What should you do if you just failed the bar exam?
If you have failed the bar exam, keep in mind that you are in good company. The bar exam is not an IQ test. Many very bright and hardworking examinees fail the exam. As devastating as this experience is, it is important to start thinking about what you need to do next. Below are some tips and suggestions. Above all, do not lose heart.
1) Recognize that you just took the first 2-day California bar exam. While a two-day exam might seem easier to pass than a three-day exam, this is not necessarily true. There are challenges that a two-day bar exam presents that are different from a three-day exam. For example, on the former three-day exam, an examinee only had to be able to sum up the law and rules from memory for three topics (the morning essays). The afternoon did not require this of an examinee because the testing was a three-hour performance test. Now, this may seem obvious but think about the challenge of having to now (on the two-day exam) come up with rules, rely on your memory of all of these rules for five hours (not the former 3 hours). This is pretty significant. It requires a lot more out of an examinee and is a lot more taxing for a “Day One” than the prior “Day One” given over a three-day format. All of this being said, it is certainly not an impossible task. However, you should have a strategy for how to successfully navigate the new “Day One” of the California bar exam. This is key as you will need to practice and prepare in a different fashion.
2) Get past being devastated as quickly as possible – I know this sounds really harsh, but the sooner you are able to get back on track and develop a plan for passing – and yes, start studying again – the better. Those that do, have the best chance of passing the next exam.
3) Find out why you failed – This starts by getting your scores back from the bar. The bar will automatically mail score sheets to all examinees who failed the bar. This usually takes 1 – 3 days after bar results come out. When you get your scores, don’t panic, and don’t make assumptions about any one section. You will receive raw scores and scaled scores. Take the time to read the materials that come with your score sheet that explain the raw and scaled scores. See also other posts on this blog about making it to re-read and interpreting bar scores. And, if you need help interpreting your scores, you can get it free through Bar None Review – contact me (Lisa Duncanson) directly at: firstname.lastname@example.org (Note: I offer this on a first come, first serve basis and for a limited time. To participate you must send a copy of your actual score sheet with your name appearing on the score sheet, including a phone number where you can be reached.)
4) Commit to taking and passing the next exam – In almost every case, I would recommend taking the very next bar exam. Obviously, sometimes there are reasons to sit out a bar exam administration – but in most cases, the best advice is to take the very next exam. Think about it. The material seems like it has fallen out of your head right now – just think how hard it will be to put it all back together if you wait another six months – that would be a whole year since your last review – not a good plan.
5) Attend an upcoming free workshop – We will announce another free, How to Pass the new 2-day California Bar Exam Workshop soon. Students will receive a free copy of our Guide to Passing the California Bar Exam as well as free bar exam writing templates. The workshop will provide substantive coverage on how to successfully write for the California bar examiners, how to develop a plan for succeeding on the February 2018 bar exam, how to deal with the challenges of the 2-day format and tips for writing Performance Tests and strategies and tactics for success on the bar exam. Space is limited.
6) Develop a plan of attack – Your plan might include taking another bar review course, hiring a tutor, or continuing your studies on your own. There are many courses available (assuming you already tried Barbri) that cater to different needs – small classes, private tutorials. Do your research and due diligence before enrolling in a course or hiring a tutor. Ask for references. Ask to see the course materials before enrolling, make sure the bar review provider is a good fit for your needs. And, don’t abandon your common sense – if it sounds too good to be true – it probably is. But, whatever you do (take a course or study on your own) make a plan – figure out how many hours you will study each day, where you will study, how long will you have to review each topic, how many essays you will write each week, how many MBEs you will do each day, how many PTs you will write – figure it out. Map it out and develop a plan. For tips on how to create a study plan, click here.
7) Review the California bar website! The new California bar website is easy to navigate and is very transparent. This is so important given the history of confusion on the part of examinees over scoring and how to interpret scores. It is hard enough to undertake studying for the California bar exam (pass or fail) and then to not really have a very clear resource. I applaud the California bar examiners for their newly improved website and for providing more details in the new score sheets.
8) Work hard – no matter how hard you worked the first time, you are going to have to work just that hard again. And, if in your honest assessment of your prior bar studies you conclude that you did not work hard enough – well, then you are going to have to work harder. There simply is no magic bullet.
All the best,
Bar None Review and Bar Exam Cram Session (™)