibly. 

If the bar exam graders can’t read what you wrote, they won’t. They will not assume you wrote the right things. They will not give you the benefit of the doubt.  Sloppy careless typing or writing with major mistakes in spelling and grammar can bias a grader.  Lawyers are organized.  Present yourself on paper on your bar exam as you would in a job interview –as a competent, organized, clear-thinking and clear-sounding professional.

  • You didn’t manage time well enough. You didn’t bring a clock with you to the Exam, or you didn’t look at the clock you had. Either way, time ran away without you. You were caught with moments to go and unanswered or barely answered questions.

Even one question left unanswered or only partially answered is enough to fail you. Practice every day, under timed conditions.  Practice with a big, easy-to-read analog clock. (Read rules for your jurisdictions about what types of clocks or watches you may bring into the exam.)  And practice with the device you will bring in to the  bar exam with you.

  • You are not ready to be a lawyer. Maybe you went straight from college to law school, and are still a little overwhelmed. You may not even know for sure if you want to be a lawyer, and you are certainly not ready to have someone else’s life or financial future in your hands. This is common, and it is just fine.  Pass anyway; pass this next bar exam!

Many licensed lawyers do not practice law.  Getting your license does not obligate you to any kind of job, or life.  You don’t have to be an “unhappy stressed out lawyer.”  You can be and do anything you want.  Your law license will provide greater not fewer opportunities, in and outside of the law.  

If you are unsure about the career you want to pursue, put your doubts in a box until after you pass the Bar Exam.  Then research opportunities before accepting a law job. Don’t commit ahead of time to a job you are not ready to accept.  Know that there are enormous benefits to passing the bar exam and being licensed to practice even if you choose not to practice law.  And, after you take the bar exam (wholly focused on passing), meet with a trusted career advisor and think carefully about what you want. Read books on what successful people are doing with JDs.  Get informed, and keep every door open wide.  

  • You were simply unlucky last time. 

Some people do just have a bad day.  Family problems, physical accidents or other incidents happen just before or during bar exams.  Bar timing is rotten luck. If you are one of these people, just climb back on the saddle, and do it again. Pass this next bar exam.

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More info to help you pass the bar exam in Pass the Bar Exam: A Practical Guide to Achieving Academic & Professional Goals.  You will get there.  The next bar exam is yours to pass!

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The True “Secret” to MBE Success: Ten Tips on How to Study for the MBE:

I am, frankly, a little tired of hearing so-called bar exam “experts” telling students that success on the MBE depends on “tricks,” “shortcuts” and “secrets.”  No!  The big “secret” –shssshhhhh, get ready…  learn the law!

Success on the MBE depends on two things: knowing the law in great detail on seven subjects and reading critically.

Understand the ins and outs of criminal law and criminal procedure, torts, contracts, real property, evidence, constitutional law, and civil procedure, and you put yourself on the path to MBE success.  Train critical reading under timed conditions and you move forward on that path to MBE success.

To do this you will need to review all the MBE tested subjects and complete daily (or very regular) sets of practice MBE questions.  Then study explanatory answer.  And here I mean study.   Don’t just casually skim through answers.  Read every word and make sure you understand why every correct answer is correct and why every wrong answer is wrong.

One of my colleagues, when describing just how depending MBE success is on understanding the law, said, “If there are “tricks,” you can’t even see them until you know the law well enough to understand how the examiners may be leading you down the correct or incorrect path with a particular answer choice.”

So, here you are, just over two months before the bar exam, can you do it?  Can you learn all that law?  Yes!  It is not easy.  You must cram a ton of information in your head.  But it is do-able.  First, though, stop looking for shortcuts and get into a serious work groove.

Think about it this way, if you needed to go hire a lawyer to help you, would you want the one who found the tricks to get by, or the one who slid just barely in without really knowing what he or she was talking about?  Or, would you want to hire the person who worked his or herself to the point of true understanding, someone who really gets it. Be the lawyer you would want to hire.

Ten Tips on How to Study for the MBE:

  1. Take a  reliable bar review course that gives you detailed materials with which to learn now only main rules but exceptions (and exceptions to exceptions), such as #PMBR.
  2. Practice sets of MBE questions every day.  Do MBEs as a “habit” or “ritual,” at the same time each day.  For example, complete your daily set of MBEs with coffee when you wake in the morning, or at the end of the day before your pre-sleep routine, or both.
  3. Approach each question with a strategy, reading the call of the question, then the fact pattern, then the call, and then considering each answer choice. More on this in Chapter 8 of Pass the Bar Exam.
  4. Work on timing and stamina.  Start with a small number of MBE questions in each sitting each day now, then build up the quantity (while keeping the timing), just as you would build muscle when starting a weight lifting routine.You need to be able to comfortably complete 100 questions in a three-hour period.  Start now with 5 questions in 10 minutes or so.  (If you need more time initially, that’s ok, but increase your speed incrementally each week.)  Build up to doing 17 questions in 30 minutes, 33 in an hour, 66 in two hours, and by mid-July you should practice at least several sets of 100 in three hours.
  5. Train deep understanding.  Now, which it is still a long time before your bar exam, take as long as you need to study the answers to your daily sets of 5 MBEs, so that you clearly see why the wrong choices are wrong and why the correct answer choice is the “best” one.   Note: the best answer may not be perfect, but there is a reason why it is deemed the best of the four.  Don’t fight the question or answer and get angry that it is not the perfect answer as you may have learned it in law school.  Just understand why it is considered the best of the four choices and understand that reason so clearly that you could easily explain it to a 1L if you were tutoring someone.
  6. Read carefully.  Practice reading with sight, hearing, and touch.  Read each word aloud (mumbling under your breath) while touching each word on the screen with your finger.  So many students tell me that just switching to reading questions and explanatory answers aloud was the step that improved their MBE scores more than any other single strategy.
  7.  Practice on paper.  Practice some MBEs regularly on paper.  At the very least, complete your 5 morning and/or evening sets on paper and the others in bar review on line. (On line tracking is helpful to see where your strengths and weaknesses are, so you know which subjects and which kinds of questions you need to study in greater details.) When completing paper MBEs , touch each word as you read aloud (mumbling under your breath), with your pencil, circling,or underlining key words.
  8. Don’t get discouraged.  Remember, every question you get wrong now is the opportunity to get it right on the exam.  It’s good to miss questions in practice so you see how to improve, fill in knowledge gaps, and correct any misunderstanding of rules of law and applying them to fact patterns.
  9.  Get plenty of sleep, eat well, and exercise regularly. All of that will help you come to each practice question sharp, alert, and with a mindset that is ripe for learning and training your skills and packing knowledge into your brain. It is hard to learn when you are too exhausted or stressed out to absorb information.
  10. Train other parts of your bar exam as well as MBEs, so that you are completely ready for everything you will be tested on.  Remember that MBE fact patters resemble mini-essays.  Know the difference: with MBEs you know the rules and analyze how the facts apply to those rules in your head and simply bubble in the best choice.  With Essays, you must write rules from memory and then articulate explicitly how the facts prove or disprove each element of each rule.  The process is similar but not identical.  Resist temptations to practice only MBEs.  Practice MBEs, Essays, and Performance Tests (if they will be on your bar exam).

Avoid fear-mongers or scammers who tell you there are tricks or shortcuts.  Solid hard work, strategically implemented, is the path to success on the MBE.  Spend extra time you might have studying and training with practice exams rather than seeking “magic bullets.”   And, if you need reliable information about the MBE, go to the source: http://www.ncbex.org/exams/mbe/

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MBE Strategy: Get Ready for Success in July!

The most important part of MBE work in  May and June for July takers is daily, repetitive, completing of questions and carefully studying explanatory answers.  Study must include why the wrong answer picks are wrong and why the correct answer was correct; the more detailed your learning the better.

MBE questions are much like essay questions, only with pointed answer choices. Each wrong choice takes you down an incorrect reasoning path or an incorrect understanding of the law.  The more thoroughly you debrief after completing practice sets the better your understanding.  For that reason, I often suggest that at the beginning of bar review you do fewer questions if need be but really try to understand them thoroughly.  I urge you to complete regular sets of MBE questions every single day, as a ritual.

As the summer goes on, increase the numbers of questions you complete each day, and be sure to do some full sets of 100 questions to train your endurance. Also increase your speed so that you get to completing questions in 1.8 minutes per question by mid-late June.

One of my students who just passed the February Bar Exam said he only had time to complete 17 MBE questions daily, but he did them (in one half hour) every single day for months before passing the bar exam.  He spent 30 minutes completing the daily sets and 30 minutes reviewing the answers. One hour on MBEs religiously every single day, and slow and steady won the race.

How many MBEs are you doing each day?

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How to tell people you failed the bar exam

You did not pass the February bar and are facing this crazy reality that you have to retake the exam.  How to cope.  

If you are feeling sad, angry, frustrated, defeated, bitter, and beyond, you are not alone.  Get it out this weekend and next week.  Get it all out.  Do whatever you need to do to.  

This coming week will be hard, don’t kid yourself, especially if you have close family and friends nearby.  Prepare yourself.  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.  The results were not as I had hoped this time but 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 next next year. How are you doing? 

Or, the shorter variation

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

You do not owe anyone an explanation, and you don’t have to excuse yourself or apologize for yourself.  You don’t even have to answer someone.  And, you certainly should not spend one minute thinking less of yourself.

So, eat, drink, and go through your anger and frustration this week.  Then, get up, brush yourself off, and get ready to pass this July’s 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), you move on to a place where you can turn all of these negative emotions into fierce determination to pass the bar exam this July. 

Failing the bar exam is a mere bump in the road to success.  Make it a smaller and smaller bump 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, perhaps as even a 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, Performance Tests, Essays, certain subjects, time management,  all of the above?

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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Failed the Bar Exam? (No, you just have not yet passed!)

If you just found out the failed the bar exam, you are undoubtedly and justifiably going through turmoil right now.

  • You are angry.  You put in all this work, and time, and money.  You finished three years of law school successfully.  And, now this!  You may be outraged.  Let it out. Punch some pillows.  Scream at the top of your lungs in private in your car.  Then, in the days and weeks to come, transform that anger into power, motivation, and determination to pass this next bar exam.
  • You are sad.  Others (many you know well from years of law school and you know that they are no “smarter” than you.)  Take a few days, or a week even, to let the sadness out.  Cry. Talk with your “safe” person.  Journal.  Take some long walks. Eat chocolate.  Then, by May 31 at the very latest, (the timely filing to re-take the California Bar Exam), get back on track.  Remember that you are smart enough. You did graduate law school, and you can do this.  It is a step back; it is not defeat. And, if you learn from this so-called “set back” you can eventually come through the process much more appreciative when you do pass and much more embracing of every door that will open because of your knowing how much you put in to earn that license.
  • You doubt yourself. The worst part of failing the bar exam, for many people, is the hit to your confidence. You feel like others think less of you.  Remember that many many brilliant people have failed bar exams and will continue to.  This is not a referendum on you or your ability, and certainly not a pronouncement about your potential.  As a colleague put this recently, “We teach people how to treat us.”  Why you failed the bar exam and what you will do now to pass the next time are your narratives.  And, if you project confidence in yourself going forward, people will treat you as a person who needs no doubting.  But if you walk around with the weight of self-doubt pulling you down, it may cause others to question your capability.  So treat this news that you failed this past bar exam as a simply an issue that requires problem solving.  Let these next two months be about learning everything you need to go in and pass the next bar exam –everything meaning not just the substantive knowledge, but the skills and the study habits. Embrace the process.  Want the positive outcome next time, and want it badly. Fight for success, head held high.

So, if you failed this last bar exam, whatever else you do, the most important thing is to keep this point front and center: You CAN do this!

You are not the kind of person who quits when you stumble or you would not have graduated from law school.  You have the kind of determination to see this through. You completed three or four grueling years pursuing your legal education.  There is a presumption that you are qualified to do the work it takes to pass.

Take the weekend and a few days next week if you need to be angry and sad and frustrated. Indulge, if you need to, in a few hours of self-doubt.  Then, banish that doubt.  Transform the anger, sadness, and frustration into perseverance and commitment.  Dust yourself off. Accept and believe that you CAN pass your next bar exam. Then, get busy problem-solving.

How will you pass the next bar exam?

1)    Re-take a full service bar review course?

2)    Take a supplemental Essay, MBE, and/or PT course to focus on my weaknesses?

3)    Hire a tutor?

Without knowing more about your scores, it is hard to know what each person needs. For some people, a tutor is helpful. But many people do not need the extra expense of a tutor.  If you scored lower than passing on the MBE portion as well as on essays and/or PTs, it might make sense to re-take a full service course. You can complete more practice tests, in all three areas, and continue to review the substantive law in all the areas you are weaker in.

The better you know the law, the easier you will understand the essay questions and answers.  If someone (a tutor) is just showing you technique and you are still weak on the law and have to do all of that law learning yourself, you can easily get overwhelmed.  Having a course may help you to pace yourself, and strike the balance between law and skills.

If you decide to re-take a full service bar review course, you don’t necessarily have to listen to every single lecture again, but you will have access to all the material if you need it.  Sometimes, studying the substantive law again will help it sink in, and help you really to get it. Couple that study with a daily schedule that includes taking practice tests and studying sample answers.

Many successful repeat bar takers skip full service bar reviews the second time around and focus on weaker areas by taking supplemental courses.  If your written work was fairly strong but your MBEs weak, you may want to take an MBE supplement, such as PMBR or another reputable course. If your MBE scores were high and you only missed because of essays or performance tests, it might make sense to take a supplemental Essay or PT course. Passlaw.com offers such as do many other reputable bar review providers.

Talk with trusted colleagues and ASP faculty.  Honestly assess your own strengths and weaknesses.  Continue maintaining your strengths and push hard to improve in any areas that were weaknesses.  (In other words, review subjects you know well to remain current in them, and study in more depth those you don’t know as well.  Continue a small number of practice MBEs if those were your strength and throw yourself into essay and PT writing if those were weaknesses.)

Develop a solid plan and get on track for success on the next exam!  You will go in to the bar exam test site with a “Been there, done that” edge.

July is your bar exam to pass, so long as you lick your wounds, get back up, and get going.

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Ten Reasons Why People Fail the Bar Exam

This top ten list is meant only to help you diagnose the issues on your previous bar exam so that you can pass your next bar exam!

  • You are not worried enough.You got by in law school—maybe not the top 10%—but you passed all your classes, so you think you will get by now. Many people you know passed the Bar, so you think, “It can’t be that tough.”Wrong! It is that tough. And it is a whole different ball game, physically and mentally, from law school finals. First off, it is two or three full days, not a few hours. You will be exhausted, more tired than you’ve ever been in law school. Second, it is way more material than you’ve ever had to deal with on a single exam. Third, the anxiety level is much higher. People around you are terribly stressed out, and rightly so since so much of peoples’ future rides on that outcome.  Get with the program. Word hard, really hard, now; relax when you pass. If you’re working while studying, realize that you may not be able to do it all. Think about taking out a loan so you can give the Bar two totally concentrated months of full time study.
  • You are too worried.You are filled with so much anxiety that you cannot relax enough to learn the material. You have a lot to study and you are right to be concerned, but you cannot absorb the law if you are completely stressed.Stop. Sleep more. Take breaks. Do deep relaxation and physical exercise. You cannot study effectively for 20 hours a day, and you don’t need to in order to pass. Just be diligent, disciplined and give it a good 6-10 hour day. Remember: slow and steady won the race. Also, realize you are dealing with more material, more subjects, but the depth of analysis is not nearly as intense as a law school final or law review article. (Note, in a state like California, this is especially true on essay-only subjects. MBE subjects tend to be tested in more detail than subjects for which you only have to write an essay answer.) You are not trying to be Justice Holmes, or have your Bar Exam answers published in the Harvard Law Review. You just want to pass.
  • You have not learned the law.Did you brief cases in law school? Do you really know and understand what a case is—what the difference is between a holding and dicta? Do you know what an easement is? Do you understand UCC Section 2207? If you don’t REALLY get it, it o.k. to admit that now. You can learn before it’s too late. But don’t set yourself up to fail. We all know that people can get by in law school, passing all their classes without really ever having the whole process of legal analysis click.
  • You are the Dreamer.You are going beyond the scope of the fact patterns. You read into things. You assume facts not in evidence. Read slowly and force yourself to stay awake. Recall what you read, take notes, and then analyze them thoroughly. Stay away from saying, “But what if the party were an adult?” If the facts say the party is a minor, work with that. Why bother with the “what ifs?” The party is a minor, period, end of story. Analyze the facts and the law accordingly.
  • You have weak reading comprehension skills.You really don’t understand what you are reading. Either you are nervous, trying to read too fast, or you have not trained your reading skills thoroughly enough. The Bar Exam, like all standardized tests, is largely a test of reading comprehension. Your reading must be in top shape to pass.Do lots of practice tests and study the model answers. Figure out what you did wrong. Re-read instructions. Also, if you want a good exercise: try reading and summarizing in one to three sentences, all the articles in the opinion section of the newspaper each day—this will train your skills and keep you informed at the same time!
  • You are a Practicing Attorney in Another Jurisdiction.You are licensed to practice in another state, and trying to get licensed in a new state. You may have been practicing for years. But, for some reason, you just can’t seem to pass this Bar.You are angry at having to take the Exam in the first place. You are an attorney, after all. You are licensed. You have done your time. You shouldn’t be asked to have to take another test. It’s been a while since you were a student and you resent this imposition.  You are also knowledgeable in the real world. You know too much. You think of too many practical issues and get hung up on them. You need to pretend you are back in school. Think BIG issues, and write a complete analysis. This is not shorthand to help you resolve a client’s problem. This is long hand. Give a complete analysis to prove your skills for the grader. “Show the math.” Also, lay off the jargon unless terms are used in the problem. Don’t use flashy terms to impress the grader; you won’t. Don’t use “heretofore,” “the party of the first part” “said party” or “said issue.” Just write out an IRAC (issue, rule, analysis, conclusion) in short but complete plain English sentences.
  • You have poor typing skills and/or you write illegibly.If the graders can’t read what you wrote, they won’t. They will not assume you wrote the right things. They will not give you the benefit of the doubt.  Sloppy careless typing or writing with major mistakes in spelling and grammar can bias a grader.  Lawyers are organized.  Present yourself as you would in an interview, as a competent, organized, clear-thinking and clear-sounding professional.
  • You don’t manage time well enough.You didn’t bring a clock with you to the Exam, or you didn’t look at the clock you had. Either way, time ran away without you. You were caught with moments to go and unanswered or barely answered questions. Even one question left unanswered is enough to fail you—especially if it’s a performance test question that is worth a big percentage of your total grade.Practice, under timed conditions, with a big, easy-to-read clock.
  • You are not ready to be a lawyer.Maybe you went straight from college to law school, and are still a little overwhelmed. You may not even know for sure if you want to be a lawyer, and you are certainly not ready to have someone else’s life or financial future in your hands. This is common, and it is o.k. too. You can solve this issue creatively in a number of different ways without having to fail the Bar to put off the inevitable—for example, decide before the Bar that you will give your yourself some time after you take and pass the Bar Exam before accepting a law job. Don’t commit ahead of time to a job you are not ready to accept.
  • You are simply unlucky.Some people do just have a bad day, family problems, physical accidents or other incidents that occur with the worst of bad timing.If you are one of these people, just climb back on the saddle, and do it again.

Using these and other resources in Pass the Bar Exam: A Practical Guide to Achieving Academic & Professional Goals, you will get there.  The next bar exam is yours to pass!

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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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Congratulations to all who passed!

Passing the bar exam is an unparalleled joy.  If you passed, we wish you all the very best and are sending you our heartiest congratulations.  If you have a moment to take out of your celebrating to write in and tell us your strategies for success, we would be very appreciative.  We will be posting tips and advice over the days and weeks to come, for those who are taking the July bar exam.

Once again, congratulations!!!!

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Less than Two Weeks Until Bar Results Come Out for the February 2016 California Bar Exam

Bar results were published for the New York Bar Exam.  Heard from an NY student who found out that he passed the New York Bar Exam last week.  Now, California law students, your results from the February 2016 California Bar Exam are less than two weeks away.   This is what he wrote me:

      Thank you!  Your help was invaluable, really. Really changed my approach to studying and taking         ownership of material. … I think I studied smartly/efficiently enough to pass, thanks to you.

Bar results will be out for California bar exam takers on Friday, May 13th.  Was Tom Petty right when he said, “The waiting is the hardest part? “ How are you all holding up?

Many of my students have told me that as they wait for results, they have nightly bar exam nightmares. Here’s hoping that the rest of the waiting is not too trying, and that you all have passing results on the February 2016 Bar Exam.

Readers, WRITE IN: Share your bar exam dreams and nightmares!!!

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