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 and heartbreaking 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) 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.
2) 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.)
3) 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.
4) 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. Stay tuned for tips on how to create a study plan.
5) 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.
6) 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 – which really means working smarter.
All the best,
Bar None Review and Bar Exam Cram Session (™)