If you failed the February 2011 bar exam, you should know that you are not alone. The complete statistics will be available on the California bar website ( http://calbar.org) very soon. Pass rates for the February bar exams are usually between 39% and 45%. So, you know that if you did not pass the California bar exam this past February, that you are among a significant number of people who did not pass.
So what do you do now? Do you take another bar review course? Do you hire a private tutor? Do you study on your own? The answers to those questions will be different for everyone. First, you need to properly evaluate why it is that you failed.
Because the scoring of the California Bar Exam is scaled, it is not easy to understand what a given score means nor is it clear where you will need to focus from numbers alone. For example, if an examinee scores consistently the same scores on their essays (i.e., all sixties or three fifty-fives and three sixties) it will indicate a different problem than an examinee whose scores have a greater range (i.e., one 45, one 75, two 65s and two 60s etc.)
Students whose scores are very consistent will likely mean that the student has a writing problem that is consistent and across the board. This type of writing problem is generally not subject specific and once it is fixed is fixed for all topics. For the student whose scores are more spread out and ranging, typically this student’s problems lie both in writing style as well as subject knowledge and ability to spot issues.
The first step is to review your bar exam score sheet. This can be a very confusing piece of paper. Partly because it is simply just painful to look at. Here you are, you have just received the terrible news that you have failed the bar exam and now you have to make sense of the scores. In my experience, examinees very often do not understand how the scaling works or what equals a passing “raw” score. So hopefully, what follows below will be of help to you.
First of all, the raw score that is passing for the essays, performance tests and the MBEs varies from bar exam to bar exam. Most examinees incorrectly believe that a 70 is always required to pass an essay. However, this is simply not the case. In the past several bar rounds, a passing raw score on the essay has been as low as a 61 point something and as high as a 63 point something – not a 70. Of course, a 70 is a much better score to receive and better yet, 80s are really what you should be shooting for – this is the score we do our best to teach our students to be able to achieve consistently.
The passing raw score for the MBE in the past few years has gone down dramatically. Several years ago, to pass the MBE portion of the exam you really needed to achieve at least 70% correct (a raw score of 140). However, in the past couple of years, the raw passing score has been between 62% – 66% (a raw score of 124 to 133).
However, your practice scores should be much, much higher to ensure that you will do well enough on the MBE portion on exam day. The test has changed. I personally took it the first time back in 1994 (I passed on the first time). The required raw number to pass the MBE portion was higher back then. But, the MBE test has changed. As a result, I retook the bar exam in February 2008 (I passed this exam also).
Here is what I learned (without violating any of the rules the NCBE requires of me and of anyone who has taken the exam – remember you are not to discuss questions, MBE fact patterns, etc.) about the MBE – it has changed from the earlier days of the test. But, it is not any more difficult than the exam I took in 1994 nor is it any easier. So what does this mean for you – well, read on.
The most obvious difference in the MBEs from the past to the present, is that the questions tend to be much shorter. But, the very same issues are tested now as were tested before. It is true that you are not going to find exact replicas of the actual test. Nor should you be able to – it simply would not be a fair exam if you were able to simply memorize a past set of MBEs and then go and pass the MBE portion. Don’t get me wrong, I am on your side. But, this is a test and it is designed (quite well) to test YOUR analytical skills. Is is so much more about that than it is about memorization (even though, of course memorization is very, very important).
At this point, if you have failed the bar exam, you should immediately get back to working on MBEs – not memorizing the law, but instead – just going right back to practicing the MBEs. We provide free handouts on how to approach the MBE portion of the exam. To receive your free copy, contact us at email@example.com and we will send it to you.
By working on the MBEs right away, you will most likely see a return to your prior practice MBE scores (right before the bar exam) within a few weeks (without reading through a single outline or re-committing any of the law to memory – even though of course, you will also need to do that prior to the exam).
A book we highly recommend is “Strategies and Tactics for the MBE” by Walton and Emanuel, published by Aspen Publishing. Be aware that Aspen publishes two MBE books with very similar names, but each are quite different. Both are useful. However, the “Strategies and Tactics for the MBE” authored by Walton and Emanuel, is, in my opinion, is the best book you can get for the MBEs. The information on how to take the exam (strategies and tactics of the exam) as well as the explanations are excellent and far superior to any other MBE book on the market. I do not have any financial interest in this book.
Once the California bar releases the full statistics, some of these numbers will become more clear. However, what is most important is where you are – how far away from passing were you really? Most examinees that I speak with are quite off base when they call in to discuss their scores. There is a lot of misinformation out there. I have been following message boards and I am shocked at how little examinees know about how the test is scored. This is the fault of both law schools and bar preparation courses. It can be incredibly helpful to have someone who is knowledgeable about it to help you interpret your scores. This is really the first step in figuring out what you need or don’t need.
We provide, for a limited period of time (as our classes and private tutoring obligations begin and then we are just not available to provide this service) a free review of your past bar scores. In order to participate in this program, you will need to send your scores to firstname.lastname@example.org. We only accept scanned in score sheets at this time (we do not accept your typed in scores in an email). We have to be sure that we are dealing with you. In addition, provide a phone number where you can be reached (all score reviews and evaluations are conducted via phone).
Be sure to come back to this blog as we will provide more information and advice for those of you faced with repeating the California bar exam this July. Also, be sure to review past postings as these are quite relevant (for example, study plans, how to study etc.).
Also, be sure to visit our bar review course website for more information on what to do if you are repeating the California bar exam. Our website is: barnonereview.com
Once there, select the “repeat bar examinee” button on the left side of our website. You may also want to take a look at samples of our exam writing templates (two topics are provided online for free).
Good luck to you and do not give up, this exam is do-able!
Thank you for reading and please feel free to leave a comment here on my blog or to email me directly at: email@example.com
Good luck in your studies!
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