Advice for bar exam repeaters

If you were previously unsuccessful on the bar exam, do not give up hope. We have compiled a list of tips for students who are repeating the bar exam.

You must approach your studies differently the second time around. Many of the things you did the first time, such has watching lectures, reading outlines, and preparing flashcards for key concepts, were essential steps in the process. However, if you did these steps carefully the first time, it may not be necessary to repeat these steps in their entirety on your second attempt.

Instead, follow these tips for bar exam repeaters:

  1. Focus on your worst subjects first. Review your scores from the prior exam and begin by studying the subjects on which you scored the lowest. While most students are tempted to start with their favorite subjects, this will not get you the results you seek. Remember: no pain, no gain. Your worst subjects offer the most room for improvement and therefore represent your biggest opportunity to make up lost points. By reviewing these subjects early, you will ensure that you have plenty of time to master them, as your study time may run short as the exam approaches.
  2. Begin with practice testing. Practice testing is the key to success on the bar exam. Yet, bar review students often spend too much time reviewing lectures and outlining their course materials, saving too little time at the end for practice testing. You can avoid this trap. Assuming that you already listened to the lectures and outlined the material the first time you took the bar review course, you can begin instead by doing practice testing up-front. Refer to your bar review outlines to explain those concepts that you failed to apply correctly on your practice tests. This method allows you to fill-in any gaps in your knowledge, without wasting too much precious time on concepts you already know. You will learn more black-letter law through this active method of study than you would by passively reviewing your lecture notes and outlines.
  3. Critique your past performance. If your state’s bar examiners permit you to request your essay answers from your previous attempt you must do so and have a qualified person critique them for you. Seek honest feedback and make sure that you understand why you received the scores that you did. Check that the person who reviews your essays has taken the bar exam in your state and has experience critiquing bar exam essays. Amateur feedback may not be insightful enough. Also be sure to compare your own answers with any model answers or sample answers provided by your state’s bar examiners.
  4. Do NOT try to work a full-time job while studying for the bar exam. Before re-taking the bar exam, talk with your employer early in the process and arrange for as much time off as possible. Studying for the bar exam should be your full-time job for at least the two-months prior to the exam. At minimum, you should take off the entire month of the bar exam. If you cannot do this, you may want to consider postponing the bar exam until you can devote adequate time to preparing for it.