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How to pass the bar exam

How to Pass the Bar Exam

You’ve successfully made your way through law school and now you’re one two-day test, the bar exam, away from becoming a lawyer.

The first piece of advice: celebrate your JD quickly and then move on to bar exam prep immediately after graduation. Time is ticking. Here are five more tips to help you pass the bar exam.

Sign up for a Bar Review Course

You may wonder why after three years of very expensive schooling you are now expected to pay even more money to learn what you thought you were supposed to be learning during law school.

But now is not the time for you to worry about the cost of bar exam prep. Be as economical as possible, by all means, but think about what it would mean to you, financially, to fail the bar, face employers without a license to practice law, and have to pay to take the bar exam again. If you are really strapped for cash, there are special bar exam loans available exactly for this purpose.

Why sign up for a bar review course? Well, those who take bar review courses have great passage rates for a reason—the course employees study and analyze exams so they know what examiners are likely to test on and what they are looking for in answers; they can steer you to “hot topics” and train you how to deliver the right answers, and that is what is most important during the bar exam. Yes, you need to know and understand the fundamentals of the main areas of law, but all the legal knowledge in the world won’t help if you don’t know how to frame your answer as the graders want to read it.

Tell Everyone You Know Not to Expect to See You for Two Months

That’s a bit of an exaggeration, but not by much. Do not plan on doing anything else during those two months between graduation and the bar exam except study. Yes, you will have nights off and even whole days off here and there, which are essential for relaxing your brain but don’t schedule work, planning of family events, or other serious obligations during the two months before the bar exam.

Quite simply, the bar exam should be your full-time job during those months of studying; your promotion will come when you get the results that you passed.

Make a Studying Schedule and Stick to It

Your bar review course will most likely provide you a recommended schedule, and if you manage to abide by it, you’ll be doing well. The main subjects tested on the bar exam will be the same basic courses you took the first year of law school, so be sure to dedicate huge chunks of time to Contracts, Torts, Constitutional Law, Criminal Law and Procedure, Property, and Civil Procedure. States vary as to the other subjects tested, but by signing up for a bar review course, you’ll have the inside track on those as well.

A very basic bar exam prep study schedule can set aside a week to study each topic, including practice questions. That will leave you two weeks to devote time to trouble areas and to more nuanced areas of law that might be covered on your state’s bar exam.

One tip here on studying: think about making flashcards. In the process of writing them, you’ll be forced to condense rules of law into short snippets to fit on a card, exactly as you’ll need to provide them in bar exam essays—and they just might sink into your brain as you write.

Take Practice Bar Exams

A large part of your preparation time should be spent taking practice bar exams, both multiple choice and essays, under exam-like conditions. You don’t need to sit down and take an entire two days every week to take practice bar exams, but be sure you are doing enough multiple choice questions and essays so you have a good feel for the exam structure. Just like when you were preparing for the LSAT, the more comfortable you become with the test and its format, the more you’ll be able to concentrate on the material and getting the answers correct.

Start doing practice questions even as early as the first week of studying; no, you won’t get everything right, but if you pay attention to what you got wrong, those principles are likely to stick in your head even more than if you had simply tried to memorize them through studying. And, as an added bonus, if the questions were included in bar prep materials, they are also likely to be similar to those that will appear on the bar exam.

Think Positively

If you graduated in the top half of your law school class, chances are extremely good that you will pass the bar. If you graduated in the next quartile, the likelihood that you’ll pass is still pretty good. Why? Because bar exams, no matter what state, test your competence to be a lawyer and not how great a lawyer you will be—and that means you need only earn a solid C on the exam to pass. If you’ve passed law school, there’s no reason you can’t pass the bar exam on the first try.

This doesn’t mean you should rest on your law school accomplishments and assume you’ll pass, of course. You still need to put the time and effort into learning and applying the materials, but the odds are in your favor that you’ll pass. Most states have higher than 50% pass rates. Remember those numbers when stress starts setting in.

Just remember that it will all be over in mere weeks. With the right bar exam prep, you’ll never have to go through it again.

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To practice law in the United States, a law school graduate must gain admission to the Bar of the particular jurisdiction where he seeks to work. The requirements for Bar admission vary depending on the state, but generally mandate the passage of two exams: a two-hour multiple choice test on ethical standards known as the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE) and a separate exam administered by each jurisdiction known as the “Bar.” The format and subjects tested on the Bar differ from state to state. In general, the exam lasts two days, with one day devoted to a standard 200-question multiple choice test known as the Multistate Bar Exam (MBE) and the other to state-specific essays. Some states, such as California, have three-day exams, and include a practical skills portion known as the “Performance Test.”

Last Updated on 05/11/2020 by FilipiKnow

Taking the Bar Exams? In this guide, a Filipino lawyer summarizes the preparations and study tips you need to know to ace the Philippine Bar Examinations.

Do I need to enroll in a review school for the Bar Examinations?

It is not required but most recommended.

Although certainly self-study and a dedicated study schedule are still the most important things for the Bar Exams, there is no doubt that review schools will help you streamline your study.

Some review schools even offer mock Bar Examinations that not only aid you in the proper way of answering questions but also gauge your handwriting and test your legal knowledge. Some review teachers even provide ‘Bar tips’ or questions most likely to appear in the Bar Examinations.

How to Pass Bar Exam: 10 Preparation Tips You Need to Know.

1. Have a study plan.

Five or six months before the Bar Exams, do a study plan. Set dates that are not too strict nor too loose. Have your study materials, pens, highlighters, Manila papers, and markers ready.

2. Study the basics.

You will never go wrong by studying the basics. No matter how complicated the question, the basics are always there to help you out.

3. As a rule, do not read new textbooks.

Stick to the textbooks and reviewers that you have already read in law school.

4. Discriminate teachers in review school.

You do not have to attend the review class every day. Decide for yourself whether it is better to study alone or go to class. Assess if how weak you are with the subject, the qualification of the professor teaching the class and the contents of the class itself.

5. Stick to case digests.

Throw the debate whether to read cases in full or go with case digests. In review, you simply do not have the time to read the cases in its full text. Go with digests.

6. Practice answering previous Bar questions.

Like any exam, questions in the Bar Examinations sometimes get repeated. Read the previous Bar Exams. Compare and contrast what kind of questions always come up. You may use this set of books called “Pareto Notes” that already does this for you.

7. Have a study buddy.

It is ill-advised to form study groups as each of you might have different schedules and study habits. It is, however, recommended to have a study buddy that you can bounce questions or throw Bar tips with.

8. Study every day but take a lot of breaks.

It is recommended to study every day – Saturdays, Sundays and holidays included. Do not, however, burnout. Take many breaks throughout the day. Manage your time so you can still watch Netflix, browse Facebook, or have dinner with a friend.

9. Do a second reading.

Schedule the second reading of your study materials to really reinforce the materials in your mind.

10. Take advantage of your school’s Bar Operations.

They are there to help you out. Ask if they have notes available. Do not forget to thank them for their volunteer work.

I took the Bar Exams. What do I do now?

Well, now you have to wait for the results.

It takes about six months (from November to May) for the examiners to check the booklets, for the Supreme Court to encode the scores, and for the Justices to have a session en banc (as the entire group) and release the results.

In the meantime, you may take a long-needed rest or if you are itching to work, apply as an underbar associate to law firms or as a legal assistant to government agencies.

What if I fail the Bar Exams?

Grieve, and take it once again. There is no maximum number of tries in taking the Bar Exams.

Take note, however, that candidates who have failed the exams thrice shall be disqualified from taking another examination unless they enroll in and pass regular fourth-year review class as well as attend a pre-bar review course in a recognized law school.

Brian White | May 11, 2020 | Texas Laws

How to Pass the Bar Exam

Graduating from law school is a tremendous accomplishment – one that requires years of hard work and dedication. Unfortunately, it is not the final step on your road to becoming an attorney. Before you can practice law in the state of Texas, you must overcome one last challenge: the Texas Bar Exam.

What is the Pass Rate for the Texas Bar Exam?

The Texas Bar Exam is graded on a scale of 1 to 1,000. Examinees are required to record a score of 675 or higher to pass the test and become attorneys.

In February of 2020, a total of 996 law school graduates took the Texas Bar Exam. Only 457 of them passed. That is a 45.88 percent overall pass rate.

Of course, the pass rate for the Texas Bar Exam tends to change quite a bit from one sitting to the next. Other recent iterations of this challenging test resulted in the following pass rates:

  • July 2019:68.47 percent
  • February 2019:53.52 percent
  • July 2018:64.65 percent
  • February 2018:45.22 percent
  • July 2017:71.78 percent

In most sittings of the Texas Bar Exam, first-time test-takers tend to outperform those who are repeating the exam. In February of 2020, the pass rate among first-time examinees was 56.78 percent. Meanwhile, repeaters recorded an overall pass rate of just 37.43 percent.

In July of 2019, first-time test-takers recorded a pass rate of 77.03 percent, while repeaters passed 34.36 percent of the time. In the February 2019 iteration of the test, first-timers passed at a rate of 67.80 percent – which compares very favorably to the 43.23 percent pass rate recorded by repeaters.

Understanding the Format of the Texas Bar Exam

The Texas Bar Exam is a detailed and complex assessment that takes two and a half days to complete. The exam is comprised of the following components:

Multistate Performance Test

The multistate performance test lasts for 90 minutes and accounts for 10 percent of the overall Texas Bar Exam score. It is designed to assess an examinee’s abilities to use their legal skills in real-world situations. It typically accomplishes this goal by asking them to perform a task such as writing a client letter or a brief.

Procedure and Evidence Test

The procedure and evidence test also lasts 90 minutes and accounts for 10 percent of the overall Texas Bar Exam score. In this test, examinees are required to answer 40 short-form questions.

20 of these questions are about Texas and Federal Criminal Procedure and Evidence. The remaining 20 questions cover Texas and Federal Civil Procedure and Evidence.

Multistate Bar Exam

The multistate bar exam takes place over six hours on the second day of the assessment – with a 90-minute lunch-break at the half-way point. It accounts for 40 percent of the overall Texas Bar Exam score.

The multistate bar exam is comprised of 200 multiple-choice questions that are standardized across the nation. These questions cover the following topics:

  • Criminal Procedure
  • Civil Procedure
  • Contracts
  • Constitutional Law
  • Property Law
  • Evidence
  • Torts

Of these 200 questions, 175 are counted toward the examinee’s score. The remaining 25 are unscored pretest questions.

Texas Essay Test

The Texas essay test takes place over six hours on the third day of the Bar Exam – with a 90-minute break at the half-way point. Like the multistate bar exam, it accounts for 40 percent of an examinee’s overall score.

During this test, examinees are required to answer 12 essay-style questions. These questions are designed to test their knowledge of the following topics:

  • Business associations
  • Real property law
  • Family law
  • Uniform Commercial Code
  • Wills and estates
  • Trusts and guardianships
  • Bankruptcy
  • Tax law

The list of subjects covered in this essay test can change regularly. All updates are published in the Texas Board of Law Examiners’ Rules Governing Admission to the Bar of Texas.

How to Improve Your Chances of Passing the Texas Bar Exam

Now that you know a little more about the format of the Texas Bar Exam, and how difficult it can be to achieve a passing grade, you may be wondering what steps you can take to boost your chances of recording a score of 675 or higher.

Well, in the weeks and months before the test, you can increase your odds of success by:

  • Building a support system – ask friends or family members to help you study
  • Developing a weekly study schedule and sticking to it
  • Taking time off work – make studying your full-time job
  • Taking plenty of practice tests
  • Focusing on the most high-tested areas of law

On the day of the exam, you can increase your chances of passing by:

  • Reading the questions carefully
  • Answering everything – even if you aren’t sure
  • Making your answers easy to read by using paragraphs and headers
  • Managing your time wisely – don’t spend too long on any one question

Above all else, try to remember to breathe. Before long, you will have passed the test and will be moving on to your career as a family law, criminal defense, or personal injury lawyer.

Passing the bar exam takes hard work and diligence. But it also requires you to avoid some very common pitfalls.

The following are the most common reasons students fail the bar exam. Avoiding these traps will drastically increase your chances of passing the bar exam.

  1. Too much passive studying : Engaging in too much passive studying is the number one reason students fail the bar exam. This is what I like to call the “too much time reading and watching and not enough time doing” problem. Bar review companies are great at assigning a bunch of videos to watch and giving you extremely long outlines to read. While these are valuable resources that can and should be utilized, they are not everything. Be careful to not let these activities eat up too much of your precious bar review time.
  1. Not enough practice questions : The main reason to not spend too much time on passive review relates to practice questions, which are the secret ticket to bar exam success. You only have a finite amount of time to prepare for the bar exam, and you must spend that time wisely in order to pass. Practice questions are shown to yield a high return (i.e., added points on the bar exam) on your time investment. Make sure that you are aiming for 2,000+ multiple choice questions and upwards of 20-30 essays/practice tests throughout your bar prep.
  1. Trying to outsmart the exam : You simply can’t outsmart the bar exam. I see many, many students unsuccessfully attempt to pass this test through sheer volume of knowledge. At a minimum, you must know a certain amount of law to pass the test; there is no getting around that. However, there are other critical skills you need in order to pass, such as the ability to issue spot, implement process of elimination strategies, formulate rule statements, develop analysis, and complete the test under the time constraints. If you solely focus on what you know and not how to use that knowledge, you are seriously jeopardizing your ability to pass.
  1. Advice and resource overload : Everyone who has ever taken the bar exam has an opinion on how you should prepare. Even though those people usually have the best intentions, this can lead to you having an overwhelming amount of options to choose from and information to sort through. When deciding whether to take a piece of advice or use a particular resource, you should consider the source of the information and what you know about your own learning style.
  1. Self Doubt : This is the most heartbreaking reason students fail the bar exam. Mindset matters when it comes to passing this test. Unfortunately, the only thing many bar exam takers feel confident in is their perceived shortcomings. They believe they “can’t do multiple choice questions” or “don’t have enough time to study.” Your own self-doubt will be your own worst enemy. Taking the bar exam is extremely stressful. Therefore, it is important that you put guardrails in place to manage stress and self-defeating thoughts, which, left unchecked, can prevent your success.

Keep your eyes open for these pitfalls. And if you notice yourself starting to form one of these bad habits, be sure to quickly address them and reformulate your game plan.

Also Read:

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Tens of thousands of law grads (JDs and LLMs) all over the world are now considering to prepare for the bar exams, here are tips on How To Pass Bar Exam. Have you successfully made your way through law school and now you’re one two-day test, the bar exam, away from becoming a lawyer. Get Bar exam tips, Bar exam study schedule and tips on how to prepare for bar exam.

A bar examination is an examination administered by the bar association of a jurisdiction that a lawyer must pass in order to be admitted to the bar of that jurisdiction.

How to Pass the Bar Exam

How to Pass the Bar Exam

Sign up for a Bar Review Course

You may wonder why after three years of very expensive schooling you are now expected to pay even more money to learn what you thought you were supposed to be learning during law school.

But now is not the time for you to worry about the cost of bar exam prep. Be as economical as possible, by all means, but think about what it would mean to you, financially, to fail the bar, face employers without a license to practice law, and have to pay to take the bar exam again. If you are really strapped for cash, there are special bar exam loans available exactly for this purpose.

Why sign up for a bar review course? Well, those who take bar review courses have great passage rates for a reason—the course employees study and analyze exams so they know what examiners are likely to test on and what they are looking for in answers; they can steer you to “hot topics” and train you how to deliver the right answers, and that is what is most important during the bar exam. Yes, you need to know and understand the fundamentals of the main areas of law, but all the legal knowledge in the world won’t help if you don’t know how to frame your answer as the graders want to read it.

Make a Studying Schedule and Stick to It

How to Pass the Bar Exam

Your bar review course will most likely provide you a recommended schedule, and if you manage to abide by it, you’ll be doing well. The main subjects tested on the bar exam will be the same basic courses you took the first year of law school, so be sure to dedicate huge chunks of time to Contracts, Torts, Constitutional Law, Criminal Law and Procedure, Property, and Civil Procedure. States vary as to the other subjects tested, but by signing up for a bar review course, you’ll have the inside track on those as well.

A very basic bar exam prep study schedule can set aside a week to study each topic, including practice questions. That will leave you two weeks to devote time to trouble areas and to more nuanced areas of law that might be covered on your state’s bar exam.

One tip here on studying: think about making flashcards. In the process of writing them, you’ll be forced to condense rules of law into short snippets to fit on a card, exactly as you’ll need to provide them in bar exam essays—and they just might sink into your brain as you write.

Study how you study

don’t assume that because you have always studied a certain way, that it’s the best way to prepare for the bar exam. For instance, while many law students think that studying for 5 straight hours sans bathroom break is both noble and effective, plenty of people who study studying for a living disagree. Some experts believe that you should study for 45 minutes, then take a 15 minute break, then repeat the cycle. Others, like self-help guru Tim Ferriss, have devoted entire podcasts to learning how to learn better. I’ve found tons of helpful information on learning how to learn from books about language acquisition. (My favorite quip from Lewis’ book: you retain more from study sessions if you spend 15 minutes summarizing it for yourself, with pen and paper. The plodding nature of writing itself probably plays a role in reintroducing your mind to material, and closing the learning loop. Try it!) Clutch your current method of study loosely. All that matters is how you do on the exam. If there is a better way to prepare, don’t be too proud to correct course.

Take Practice Bar Exams

A large part of your preparation time should be spent taking practice bar exams, both multiple choice and essays, under exam-like conditions. You don’t need to sit down and take an entire two days every week to take practice bar exams, but be sure you are doing enough multiple choice questions and essays so you have a good feel for the exam structure. Just like when you were preparing for the LSAT, the more comfortable you become with the test and its format, the more you’ll be able to concentrate on the material and getting the answers correct.

Start doing practice questions even as early as the first week of studying; no, you won’t get everything right, but if you pay attention to what you got wrong, those principles are likely to stick in your head even more than if you had simply tried to memorize them through studying. And, as an added bonus, if the questions were included in bar prep materials, they are also likely to be similar to those that will appear on the bar exam.

How to Pass the Bar Exam

Bar Review Benefits

Hardly known at the time, that bar review provided the following benefits:

  • Success rate higher than the state average by over 10 p.p.;
  • Reasonable price of over 4-5 times cheaper than other sound bar reviews, such as BarBri or Kaplan;
  • Pass guarantee allowing for refund;
  • Lifetime access until you pass your exam;
  • Clear bar exam study guide;
  • Time-saving (concise and precise) prep materials;
  • Pace-minded approach to test drills;
  • All lectures, outlines, multiple-choice questions (MCQ), flashcards, and essays available on iPad and iPhone;
  • Convenience of bar review program to study at own schedule and pace;
  • Lectures on all tested areas of law given by professors of relevant subjects;
  • Real Multistate Bar Examination (MBE) practice questions from previous exams;
  • Explanations for all MBE MCQ answers;
  • Search function to find necessary keywords; and
  • Personal review of 2 practice essays by former bar exam graders.

Bar Exam Stats

In July 2014, some 11,195 people took the NY bar exam, out of which 7,265 passed it. The pass rate was 65%. That pass rate of less than 2/3 was historically among the lowest. This data flows from the 2014 Statistics of the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE).

Submitted by Ashley Heidemann on Mon, 12/10/2018 – 1:01pm

How to Pass the Bar Exam

By Ashley Heidemann

Considering the amount of material that is tested on the bar exam, it is important to study smart! You need to be sure that you are using your study time effectively in order to put yourself in the best position to pass the exam. Here, we tell you five tips on how to effectively prepare for the bar exam.

1. Create a personalized study schedule.

If you are taking a commercial course, it has likely provided you with a detailed study schedule. This is a great guideline, but make sure you are following a study schedule that meets your needs! Your course doesn’t know what learning techniques you find effective, it doesn’t recognize your level of understanding of individual topics, and it doesn’t know what your personal schedule looks like! Only you know these things, which means that you have the ability to create a much more useful study schedule. Your schedule also needs to evolve as you move through bar prep, so make sure you stay flexible. If you find a technique isn’t working for you, eliminate it! If you need to do a few extra real property essays, add that in to your schedule.

2. Use quality materials.

Having quality materials is very important for effective bar exam studying. You don’t want to be overwhelmed by lengthy outlines or study guides that contain details that never show up on the exam. You also want to make sure you are using outlines and study guides that present the information in a way that makes sense to you. Some examinees don’t relate well to book after book filled with only text, so finding materials that utilize colors and charts can be very beneficial.

Additionally, make sure you are using released multistate bar exam (MBE) questions and essay questions. Many commercial courses write their own MBE questions, and these questions don’t always reflect the writing style of the questions that show up on the MBE. Preparing using MBE questions released by the National Conference of Bar Examiners will allow you to get used to exactly the type of question you will see on test day!

3. Focus on the highly tested topics.

Bar exam subjects and the topics tested within them are not tested equally. Certain issues show up very frequently, making them bar exam “favorites”. What you’re studying, it is very important that you devote the appropriate amount of time to each subject and topic based on how likely it is to show up on the exam. Spending hours and hours trying to memorize every detail of a topic that is unlikely to be tested is not the best use of your time! Understanding testing frequency is a great way to make sure you are studying effectively for the bar exam.

4. Emphasize memorization.

Too often we see examinees jump right from lecture straight into practice problems. This is not an effective way to study, and it often leaves examinees frustrated and overwhelmed. Besides just understanding the mechanics of the law from a brief review, make sure you have the law memorized! To do well on the bar exam, you need to be able to recall the proper rules quickly upon reading the fact pattern. On the essay portion, you’ll need to replicate the rules for the grader. Thus, make sure you devote time to memorizing your outlines so that you can properly apply the law to the facts.

Don’t wait until the week before the bar exam to memorize. Start memorizing from the beginning of your bar exam preparation!

5. Practice smart.

Many students make the mistake of rushing through practice problems. To effectively study for the bar exam, you need to work methodically through the problems. When you get an MBE question wrong, stop and figure out why you did so. When you write an essay, take some time to self-grade it and interact with the model answer. After you feel more comfortable with the law, make sure you also practice your timing. Build up to being able to complete a full length exam. You don’t want your first experience with bar exam timing to be on exam day!

Ashley Heidemann is the owner and founder of JD Advising , a law school and bar exam prep company.

Study Hard and Often

You’re going to need to absorb a lot of information before you can pass the California Bar Exam. Some of your study time is going to be general, but a lot of it is going to deal specifically with the laws in California. You should give yourself around 6 months to go over everything you need to know. If you set aside about 20 hours a week to work on getting everything down, you should be on schedule for success.

This may seem like a lot of time, but remember that the California Bar Exam includes a written portion and 6 essay exams that will test your understanding of California law, 2 performance tests that focus on your skills and the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE) that deals with general legal knowledge regarding everything from contracts, criminal law and federal civil procedure.

You have lots of options available for studying, including your notes and textbooks from school. You can also access online study guides that can help you review the information that might appear on the bar exam. Check out these courses on Business Law, American Government and Criminal Justice as you prepare. These courses are full of video lessons that allow you to go over different concepts quickly. You’ll find lots of quizzes that can help you gauge how well you understand these subjects as you get ready for the big day.

Prepare for the Essays

The essay questions on the California bar test your ability to analyze points of law and facts. To pass this portion of the exam, be careful about simply relaying legal principles. Instead, focus on demonstrating your ability to analyze the facts and the scope of the law(s), as well as their relationship to each other. For an idea of the kinds of essay questions you can expect, check out past exams and selected answers on the State Bar of California website.

Prepare for the Performance Tests

In order to complete the California Bar Exam, you’re going to need to successfully finish two performance tests. These tests are worth 26% of your total grade and will focus on testing your practical skills. Each test is designed to last 3 hours. Prepare for this portion of the bar exam by practicing writing different legal information, such as memos, contracts or briefs. Be sure to keep your writing organized, to only include relevant information, and to rely on consistent and reliable facts. Work through practice questions as you prepare for the exam, which you can find on the California Bar’s website (

Write on Your Laptop

You have the option to write your answers by hand, but this actually negatively affects your chance to pass the test. Those who type on a laptop create longer responses and are better able to edit their answers, which is a huge bonus for passing the exam.

Focus Before the Exam

Getting a good night’s sleep is a big part of being ready to pass these grueling exams. Make sure you have enough to eat so you’re not distracted in the middle of a test. Additionally, don’t get drawn into stressing out with other test-takers on your big days. Try to keep to yourself before the exams each day, as well as afterwards. You don’t want to unnerve yourself at the end of day 1 and choke on your tests on day 2.

The bar exam is a notoriously tough testing experience that ultimately determines who gets to be an attorney. There are no easy states in which to take the bar exam, but some states have a higher overall passing percentage than others.

Each state has a different bar exam, but more than the difficulty of the exam plays a role in passing rates. Some states have a larger pool of talented candidates, while others, with few or no top law schools, may have a lower ratio of talented candidates.

How Does Kentucky Rate?

Kentucky lands in the middle – both for the difficulty of the bar exam and the overall pass rate. In a survey ranking the difficulty of bar exams in all fifty states, Kentucky ranks 25 th . Approximately 61% of those who sit for the Kentucky bar exam receive a passing grade, and Kentucky mints approximately 300 new lawyers each year.

In Kentucky, the bar examination is a two-day ordeal that consist of an essay portion, and 200 multiple-choice questions. The bar exam is offered twice a year, usually in February and July. To become a lawyer in Kentucky, you must pass both portions of the exam. The long, painful wait for results takes two to three months after the test date. Before sitting for the bar exam, you must pass a character and fitness assessment.

Attorneys-to-be often spend months between law school graduation and the bar exam intensely studying for this exam. The pressure to pass is intense, and your career options are limited until you have passed the exam.

Why Do So Many Law Students Fail the Bar Exam?

In some states, such as California, it is not uncommon for more than half those who sit for the bar exam to fail it the first time. Does that mean that over half those who graduate from law school in California are unqualified to practice law? Of course not.

The bar exam is a notoriously difficult test, and people fail the test for a wide variety of reasons. Some of the most common reasons for failing the bar at least once include:

Failure to Adequately Prepare

Many fresh from law school graduates make a crucial mistake in thinking they have had enough knowledge crammed inside their heads that they can get by with a little refresher studying. Few people pass the bar without adequate preparation. How much preparation you need will depend on how easily you retain information, the quality of the legal education you have, and the quality of the tools you use to prepare for the test.

Test Anxiety or an Inability to Test Well

We all know someone extremely intelligent and talented, yet they struggle to do well on tests. For some, it is a struggle throughout their academic careers. For others, it isn’t a problem until they face something as big as the bar exam.

The average law student finishes law school with an excess of $80,000 worth of student loan debt, which adds fuel to an already stressful situation. Cases of stress-related illnesses skyrocket among candidates in the months leading up to the test.

Stress and anxiety can lead to poor self-care, leading to both mental and physical ailments during the pre-testing period. It is hard to adequately prepare for the bar exam when battling anything from new-onset migraines to panic attacks.


Self-sabotage can take any number of forms, and it is unclear why those awaiting the bar exam engage in such behavior, but it is common. Some individuals overload themselves with projects, volunteering, work, and many other otherwise healthy pursuits in the days and weeks prior to the bar exam. Perhaps it is an attempt to escape the stress of the looming exam, but it takes a toll on test preparation.

Others may partake in more destructive means of self-sabotage, such as turning to drugs or alcohol to relieve the stress. Not only are those actions unhealthy, but they also decrease your chances of passing the bar and increase the likelihood of an arrest for DUI, or other related issues that can derail your future career.

Failing the Bar Exam is Not as Catastrophic as it Seems

There are numerous reasons why individuals fail the bar exam, and they have little to do with their competency or potential as a future attorney. With so much hype and hard work leading up to the exam, it can be a shattering experience to fail on the first attempt.

Remember, you are in good company. Some notable people who failed the bar exam on their first attempt include distinguished names like John F. Kennedy, Jr., and Hillary Clinton. If you have to retake the bar exam, take heart that there have been many top law school professors, judges, governors, and members of congress who also failed the bar on their first attempt.

Use your failure wisely. Dissect the test itself, and your actions and behavior leading up to the exam. What went wrong, and what can you do differently the next time around? Often, taking the test for the second time can be far less stressful, and those sitting for the exam feel more confident as they know what to expect, and they have conquered whatever deficits lead to their initial failure.

You may have already purchased your Bar prep materials. You likely came home one day and saw a big ol’ box on your doorstep. Maybe you didn’t know what it was, but when you opened it, your heart sank. It was a big, heavy box full of your Bar prep materials. Books, outlines, test questions booklets … the list goes on.

As you perused these items, you may have looked at the sheer volume of material and thought, “Oh my God, I’m never going to pass this test.”

It can be, in fact almost always is, overwhelming.

But you’ve always known that the inevitable end of your law school career would include pouring over all of these unbelievably heavy books, and/or their online counterparts. It’s a rite-of-passage. We all must go through it in order to practice law. So you dutifully begin the study period, hoping somewhere deep down that it all absorbs through your skin somehow – because you know of no other way to memorize this much material in a couple of months!

Why On Earth Should I Use Flashcards?

With all of these materials, what in the world do you need with flashcards? You already have books, outlines, question & answers books, and the like. Why flashcards?
How to Pass the Bar Exam
Well, the answer depends on you. Everyone has different methods of memorization. Some like flashcards. I am one such person. I enjoy having a basic concept isolated, spelled out, and quizzed all in one succinct place. It’s visual, and I’m a visual learner.

Can I Pass Without Flashcards?

Of course you can! But again, depending on your learning style – flashcards can be of great assistance in memorization – which is at the heart of passing the Bar Exam.

You can certainly rely on your outlines if you like. I, however, loved using my flashcards. Especially at night when I’d been studying all day and I was TIRED. I’d take a nice break, and then top the day off with whizzing through a bunch of flashcards. This not only helped me to reinforce whatever area of law I’d studied that day, it gave me a great sense of accomplishment knowing that I’d just aced a bunch of flashcards. It was a barometer of how much was actually sinking in, and usually ended with me feeling like I’d really made progress that day.


You can’t take your Bar Prep materials with you wherever you go. Even the outlines are How to Pass the Bar Exambulky. But you can take a set of flashcards with you whenever you have to leave the house. This can turn waiting in line at the grocery store, the bank, and the Dr.’s office all into active learning times.

In fact, many Bar Exam flashcards come with apps that make them as portable as your phone! So it’s something to consider.

Can I Make My Own, Or Should I Buy Them?

I am a firm believer that making your own cards will go a long way in helping you to remember what you’re studying. However – it takes a good deal of time! So as I said in How to Make Your Own MBE Flashcards, if you begin Bar prep early, go ahead and make your own if you think it will help you. But if you’re pressed for time there are some very good options out there. Simply do a quick Google search, and you’re sure to find flashcards that appeal to you.

We all know that there are times when anything feels better than studying. But avoiding studying is simply the worst thing you can do. So what do you do when Bar Prep invades your life for a full 2-3 months? Read on for how to pass the bar, using three tips to keep you on track.

How to Pass the Bar: Use Positive (or Negative) Reinforcement

It’s all about knowing yourself. What do you respond better to? Would you rather:

  • Allow yourself a wonderful reward after a day well spent on studying, or
  • Force yourself to do something distasteful if you’ve allowed procrastination to win the day.

Personally, I respond better to the first, positive reinforcement. If you are like me, come up with a rewards system. Possibly for every single day that you put in “your all” for Bar Prep. (We’ll discuss what that means in a second.)

Maybe you want to buy something, or many somethings this month. Make a list. Put the most desired and/or expensive objects at the bottom of the list. Work your way through the list by rewarding yourself each day with a purchase! Or maybe your reward is something that doesn’t require money. As long as it doesn’t take up valuable study time, your imagination is your limit. Go for it and reward yourself for every day that you stay on track.

If you fall into the second category of negative reinforcement, the same thing goes. Think of negative consequences if you waste part or all of your day. Be honest with yourself! Actively studying is very different than passively studying. The former will get you your bar card; the latter will get you a ticket to the next seating of the Bar Exam.

How to Pass the Bar Exam

How to Pass the Bar: Keep Your Goal In Front of You

The exam seems far off, but a movie with friends is happening right now!

If this sounds like you, it would serve you well to put up something that is a daily, constant reminder of your goal. This could be a list of all the payoffs of really committing to your well-planned study schedule.

Others may want to put up a photo that encompasses the same or similar ideals. As the saying goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Here are some ideas:

  • Find a photo of an attorney making an awesome closing argument. Use Photoshop to insert yourself in the photo. Now you can really visualize yourself crossing that bar in the courtroom, and engaging in the career you’ve dreamt about for the past 3 years!
  • Maybe you’re more into mergers and acquisitions, or the big payday that comes with a personal injury settlement. Make a collage with photos of everything you dream about doing once you get that beautiful certificate from the Supreme Court of your state!

Then, try anything to keep that goal directly in your face every day. Make it your screensaver, the wallpaper on your phone and tablet, or hang it from your rear view mirror. Never forget what it is that you are working towards.

How to Pass the Bar: Take Care of Yourself

Start and end your study at the same time each day. Work hard, and take short breaks.

When taking short breaks, focus on your goals as previously stated. Breathe and meditate on them, and relax your brain. You need short breathers in between intense sessions of studying, just the way a bodybuilder needs to rest their muscles in between sets.

And when your day is over, let it be over! Take a nice, long soak in your tub. Watch a movie with your loved one. Relax and unplug before bed, so that you can get a good night’s sleep.

Remember, it will all be over soon – sooner than you can imagine! Whether or not you have to endure this painful period of study again depends entirely on what you do right now. Commit yourself to doing whatever it takes to pass. Then you can enjoy knowing that you are a member of the Bar…who never has to sit for the exam again!

After graduating from law school, there is one major hurdle left before you become a lawyer… Passing the Bar Exam.

The bar exam is notorious for being extremely difficult, and it is true that many people who graduate from law school do not pass it on their first, second, or even third attempts.

However, the information in this blog post will give you an understanding of what the bar exam is, what it tests for, and how to effectively study for and pass it.

What is the Bar Exam?

The content of the bar exam varies in each state. However, most bar exams consist of these sections:

The Uniform Bar Examination (UBE) is a two-day exam consisting of the MBE, MPT, and MEE. It is currently used by a majority of states.

The Multi-state Bar Examination (MBE) lasts six hours and consists of two-hundred multiple choice questions that cover several areas of law including civil, criminal, constitutional, and more.

The Multi-state Performance Test (MPT) consists of two 90-minute skills questions covering topics such as problem-solving, legal analysis, logical reasoning, and ethical dilemmas.

The Multistate Essay Examination (MEE) lasts three-hours and consists of six essay questions covering several areas of law including civil, criminal, constitutional, and more.

Law school prepares you to be a lawyer, but it does not prepare you to pass the bar exam.

Most students who graduate from law school take a bar preparation course that is offered by a third party company, not their university. Kaplan, the same company that provides LSAT prep courses, is a popular choice. You can access the Kaplan bar review course here.

Here is a chart of the most difficult bar exams:

California has the lowest passing rate of their bar exam at about 54%.
Florida ranks at the 18th most difficult, with a passing rate of 72.5%

If you do not pass the bar exam on your first attempt, don’t give up! Many people do not pass the bar exam on their first try and end up having successful careers in law, politics, and more.

The bar exam may have a reputation for being one of the hardest tests you can take, but don’t let it stop you from achieving your dream of becoming a lawyer! If you have already made it this far, it is the only major obstacle left in your way.

After reading this post, you should now understand the different sections of the bar exam and how to prepare for it. Your best bet is to sign up for a bar exam prep course, start making flashcards, and study every day.

Just remember, the bar exam is not the end of the road. You still have your whole career ahead of you! Learn more about the different paths you can take on your journey as a lawyer in my next post.

If that name doesn’t ring a bell, don’t fret your pretty bar exam studying head. Let us either refresh it for you, or inform you! If you ever saw or heard of the movie that came out in the early 2000s called Catch Me If You Can, then you know a bit more about Frank Abagnale Jr. than you think you do. The movie was about Mr. Abagnale, an American security consultant known for his history as a confident trickster, imposter and escape artist. A young Leonardo DiCaprio gives us a lovely performance as a charismatic Abagnale running around the nation tricking hundreds of people into believing his various stories. Abagnale became one of the most famous imposters of all time, having assumed no fewer than eight different identities as an airline pilot, a doctor, a U.S. Bureau of Prisons agent, and, yes, even a lawyer. He escaped from police custody twice, and all before he was the ripe age of 21 years old.

“How can a drop box be out of service?”

My personal favorite trick of his was his con of a several airlines and car rental businesses. He noticed the location of where these businesses would drop their daily collections of money into a deposit drop box on airport premises. While disguised, he placed a sign over the box that read, “out of service, place deposits with security guard on duty,” and he collected the money in that way. Later in a speech he exclaimed his astonishment of this having worked, “How can a drop box be out of service”

Abagnale’s Time as an Attorney

Now did you hear us say he faked his way into being an attorney? Why, yes! He did, indeed. Abagnale forged a Harvard Law School transcript, passed the bar exam of Louisiana and got a job at the Louisiana Attorney General’s office at the age of nineteen! While he was posing as a Pan Am Officer, he told a stewardess he was dating that he was a Harvard Law student, and she introduced him to a lawyer friend. That said attorney mentioned to Abagnale that the bar needed more lawyers, which gave Abagnale the idea to apply. Abagnale forged a transcript from Harvard and applied to take the bar exam. He studied hard and after failing the exam twice, he passed the Louisiana exam on the third try after eight weeks of studying. Now, don’t go jumping off a cliff, just yet. Remember that though Abagnale had no formal law training, the Louisiana bar exam is in no way the most taxing bar exam there is and this was in 1967, so the exam was slightly less grueling. Once he passed the bar exam he was hired as an attorney at the Louisiana Attorney General’s office.

Abagnale was not fond of his job as an attorney. He described his legal job as a “gopher boy” having to fetch coffee and knickknacks for his boss. Eventually Abagnale left because there was a real Harvard Law graduate who worked for the attorney general and he had begun to ask too many questions about Abagnale’s Harvard past. Abagnale didn’t want to be discovered, so after eight months of working as an attorney, he quit.

Interesting, right? Now, we didn’t tell you this story so that you’d try out Abagnale’s unethical path. Remember, Abagnale was eventually caught in France in 1969 and 12 of the countries in which he had committed fraud in sought his extradition. He first served time in Perpignan’s House of Arrest in France for six months where he was held nude in a small, dirty, and pitch-black cell, which he was sequestered in. The cell had no toilet or bed, and his food and water were very sparse. So don’t go getting any ideas!

We just thought it’d be an interesting little anecdote to share with you about someone who might have, for a while, circumvented law school, and started down the path of bar exam prep that you find yourself on now.

Don’t let anyone fool you into believing that you must spend thousands of dollars on a commercial prep course in order to pass the bar exam.

Anyone who claims that these expensive courses are necessary is wrong and is perpetuating a myth that the course creators want you to believe; many law students (this author included) have passed the bar exam with nothing more than a used set of bar outlines.

While these courses aren’t necessary, they do provide a few distinct advantages to a bar hopeful; but these advantages can be obtained from other sources for cheap, or even free. These advantages include: comprehensive outlines that cover all legal subjects, practice bar exam questions, and a guide for how much to study.

All of these benefits are useful (if not essential), but none are worth the total price of the course. The smartest and most economical solution is to obtain some second-hand course materials and begin your bar exam studies independently of these multi-thousand dollar prep courses. If you are lucky, you may find everything you need for a few hundred dollars (or even for free). Here is how:

Obtaining Bar Exam Outlines:

Good outlines are essential to anyone studying for the bar exam. Even after three years of law school, you will not have a thorough knowledge of all fields of law; you will have only learned the core fields (contract, criminal, constitutional, property, and tort law), and a few elective courses such as corporate law or first amendment law. Three years simply isn’t enough time to learn it all. But with good outlines and a lot of studying, you can use the knowledge you have already gained to get a quick grasp of these other fields of law which you haven’t yet become acquainted with.

While these outlines are essential, you do not need to spend thousands on a commercial course to obtain them. These outlines do not need to be brand new, and even if published years earlier, they should still be mostly accurate. To be sure, though, simply ask your professors whether any major changes in the states law have occurred since the date of publish and note those changes.

You can find such outlines from several different sources:

Friends: Do you know any new lawyers? Ask them if they kept their bar prep materials or know of anyone who did. Many of these people would be glad to sell or lend them to you… usually with compliments for attempting the bar without a commercial course.

Libraries: Bar prep materials can sometimes be found in libraries. Search your local public libraries and your own law library for older copies of these materials. These libraries also make great study areas, so keep your eyes open for comfortable places to study, you will need them.

Online: Search amazon, eBay, and craigslist, and you will usually find bar prep materials for sale at much cheaper prices than paying for the entire bar prep course.

Forums: Online forums are very handy. With a quick Google search, you can find many discussions involving bar studies and what materials were used.

Obtain Practice Bar Exam Questions:

State-Specific Practice Questions: The easiest source for state state specific practice questions will typically be the study materials themselves. Most commercial outlines will come with practice questions, but if not, you may have to buy a used book of questions online.

MBE Practice Questions: If these practice questions to not come with your second-hand study materials, you can find them used much more easily than the state-specific books. A quick search will show many different options from books, to flash-cards, to e-book practice tests.

Obtain a Bar Prep Syllabus:

The intense bar exam study regiment is intimidating enough to scare many students into paying for bar prep courses simply because the don’t know “how much studying is enough”. The fear of the unknown is a powerful force, but fear of the bar exam is stronger yet; thus many law students willingly pay companies to tell them how much they need to study in order to pass the bar.

Mimic Your Peers: You will have friends taking the commercial courses; ask them how much time is devoted to each subject. This will give you a good idea of how much time you need to spend on various fields of law and how to split up reading versus working on practice questions. While this is a good starting point, you should tailor your studies to your strengths; see below.

Look at your outlines: Break the outlines into categories by size. The outlines that are 50 or less pages can usually be tackled within one day, while the bigger outlines may need to be broken up into two to three days.

Count Your Weekdays: Determine how many weekdays you have until the bar exam, you should have roughly twice as many weekdays until the exam than you have days of reading. These extra days will be used for practice questions, extra reading on tougher subjects, and finally a week or two of attack outline review before the exam; as well as the occasional day of rest.

Use Your Weekends Wisely: Studying for the bar exam is an intensive task and you do not want to burn out; you should set aside one day of your weekend for just yourself and whatever you do for relaxation. Schedule one light day each weekend for practice essays and multiple choice questions that cover the topics of your previous week’s studies.

Organize Your days: If there are subjects that you are already familiar with, alternate these with the more difficult subjects. For example, your torts outline will likely require three days of reading, so if you are unsure on torts, schedule two easier one day outlines to fill out that five day week instead of trying to tackle another difficult subject. Plan for about 6-8 hours a day for each outline, and a couple hours at night to clean up your notes from that day’s studies and review the next days outline.

Utilize Your Law School

Many law schools provide assistance and services to their graduates who are studying for the bar exam. A professor may be made available for the grading of practice essays, or lectures might be provided which covering exam tips and tricks.

Begin Your Bar Exam Studies

Many people will be too scared to attempt the bar exam without the commercial course, but believe me, anyone can do it if they can obtain outlines and are diligent in their studies. I suggest gathering these materials early, If you can’t find the outlines you need you may very well have to pay a bar prep course just to obtain study materials. Once these materials are obtained, though, you are on level footing with all of your peers and are on your way to passing the bar exam.

The next step (and article) is the same for all bar hopefuls: Begin Your Bar Exam Studies.

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How to Pass the Bar Exam

In normal times, the Illinois Bar exam would have taken place two weeks ago. Due to Covid it first got pushed to September 9 and 10 and now is going to be online October 5 & 6.

I remember a lot from the summer of 1994 when I took the Illinois Bar test. The night it finished was a huge celebration with my classmates. The summer itself was very stressful because if I didn’t pass I have no idea what I would do.

Back then every law student I knew took a class called BarBri. It was started by a guy named Michael Spak who was also a professor at my law school. The first week of the class he came to speak to us and gave what in my opinion is the key to passing the test.

He asked us how many of us were nervous about passing. Not everyone raised their hand, but I do know that most people were anxious at least. He then asked how many of us had clerked in law firms or been to the Daley Center. Almost every hand went up. Professor Spak asked how many times we saw an attorney at a firm or court and looked at them and thought to ourselves, “I can’t believe that person is a lawyer.” Most hands went up for that too and we all had a good laugh.

He then gave me all the confidence I would need. He said something to the effect of “All of those dumb people passed the bar exam to become a lawyer and if they did it then so can you!”

That was a great pep talk and the advice after that was to just do the work and treat it like a job. Their class had years of success in getting people to pass and I’m sure they or some other group is still doing that type of work. We all blew off certain parts of school, but with the bar exam, if you go to every class, do all the reading, take all the practice tests and do it over and over and over, your chances of success are really high.

This isn’t some magical advice. I was 25 when I took the bar and was doing it during a typical fun Chicago summer. Those taking the exam this September don’t have neighborhood festivals, Cubs games or a huge nightlife to distract them. In that way, taking the Bar during Covid is slightly easier. But of course there are still fun things to do in Chicago (or anywhere) and while you should be having fun, the people I know who didn’t pass had too much fun and didn’t take getting ready for the exam serious enough.

The reality is that if you treat this time like a job you care about – and you should because you are the owner of the company – then you will likely pass. When you take practice tests, you’ll have an idea of how well you are likely to do. The more practice tests you take, the more you study, the better your chances.

And whether you get the best grade possible or the lowest passing grade possible, you still get to be a lawyer.

There is no other magic formula. It’s kind of like weight loss. There are a lot of gimmicks, but at the end of the day if you want to lose weight it usually comes down to diet and exercise. If you want to pass the Bar in 1994 or 2020 or 2040, it’s a matter of putting in a lot of work so you are as prepared as possible.

Participate in Practice Exams

When preparing for the bar exam, it will be extremely important for you to take part in practice tests including all areas of the exam. You will need to practice writing essays, taking multiple choice portions and be familiar with the specific laws of your state. The best way for you to practice is to take exams that will mimic the test itself. This means taking practice tests that are designed much like the bar exam, setting aside hours at a time to work and focus on the test and nothing else. The more you read test materials and take practice tests, the more ready you will be on test day.

Consider Taking Prep Courses

One of the most popular test preparation courses for the bar exam is BARBRI. While expensive, BARBRI offers a comprehensive approach to the exam that should leave you feeling as prepared as possible. BARBRI also has the benefit of a staff that is highly educated in various aspects of the law, which means you will get expert instruction. offers less expensive options to BARBRI to help you prepare for the bar exam. Using these courses in conjunction with what you’ve learned in law school can refresh your knowledge to help you pass the exam:

These courses offer a wide variety of instruction that should touch on many aspects of the bar exam itself. From business law to ethics to American government, you’ll be taking a well-rounded approach to studying for the exam. In addition to the bite-sized and engaging lessons, each one comes with lesson quizzes, chapter exams and a final course exam that can help you with retention.

Understand the Instructions

Make sure you are properly interpreting each question. If you misinterpret instructions and questions, this will contribute to a lower score, so you’ll need to make sure you are fully reading and understanding each question. This is a great area to practice on considering this exam is well-known for phrasing the questions in such a way that they are often hard to interpret. Interpreting correctly from the very beginning can go a long way to helping you achieve a better score.

Create Outlines for Essay Sections

For essay portions of the test, you will want to create an outline before you write. It is recommended to spend more time thinking and organizing your thoughts than writing. Your outline can be very simple but make sure to refer back to it as you are writing to ensure that you are staying on track. Going off on a tangent and not sticking to the topic will negatively affect your score. Continuing to refer back to a simple outline can help you greatly increase your chances of staying on target throughout the entire essay, thus improving your overall score.

Pay Attention to the Facts and Show Creativity

Use the facts that are provided to aid you in your answers. As a potential lawyer, you should be able to focus on the facts and use them to prove your side of things. Since there is no specific right or wrong answer in this case, it is a great opportunity to use your creativity to state your case. You should be able to use your knowledge of the law to back up any of your statements and to add more of a creative flair.

Focus on Perspective and Discipline

Don’t go into the exam thinking about how your fellow examinees are doing. You should not compare yourself to others. Focus on what you need to do and block the rest of it out. Comparing yourself to others will only hurt your performance and cause you to lose your mind to wander.

Discipline will be key to a positive performance. You will need to concentrate on the exam as much as possible for at least 2 months before the exam itself. Take breaks in order to maintain balance but make sure they are minimal. Try to fit in as much study time as possible in those 2 months. Trying to take it all in the night before the test is not recommended. Rather, keep studying the night before the test to a minimum, if you study at all. Consider reviewing some notes or flash cards the day of the test but keep it simple so you won’t feel overwhelmed.

“Buffalo definitely prepares us for the bar exam,” said Mike Mann, 2L at the University at Buffalo Law School. “Last year we had a first-time bar passage rate over 80%, a testament to the law school’s recognition that their job is not complete until we are all admitted to the bar and successful.”

How to Pass the Bar Exam

Mr. Mann said that because, similar to other law schools, his school chose not to teach “black letter” law, that the bar exam might prove to be a challenge. Therefore, Buffalo has gone the extra mile to ensure its students successfully pass the bar. He said one example is his school’s coordination of bar review classes with leading bar review prep provider, BAR/BRI in New York City, more than 7 hours away from campus, for those who failed the bar. “Whether it’s donuts for the morning of the bar or open-door policies from the dean down to adjunct faculty, everyone here is pulling for you and doing all they can to help you.”

For Mann, who will graduate in 2006, the bar is still a while away. But the bar is definitely on his mind. “First it was the SATs, next was the LSATs, then it was first-year final exams, and finally it is the bar exam,” said Mann. “I am of the belief, ‘knock on wood,’ that if you put the time in and prepare, you will pass.”

The bar typically consists of a two-day examination. On the first day is the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE), a six-hour exam that consists of a standardized, multiple-choice, 200-question test divided into two parts. Students tackle 100 questions per three-hour session (one in the morning and one in the afternoon). The exam covers constitutional law, contracts, criminal law and procedure, evidence, real property, and torts. The second day of testing generally contains essays from a wider range of subject matter and is crafted according to the jurisdiction. A growing number of states administer nationally developed tests, such as the Multistate Essay Examination (MEE) and the Multistate Performance Test (MPT), according to the American Bar Association.

Put simply, law school alone is not enough to pass the bar exam. To pass it on the first try, most people highly recommend taking bar review courses. “Other than providing a basic level of familiarity with legal terms and concepts, law school did not prepare me for the bar,” said Seth Peacock, who graduated from Cornell Law School in 2001. “Most of my law school classes focused on the ‘interesting’ fuzzy areas of the law. For the bar you need to learn the specific nuts and bolts of an area, most of which is settled and uninteresting.”

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Of the 9,555 candidates examined in the state of New York in July 2004, 6,448 passed the examination. Of the 7,859 applicants taking the examination for the first time, 6,018 passed. You can bet that most of those who passed were enrolled in some kind of bar exam review course prior to the exam.

Mr. Peacock, who took the BAR/BRI course, said a student could pass the bar without a review course but that it would “be very painful.” For students facing the bar exam, he offers a few recommendations. “Take a review course and follow its recommendations. Minimize your distractions and simplify your life as you prepare for and take the exam.”

Most students who take the bar enroll in bar review courses offered by such companies as BAR/BRI and PMBR, which can offer on-campus prep courses. Both companies boast high pass rates on the bar because of their carefully tailored services. BAR/BRI, the more popular of the services, offers comprehensive review while PMBR focuses on the MBE and teaches strategies and techniques. Most law school graduates take BAR/BRI, but PMBR is often used as a supplement.

Roger Martin is a December 1997 magna cum laude graduate of the University of San Diego School of Law. Mr. Martin also took the BAR/BRI course and said it was instrumental in his preparation for the examination. Like Mr. Peacock, he passed it on the first try. “Besides the practice examinations and substantive outlines, attending forced me to take the time to meticulously prepare. I believe that although it is possible to pass the bar without such preparation, it is foolish to attempt doing so if you care about passing.”

Each state has its own bar exam that reflects its local laws and statutes. Students must pass the bar in a particular state to practice law in that state. Some students opt to take multiple bar exams in more than one state. Bar exams are offered twice a year, in July and February. Test results from the exam are usually not made available until after three months from the exam date.

“Take a bar prep course and treat your preparations as if your career depended on them,” advised Mr. Martin. “The California Bar, despite the miserable pass rate, is not a difficult test; it is just an extremely comprehensive test. It is a test of how well you can retain and repeat information. That kind of ability only comes from organized study.”

For the July 2004 administration, the mean scaled MBE score in California was 1,433, compared with the national average of 1,412. Of the 8,062 applicants who took the July 2004 General Bar Exam, 68.5 percent were first-time takers. The passing rate for the 5,521 first-time applicants was 62.8 percent overall.

Adam Greene, 3L at the University of Virginia School of Law, soon will be facing the bar exam. He said he has taken some of the topics covered on the bar in coursework and feels somewhat prepared for the exam.

Still, Mr. Greene will take a bar review course to prepare for the bar. “I am a little anxious to take it but confident that if I prepare properly, I will do well.” Like any major test, preparation indeed counts. The better prepared a person goes into the examination, the more confident, and the higher chances of success.

How to Pass the Bar Exam

After completing a judicial clerkship, I found myself in a bar-review course watching a bloated, balding man on a video monitor drone on about things I had willfully forgotten moments after completing my first-year finals.

The Bar is a Marathon

My instructor likened studying for the bar to training for some sort of epic athletic event. I distinctly remember his admonition: “The bar is like a marathon, not a sprint. You can’t cram, and if you study too much too quickly, you’ll burn out.”

If you’ve ever done something really tedious in your life, I guarantee this is worse. It is boring even for those who loved law school. For me it was absolutely excruciating.

Because of my fundamental ambivalence about being a lawyer, I kicked and screamed every step of the way. I couldn’t bring myself to do the practice essays or the sample performance tests. While others paced themselves for the long haul, I went to the movies. I knew I was courting disaster.

In my increasingly frequent nightmares, I could almost hear the snickering of my future colleagues when they discovered I hadn’t passed. I imagined the pain and public shame of having to go through the entire process again.

The test was a month away, and my fears only intensified as the date approached. When a month before the test came around, I went into a panic and finally started studying.

Two Months of Studying in Three Weeks

Driven by blind fear, I settled into a grueling regimen. After the daily video lecture, I secluded myself in the most remote corner of the law library I could find. I reviewed my notes and commercial course outlines for hours and hours, as though my life depended on it. I took breaks only to go to the bathroom or get more caffeine. By the time I got home at 6:30 p.m., my body twitched uncontrollably.

After a few days of this unrelenting schedule, I started to feel I was gathering momentum. But was it too late? How would I cram two full months’ worth of studying into three weeks? As I told my roommate at the time, “My life is on the line.”

The Morning of the Test

The day finally arrived. That morning my stomach was in my throat. I left my Berkeley apartment for the Oakland Convention Center more than an hour early. I neurotically checked and rechecked to make sure I had everything: picture ID, pens and pencils, and earplugs-I had lots of earplugs.

After passing through what felt like Customs, I took my seat along with 3,000 other would-be lawyers. The countless rows of metal tables on the floor of the convention center were straight out of a Kafka novel.

From the distant front of the room came a disembodied male voice. For 30 minutes, it delivered test instructions in an amplified, droning monotone: “You will have exactly three hours to complete Section One; you will have exactly an hour for lunch, and then you will return for the afternoon session, which will consist of a performance examination lasting three hours.”

Finally, the dreaded words came: “You may begin.”

During the test itself, I remember suffering almost every conceivable distraction. Concentrating was almost impossible, even with my scores of earplugs. Whenever someone got up to go to the bathroom, whenever someone sneezed, I looked up. An almost continuous stream of pop tunes kept running through my head.

Somehow I survived, and two and a half days later the test was over. I didn’t feel triumph or anxiety or even relief. I was numb and fairly certain I had blown it. The more people I spoke to afterward, the more this seemed to be confirmed.

My Theory of Failure

I was working at a large law firm. There, I developed my theory of failure. The theory holds that failure always contains an underlying lesson. The difficulty comes in figuring out what that lesson is. That’s why you see people making the same mistakes over and over again.

I was sure I would soon have the opportunity to learn the lesson of failing the California Bar exam. In fact, I already knew what it was: that I shouldn’t be a lawyer.

Bar results were due out the day after Thanksgiving. As the cruel date approached, various doomsday fantasies repeated in my mind. I thought again about my likely humiliation at the law firm.

The night before the results came out, I got almost no sleep. I found myself pleading with God to let me pass. For good measure, I threw in some metaphysical arguments. I told God that there was nothing for me to learn from failing the bar-nothing that I didn’t already know.

As night turned to early morning, the day of reckoning was finally upon me. Because I didn’t have to work, I was free to obsessively anticipate the mail. When the mailman finally came through the gate, I raced out to meet him.

He handed me the mail. I rifled past the direct-mail ads and credit card solicitations until I found it: The Envelope. The moment was like one of those near-death experiences you read about where everything is in slow motion and you feel eerily calm. I walked back into the lobby of my apartment building. After a couple of deep breaths, I tore the letter open and read the first line: “The California State Bar is pleased to congratulate . . .”

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Betteridge’s Law suggests that if an article’s title is posed as a question, the answer is “No”.

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Can you master the bar exam in just three weeks?

As I explored in the first article in this series, the bar exam industry is flooded with deceptive marketing that feeds our worst study habits. We want to believe that we can conquer the bar exam in several weeks of casual study. We want to believe that we can predict the essay questions based on an analysis of previous years’ topics. We want to believe that milkshakes are good for us…the truth hurts.

Companies and individuals sell bar exam rituals, two-week study schedules, and my personal favorite: essay topic predictions. As Sturgeon’s Law dictates, ninety percent of it is bunk. When you analyze any of the tips, tricks, or “secrets” to the bar exam, the first thing you realize is that most of it is either utter nonsense or hilariously obvious. I found one article that began with the following tip:

“1. Register for the bar exam.”

Apparently, Nostradamus is in the bar review business. Talk about necessary and indispensable. The trouble begins when the advice seduces you into thinking that you do not have to commit intense dedication to your studies. Unfortunately, you must pay the troll before you can cross the bridge.

After criticizing the use of tips, tricks, and silver bullets to acing the bar exam, it’s only fair that I offer my own seven foolproof secrets to approaching the bar exam:

1. Take your exam on a laptop. You can type faster than you can write and your hands won’t cramp up as if in full rigor mortis. But be mindful of Murphy’s Law: if your laptop can crash in the middle of the exam, it will. Do everything in your power to avoid technological issues, such as ensuring the computer doesn’t update and restart in the midst of the exam.

2. Don’t worry too much about your sleeping and eating habits. A lot of this is beyond your control. Some people just simply can’t eat or sleep normally under the intense pressure of the exam. Just accept it. If you worry about it, it will cause you further disruption, which will cause more stress, and you will soon enter an incurable, infinite loop of hangry sleeplessness.

3. Disconnect. Pareto’s Law tells us that twenty percent of our effort yields eighty percent of our results. In the bar exam context, this means that we waste a lot of our time during our studies because we aren’t actually studying. Refreshing Facebook a thousand times will give you a good sense of how much better your friends’ lives are for the ten weeks of bar prep, but it won’t give you the edge you need to pass the MBE.

4. Emulate excellence. The sample answers provided in your bar review courses do more than show you the correct answer. They show you how to formulate a correct answer. When it comes to legal work, borrowing is key. In fact, you will learn in your future practice as a lawyer that it is absolutely crucial to success. Who is more likely to be sued for malpractice: the attorney who writes a will from scratch, or the attorney who uses a tried and true template? (The answer is both, because clients are cray cray.)

5. Accept that failure is a possibility, and you will be more likely to pass. I couldn’t find a name for this “law,” so I will call it “Gandalf’s Law.” Stop worrying so much about passing the exam. The pressure that you feel is only as real as you believe it to be. You will perform better on the exam if you have a clear and calm mind. You shall pass.

6. Read the call of the question before you read the fact pattern. It’s much easier to identify the pertinent issues if you already know which direction the examiners want you to go. For example, if the call of the question is “How should the judge rule on the defendant’s Motion to Suppress?” then you already know that you need to discuss, inter alia, the Fourth Amendment.

7. Register for the bar exam.

This the second article in the series, Which Way to (Pass) the Bar?, by Jaime Molbreak.
If you missed her first article, Maximize Your Bar Exam Essay Score In One Difficult Step, you can find it here.

Jaime is an attorney and graduate of the Ohio State University Moritz College of Law. She is the Virginia Director at Themis Bar Review. Since joining Themis in 2011, Jaime has helped thousands of students successfully prepare for the bar exam in jurisdictions nationwide.

In the last 10 days before the bar exam, you are going to be spending your time reviewing, practicing, and memorizing. At this point if you’ve done the work, you know more of the law than you realize. Try to stay calm. Stressing out for more than 10 minutes is unproductive. If you feel nervous allow yourself 10 minutes to be nervous, then refocus and go back to studying. Studying will help you pass the exam, freaking out will not. The last 10 days is when all of your hard work during the summer or winter comes to fruition. Kaplan provides you with a precise plan to follow during those last 10 days before the bar exam based on how you have done on practice questions and exams. The adaptive syllabus will make your strengths stronger while still remediating your weaknesses.

But let’s look at some general advise and tips for the countdown to test day. When practicing essays; make sure that you review all of the answers from the practice questions. Spend 10-15 minutes issue spotting and outlining essays. At this stage, there’s no need to spend 30 minutes writing practice essays. If you have been writing essays and submitting them for grading all along, you will have the timing down.

Be Healthy

Eat well. Simply put, eat the way your parents would feed you. This means well-balanced meals with protein, vegetables and carbs. This is not the time to lose weight on some crazy fad diet or consume massive amounts of caffeine. Exercise. If you normally exercise, this is not the time to forgo exercise for study. Exercise produces endorphins, relieves stress, and a less stressed bar exam taker is a more effective bar exam taker. If you don’t regularly exercise, taking a 30 minute walk will also do the trick. Sleep. The Sunday before the bar exam is the most important night to get good sleep! Why? Science tells us that we retain sleep for 48 hours. As the nights before the bar exam are stressful, your sleep pattern may change a bit, so get some great sleep tonight!

Get In the Right Mindset

Be Mentally Strong. This is key to passing the exam. By this time you should have completed hundreds if not thousands of multiple choice questions, reviewed numerous outlines, and written and reviewed numerous essays/MPTs either by submitting, self grading or a combination of both. You have taken a full length bar exam which gives you an advantage over other bar exam takers. You have already run the marathon, when so many others will run their first next week…Been there, done that! Practice does not mean perfect. Practice means passing. That is a huge advantage. YOU ARE READY! YOU ARE PREPARED! YOU WILL PASS!

The Weekend Before

The weekend before is not the time to learn new materials – If you don’t know it, it’s not worth your time at this point trying to learn it. There is always more to learn. Studying for the bar exam is like a pinata grab. When that pinata breaks, you grab what you can. You won’t be able to grab all the goodies, but if you see a bill or a shiny coin, you go for that first. The big-ticket items are the bills and the shiny coins, go for them first, and don’t worry so much about the little caramel swirls!

The Last 24 Hours

On the day before the exam (usually the Monday or Tuesday depending on whether your state’s exam starts on Tuesday or Wednesday, many students take the day off, which is perfectly fine! If you will be studying, my suggestion is to do very passive tasks instead of very active tasks. You want to flip through your outlines, flashcards, and Bar Points book. You don’t want to be writing full essays or doing very long MBE exams. Completing 33 questions is a great idea. If you do work on that Monday, it is recommended to not work more than 5 or 6 hours that day. Give your brain time to relax.

Do questions on the morning of the MBE when you wake up before the MBE exam. On this day do 5 practice questions BEFORE you go to the exam! DO NOT look at the answers. What makes this so important is looking at the question BEFORE you go to the exam site. Get your brain moving before Question 1. This activity WILL create more points on MBE day.

State Specific Portions

After you have completed the local essay day of your bar exam , before the MBE day, my suggestion is to review the Final MBE examination and your notes from that exam. Year in and year out, that Final MBE covers 20-30 direct issues you will see on the MBE exam. It might also help for the essays if you’d like to review this on Sunday or Monday evening.

If your state has a Performance Test component , my advice here is to be sure to follow the directions given and finish (or make it look like you finished)! You do this and you will be ahead of 10% of students immediately!

Avoid Others

Around the bar exam, avoid others. Before the exam, during breaks, and after the exam, don’t talk to others about the test. This leads to nothing but regrets about the little issue you didn’t write about, or the multiple-choice question you are now “certain” you got wrong. You don’t know whether that “chatty-cathy” you are talking to is correct either. Do not let someone else create stress for you, let them create it for someone else.

It’s Okay to Be Wrong

Speaking of getting things wrong on the bar exam, IT WILL HAPPEN! And that’s ok. Remember, like I said earlier, practice will make passing; it doesn’t need to make perfect! Nobody is ever perfect on this exam. At some point after each portion of this exam, you will have that “D’oh” moment. “D’oh,” I forgot to write about…, “D’oh,” I forgot about using this strategy for that MBE question dealing with… Trust me, you can have many of those and still pass this exam. Don’t worry about that D’oh moment.

Make It Up

On the essays , if you don’t know it, make it up. Here’s why. You won’t lose points for making an argument and sometimes when you start writing, one of two things will happen. 1. You thinking and writing about it will help you remember what the correct answer is, or 2. What you are writing will in fact be correct.

Like the boy or girl scouts, “be prepared.” Dress in layers just in case, leave early, have medicines ready, eat a good breakfast, pack a good lunch, prepare snacks if they are allowed into the exam. Walk into the exam with confidence. Take the exam with confidence. Walk out of the exam with confidence! At that stage you ARE ready, and you will do great!