How to Pass the Bar Exam on Your Second Try

How to Pass the Bar Exam on Your Second Try

It’s that time of year. July bar exam results have come out in many states.  While some people are celebrating, others are receiving disappointing news. Unfortunately, not everyone passes the bar exam on their first try. If you are one of those people, you might find yourself wondering what your chances of passing the bar exam are on your second try, and how best to study for the bar exam the second time. 

The good news is – passing the bar exam on your second try is completely doable! In fact, even better news is, you’ve already done most of the hard work! Passing the bar on your second try won’t be easy (passing the bar is never easy!) but by learning from your previous experience, you can make it a smooth and successful experience. 

Review your old exam

To the extent that your state releases scores and essays, get your hands on as much information as you can! If you can get your actual written work (essays and MPTs), do that.  And then make a plan to review this information with a bar prep professional. If your school has an Academic Support department, meet with them.  If not, consider consulting with a private tutor. It’s important for someone who knows what the examiners are looking for to review your written work, so that you know why you lost points and can create a plan for moving forward. 

You can also use just your scores to help you determine your areas of focus.  On a large scale, your score will help you determine if you were stronger in essays or multiple choice, or if you need to focus equally on improving both. On a smaller scale, within the multiple choice and essays, you can see which topics you struggled with and identify areas of improvement. 

The key to passing the bar exam on the second try is knowing what went wrong the first time. So use your scores as a roadmap for creating a plan moving forward. 

How to Study for the Bar Exam the Second Time

After reviewing your old exam, you’ll need to create a study plan. Studying for the bar exam for the second time is going to be completely different than the first time! This might come as some relief, particularly if you were dreading the thought of having to watch hours and hours of boring videos again. 

When studying for the bar exam the second time, you should focus on practice. There is no need to re-watch your bar course’s videos on substantive law. You’ve already watched those the first time, and presumably you still have your notes. Instead, let your practice guide you in determining what law you need to review. 

Each day should consist of practice essays and multiple-choice questions. Use your practice questions as a mini diagnostic.  If you missed an issue, or didn’t get a rule correct, spend some time that day reviewing the rule.  But be active in your review – make flashcards, create charts, do more practice – anything to get you working through the concepts rather than just reading and re-reading your outlines. 

Your commercial bar review course will likely offer you a free repeater course if you are taking the bar exam for a second time. Utilize this resource for the practice questions and essay grading, but generally do not watch the videos. Even if it’s a subject that you didn’t understand the first time around, watching the same videos again isn’t likely to make you understand it now! Instead, seek out new resources for explaining substantive law that you still struggle with.  There are so many (free!) resources online for substantive law review.  You can find one that presents the information in a different way, that may appeal more to your style of learning and help you understand it better. For example, if you are struggling with Mortgages, and you are a visual learner, check out THIS VIDEO which explains a very difficult concept with cartoons! Of course, always vet your sources to make sure the information they share is accurate. Finding a reliable source that appeals to your learning style can be a game changer when reviewing difficult concepts the second time around. 

Be sure to address mental health issues too

Failing the bar exam isn’t always a matter of not studying enough, not practicing enough, or not knowing enough law. Often, a student can be more than prepared, but anxiety and mental health struggles get in the way on test day.  If this is you, it’s extremely important to address these issues the second time you take the bar exam. 

Therapy is a good place to start. Talking to a mental health professional about your worries can help alleviate them for the future. Also, a therapist can help you come up with a plan for addressing chronic stress and anxiety, as well as acute anxiety episodes should they arise on test day. 

Also, creating a self-care plan that you carries you through to test day is a great strategy to combating test-day anxiety.  Meditation has been scientifically proven to reduce stress and anxiety, and it’s something you can easily incorporate into each day. Visit Youtube for thousands of free guided meditations. You can even find some specifically focused on test anxiety. Start a daily meditation practice when you begin your test preparations so that you’ll be comfortable using it to push away worries come bar exam day. 

Yoga and other forms of exercise can also help lower stress and decrease anxiety.  And don’t forget your friends! Taking the bar exam for a second time might feel isolating, especially if your circle of friends has already passed. But remember, your friends love and care about you, so lean on them for support this time around.  They can help you study, commiserate with you, or distract you with movie nights and take out. Don’t assume they don’t have time for you now that they’ve moved on with their careers. More likely, they want you to succeed just as much as you do, and will be there to help however they can. 


Finally check out this post for even more tips on what to do when you fail the bar exam, so that you can be successful the second time around!  

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