Tales of a Bar Exam Failure

So, in a couple of days, one of my best friends will take the bar exam. Bless her heart.

I can imagine some of you reading this are doing so because you are beyond freaked out, beyond stressed out. You have had at least one meltdown and you feel crazy. (Another one of my good friends had one in the mall when she took a study break and then couldn’t find her keys. Sat down on the floor in the middle of Belk and cried. See…you aren’t alone.) Your living space looks like this:

You think you can’t cram another tidbit of information into your brain, so you are Googling “what happens if you fail the bar exam,” or “ten tips for taking the bar exam,” or “how to cram for the bar exam at the last minute.” And, after reading all that Google provided on those topics, most of you have decided that you probably should make a bonfire with your Barbri books, tie yourself to a stake, and burn with them.

Don’t do it. It’s gonna be okay.

I don’t know if my story will depress you or help you whatsoever, but here it is:

I acknowledged in my first post on this blog that I am a Bar Exam Failure. Yep, that’s right. I failed the bar the first time I took it. Let me tell you why.

Most people in my life would excuse the fact that I didn’t pass on the first try because I was running for office at the same time I was attempting to study for the bar. Here is my timeline: March: qualified to run for Justice Court Judge. April: started preparing for exams and began setting up all of my online campaign sources with the help and instruction of my campaign manager, Thomas. Ordered signs, had photos taken, started making lists. May: graduated from law school, watched a bunch of Barbri lectures online, began walking neighborhoods every Saturday, and Thomas deserted me to be a camp counselor (I forgive you.) June: full-fledge election mode; semi-studying for bar, pawning off my child on anyone who would take him, even for just 5 minutes. July: Mostly studying for bar, but signed my name 4,000 times to letters to constituents. Thomas came home and took over the election side of life, thank the Lord. Took bar on my birthday (happy birthday to me) and the two days after. August: My primary. Allowed to progress to run-off. Run-off: won election and swiftly got a plane to Key West.

But they were wrong. Sweet, but wrong. Yes, my life last summer was busy. But here is what I learned, and what I know led me to fail the bar rather than having so much on my plate:

a) I didn’t understand the major tenants of most of the subjects that were going to be tested on the bar before I started studying for the bar, and my attention was so divided that I didn’t ever get a good grasp of that vital information early in my bar prep. (Translation: I didn’t study hard enough in law school). So, if you didn’t study hard in law school either, and not because you were so stinking brilliant that you didn’t have to, you can NOT be me if you studied hard during your bar prep.

b) I didn’t use the time I had wisely, and I didn’t do nearly enough MBE questions. My professor told us that we needed to work somewhere between 3,000 and 4,000 MBE’s, and at minimum, 2500. I don’t think I even did 1,000. Big mistake. Huge. And let me say this: I didn’t work any Kaplan MBE questions….I was completely loyal to Barbri…and many folks said they thought the questions were more similar to the Kaplan samples than the Barbri samples. However, no matter what method they followed, when we got out of the morning session of the MBE day, every single person I saw had eyes as big as saucers and every person that I saw had no idea what had just happened. Cussing was rampant. Big, bad cuss words, from people I’d never heard cuss before. And I talked to not one, single, solitary person who said, “Oh yeah, I aced that part.” So here is the good news: if anyone around you says they thought the MBE was easy greasy, you will have everyone’s permission to knock them flat out. Either they are lying or they are delusional, because even my smartest of smart friends said they had no idea how they did on the MBE. And there is no way to check your answers. The MBE questions on the bar are not in the Barbri books or in the Kaplan books or anywhere else in the universe except on the bar exam. So don’t believe them and don’t worry about it. After all is said and done, you can’t do anything about it anyway.

c) I thought the MPT was a gimme, and I didn’t take it seriously. If you are reading this at ANY time before you take your bar exam, listen up. Scrap whatever you are planning to do between now and test time and get your MPT book out. Open it to a random case file and question set. Do not attempt to time yourself. Read it from front to back. Try to answer it. And then, thoroughly, read the model answer. When you only get 20% of the model answer correct, don’t drive to the nearest bridge and jump off. Realize that the model answer would take hours to construct. Instead, go back and outline how they broke down the answer. Look at the system to the answer. Really concentrate on it. And then do at least two more. It should take you an entire morning or afternoon, but if you have totally ignored the MPT, don’t. It is 15% of your entire, overall test. The MEE’s…all 6 of them….make up 15% of your entire test. I wish I could scream it through a bullhorn to you, dear-reader-and-bar-examinee. PRACTICE SOME MPT’s BEFORE YOU TAKE YOUR TEST!!! There really is a method to the madness and any sort of strategy before you get in there is going to help you. Yes, it is plumb stupid. There is no reason why the MPT should be part of the bar exam. Yes, it is boring. Your brain is swirling with facts, and you can’t use any, not a one of them, on that part of the test. Yes, it is long, and you need your time on it in order to give a full answer. BUT IT IS 15% OF YOUR OVERALL GRADE!! Grab those points. Don’t be like me and not open the MPT book until the night before the test, skim a few pages, and think you’ve got it down just because you took Legal Writing. Be smarter than me. Work some problems. You have time. I’m not kidding. Put down your MBE questions, MEE and MSE workbooks, outlines and notecards. Open the MPT. Spend some time there. You will NOT regret it.

d) I flat didn’t study enough. No matter what the excuse. No matter what the issue. No matter how bad things are at home, no matter how tired you are, no matter if you are trying to juggle work and studying, children and studying, life in general and studying, going through a divorce, spent some time in the hospital….no matter if you are running in an election. The bar exam takes no prisoners. If you don’t think you studied enough, you probably didn’t. And taking it the next go round is not nearly as bad as it seems today. Your world is not going to fall apart. Life is not over. But it is better to go in knowing you didn’t study enough and doing the very best you can than thinking that you studied enough and completely freaking out if you find out that you didn’t pass.

Because failing it truly is NOT the end of the world. It may seem like it at the time. Believe me, I realize that. You feel dumb. So many people have told you, “You are smart; you will pass the bar.” Well, let me clue those folks in. Again…sweet, but wrong. It is not a matter of how smart you are. When you have the volumes and volumes of information that you think you have to know before you take that monster of a test, there is no way to learn it all. Sometimes it comes down to the questions they choose to ask. If you interned for a District Attorney, and they ask a question about criminal law or criminal procedure, you are in luck. If you did your writing requirement on the newest Supreme Court decision that involves the Commerce Clause, and the Con Law question on the bar centers on…gasp!…the Commerce Clause…..you don’t have to worry about recalling every sentence of the model answer. You can write your answer from actual (researched) knowledge. And if you happened to work for an attorney before you came to law school who made you draw up contract after contract and then, lo and behold, the contracts question is about contract formation…get on your knees and be thankful. But the likelihood that you are going to know all of the answers to every question on the bar, no matter how smart you are, is miniscule. So it is not about how smart you are. I am hopeful you won’t let failing a test define you.

Passing or failing the bar exam one time or more than one time does not determine what kind of attorney you will be, and more people than you can imagine failed it once or twice. You absolutely can’t worry about “what it looks like.” The worst part about it, obviously, is that not having a bar card will delay the start of your career….but not completely. In my case, I was lucky beyond measure. Before taking the bar, I had already talked to two attorneys who shared office space and who wanted me to come work with them. Even after failing the bar the first time, they still wanted me to work with them. 9 times out of 10, you will find that to be the case. Small firms especially want to hire you because of your personality and work ethic. It is not because you are a legal eagle…no one who just graduates from law school knows what they are doing when they start practicing, and everyone needs some type of mentor…or at least some amazing secretaries who are willing to pull sample documents when said mentor gives you an assignment and you have no idea where to start. So if you don’t pass but have already talked to someone about a job, don’t think they are going to kick you out on your behind when they hear the news. I was able to still do the paperwork for all of the types of cases I am working now without a license to practice law, because the attorneys who wanted to hire me knew that I was capable of learning, and that I wanted to learn.

I know what you are thinking: “I didn’t go to law school to be a paralegal; I went to law school to be a lawyer.” So you did. But what everyone has told you: Law school doesn’t prepare you for the bar exam, and the bar exam doesn’t prepare you for practicing law is true. Having some time between finding out you didn’t pass and starting to study again can actually be a Godsend. Because I didn’t pass the first time, I actually got a head start before I could practice on my own. I’d already met with clients. I’d already drafted motions and pleadings and complaints and summons and discovery answers and contracts. I went to court. I learned what to do when it is time to file something. I formed relationships with the court staff. In other words, I got a whole lot of practical knowledge….everything that ISN’T on the bar but is much more important in the actual practice of law. I just couldn’t put my name on anything, and I couldn’t argue in front of the judge. So, if you find out you fail this go round, get your loans deferred and start talking to practicing attorneys.

Now, here is what has to happen once you get over the initial depression of knowing you have to do it all over again and you finally find the energy to pull out your Barbri books. Look closely at how you studied the first time, see where you were deficient, and then have the courage to change your strategy. In my case, yes, time was a huge factor. When you are running in an election, there are things that can’t be done and can’t be decided by anyone but you….even if you have a Thomas and a support system that never said no, like I did. But at the same time, if you are crunched for time, you still have to have a plan. I didn’t. So my advice for the second time around is this: get one.

I changed my entire plan of attack when I took the bar in February (and I will say, I still had time problems. I won the election, so I was on the bench for a full week out of the months of January and February…and I took the bar at the end of February. Not much got accomplished during those two weeks. I had to make up for it. You may be doing work for that attorney you talked to. He or she will understand that in the two months before you retake the bar, studying, not working, comes first. Remember: he/she wants you to pass.) But I also realized, after paying $75.00 to see my answers to my own essays, where I had gone wrong. I saw that my weak point was then, and would probably continue to be, the MBE. So I transferred my low score and decided I would make it up on the essays, because I was going to figure out how to do better. I don’t know if it was the smartest strategy, but it was what I decided to do, and I stuck to it.

I also took my professor’s advice, the same advice I gave you above, and spent time on the MPT. I spend a lot of time on the MPT. I wasn’t going to let those gimme points slip through my fingers the second time around.

As far as the essays were concerned, everyone learns differently. For me, I found it helpful to read the essays out loud into a tape recorder, even if there were duplicate answers. I kept the recorder in my car, and if I was just going to the grocery store 5 minutes away, I pushed play and made myself listen to my own voice repeat the answers to the essay questions. It paid off, for certain, on one of them. Our February bar domestic relations question was a repeat, and if I didn’t get 98 points out of 100, I’d be surprised, because I wrote down the model answer…because I had heard it a zillion times.

I also went through those essays and identified the issues in each question. I then wrote out the issue at the top of a piece of paper and left a space, copied the stack of them, and answered them by hand a few times. Example: If there was a question about divorce, I wrote the question, “What are the grounds for divorce?” and then I wrote out the answer. If I got it wrong, I did it again and again. You may use note cards for that type of learning. I hated note cards. Whatever works for you.

I put all of my focus into studying the past essays, and I concentrated my studies on issues that had been tested before. I knew I was leaving things out, but if you figure out one thing, it should be this: You can’t know everything that will be on the bar exam. It is impossible (unless you are genius-person, in which case, you probably aren’t reading this anyway.) So realize that, and study the topics that have the most likelihood of being on the bar. Know going in that there will be at least one question that you know very little about, and sub-parts to others that you aren’t sure how to answer. The best thing you can do is at least identify the issue of those questions and write something, anything. Try not to worry about whether or not you got the answer right. Approach it like you would a law school exam. If, this….then, that. Even if you have to dance around the issue, write something about anything related to the topic. Use terms of art. You will most likely pick up some points. Don’t leave it blank. Don’t freeze. And don’t spend so much time on trying to figure out how to answer a question you don’t know the answer to that you get off your schedule….because managing your time on the bar is super important, and you need it on the MPT. 😉

The night I got on the website to retrieve my score for the February test, I waited an hour and a half after I knew they were available before I looked. I didn’t want to know. It was hard enough the first time, and though I knew I could and would take it again if I failed, I was terrified. And when I saw that PASS by my four digit number that identified me as me, I cried. I cried for over an hour. I checked and rechecked to make sure I hadn’t misread it. Two of my friends who were with me for moral support held my hands while I prayed through my tears, thanking God for good news. I was a basket case…and I passed.

Failing the bar was the most humbling experience of my life. As I have said many times, if I had won the election AND passed the bar, I don’t think my head would have fit through my front door. So for me, failing it was a lesson in what I really could expect from myself. Last summer, I expected entirely too much. I was not able to be a wife, mother, friend, daughter, bar examinee and candidate and succeed at all of them. Something had to give. I’m certain my husband and son would tell you I failed the wife and mother part. Winning the election was surprising and validating. But failing the bar…well, I won’t tell you I wasn’t disappointed, upset, frustrated and mad. But I really did understand why. I didn’t prepare well at all. I didn’t have a plan. I had not figured out a strategy. It was my fault.

So, as the bar is only a couple of days away for all of my Mississippi friends and many others around the country, I hope you will take away from reading this that a) you still have time to study for the MPT and you should, b) you have a very good chance of passing the bar if you did studied and studied hard, c) if you don’t pass the first time, you are not a failure; you have just joined the ranks of people like John F. Kennedy, Jr., Hilary Clinton, and…me. And d) no matter if you pass or fail, as soon as the bar exam is over and you can form complete sentences again, get out the ole credit card (you are already in so much debt you can’t see straight; adding a tad more to the pile isn’t going to kill you) and book a trip. High tail it out-of-town. Throw some flip-flops and a bathing suit in a bag and skedaddle. Go by yourself or with someone else, as long as that person did not take the bar exam with you (because, invariably, as many times as you pinky swear that you won’t discuss the bar, you will, in fact, discuss the bar.) And do not, no matter what, pack a book that remotely deals with the law. Not even a novel. If you (like me) actually relax by reading, grab a stack of magazines (and the ABA Journal should not be one of them. I’m thinking US Weekly.) Your homework from this girl is to do anything that will allow you not to think about the bar.

And last, but not least, good luck. I’ll be praying for all of you in the next few days.

And MA, in the ocean of life, it is just a spit. You got this.

If you have taken the bar exam and passed or failed it, I’d love for you to add your comments.

~~~~Also, be sure to check out my links for blogs written by some of my law school friends and add them to your favorites.~~~~~

27 thoughts on “Tales of a Bar Exam Failure

  1. I love it! For the same reason I admire Marsha Weems Stacey…both are true to heart and what you see is what you get.

    The bar exam is a monster. That being said, it is a monster that is finite and stands a good chance of being defeated. The next good thing is it has many weaknesses that can be attacked by many different people from many different angles. For me, it was those 3-4 thousand MBE practice questions. I don’t think I did that many, but I came close. It worked for me on the MPRE, and it worked for me on the MBE. The rest of the bar exam I credit to being a good BS’er. Nothing more, nothing less. Several people that defeated that monster shared with me a common key to success…write until you can’t make any more sense. For me it worked, particularly with the MPT.

    I agree with Marsha that not passing the first time doesn’t man a hill of beans as to if you are going to make a good lawyer or not, any more than class rank means you will be a good lawyer. I don’t know the feeling of not passing, but it must be one of the worst one can experience. One thing about it, the world could care less. It is not a time for crying. No time for “whoa is me.” What one must do is gather up the books and hit it again, hard. What is indicative of who will be the successful lawyer is one that doesn’t let a stumbling block become a mountain. Marsha is one of those people.

    And remember, once this thing is defeated, it doesn’t come back to life. When it’s done, it’s done!

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    • Oh Frankie, you always know just what to say! 🙂 Thank you, my friend. I appreciate your readership, your friendship, and your comments. I know they will be helpful to those who found this blog because they are freaking out, just as we were a year ago. So proud of you!

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  2. Oh thank you, thank you for this posting. Having passed two bar exams long, long ago when I first graduated law school, I did not give enough time or attention to the February bar exam in my new home state and failed! Everyone, including myself, was shocked. With the next test just days away, I find myself panicking and this was just the post I needed to refocus and recharge myself. Heading off to grab that MPT book right now (you are soooo right, I did NOT spend nearly enough time on those “gimmee” points). Thank you again! Sheryl

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    • Sheryl, I thank you for your comments, and I will certainly say a prayer that you will be able to concentrate, manage your time, and recall the information you need to remember. I know that had to have been a setback to you, but I have found in my life my biggest disappointments were my best teachers. Lots of luck to you!!

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  3. I just found out I failed the UBE Bar Exam in July- safe to say I feel down in a hole. I have ordered my results/essay answers, etc…But I am angry. I feel like I learned from past fail lessons of those who took before me and so I purposefully left no stone unturned. I outlined all the past essay answers, made black letter law outlines, took over 2000 MBE questions, made flashcards every time I got an answer wrong…my computer crashed during the MPT but I really thought I made up for the 15 minutes I lost before I had to hand write. I was putting in 9 hour days for two weeks before the exam, alienated my husband and kids, and felt like a crackhead up until the test. I cannot imagine going through all that again. Ugh. I’m still in the ‘this is a bitter pill to swallow’ mode so I apologize for woe is me drama. But, efff! I worked my ass off so this would not happen! Honestly, I have always been a fighter but, for the first time, I dread the idea of dusting myself off right now. Anyhoo…thanks for this blog- Made me feel a bit better reading it.

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    • Erin, I am so sorry, and I know exactly how you feel….and so do a lot of my friends who are incredibly smart. I know right now you feel like there is no possible way you can go through it again, but I am here to assure you…you can, and you will. Thankfully, you have a lot of time to give yourself right now before you have to pull those bootstraps up again.

      As sad as it is to say, much of studying for the bar is luck. You pick the right strategy based upon which subjects they test, and you’ve hit the jackpot. You concentrate more heavily on some that hardly appear or don’t appear at all, you’ve encountered a tough situation. There is, quite simply, too much information to know it all, and the test changes each time it is given. So don’t beat yourself up over it. You did everything you knew to do, and it sounds like you did a great job in preparing.

      I don’t know if your state allows it, but I definitely found transferring my MBE score for the next test and focusing only on the essays was the right way for me to go. It allowed me to narrow it all down. I read every essay in our books more than once. I read many of them into a tape recorder and I listened to them. I felt like going in the second time, I had a much better grasp of the subjects, and I knew what to expect in just taking the bar exam itself. That alone puts you ahead of the curve.

      I wish I could tell you those magic words that will not make you feel so poorly right now, but you and I both know there is nothing I can say…today. But in a few weeks, you will be in a different place. Be grateful for that…getting a do-over is always something to be thankful for! I’m glad you found the blog, and I am really glad it made you feel a little better. If anything, I want you to know that it isn’t the end of the world. In fact, as my aunt Marsha would say, “In the ocean of life, it is just a spit.” 🙂

      Go hug on your babies and rest your brain. Opportunities, with a bar passage or not, await. Lots of luck to you. Please keep me posted, and if there is anything I can do to help, let me know! Marsha

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    • Erin,
      I failed a UBE jurisdiction the first time around and was horrified. I was angry, upset, and depressed. I decided to abandon Barbri the second time around (much to the horror of my law school cohorts) and enlisted the help of a small company, Law Preps. You can google it (or read the latest entry of my blog). I passed the 2nd time in TWO jurisdictions and am convinced if I had just relaxed a little the first time, it would have gone my way. In my experience, sometimes there can be TOO much studying and freaking out. I studied about half as hard the second time around – but I learned to study effectively – and it made all the difference.
      Good luck. Things will work out. Promise.

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  4. I am picking up the pieces. One of the bitter parts of this pill to swallow is that since the end of my 2L year and through graduation, I was working under a limited license and got AMAZING courtroom experience for a criminal defense office. So much so, after graduation I was hired as a Deputy Prosecutor for a nearby county. After results came out, my boss encouraged me to get my LL extended through next cycle and kill it in February. However, my state bar changed the rules recently and no bar passage = automatic death for my LL with no ability to practice until I pass…so, I was let go, told if I pass next April I can have my job back…So, these next 7 months are going to be tough. I am losing serious income and won’t likely find another job that will be as amenable to me studying again. In all honesty, I am not a prosecutor at heart and was there to build the skills and move on. So, I’m not devastated I can’t be there but I am devastated I can’t practice or step foot in a courtroom until I pass. Which, at this point, is this huge mental block. I think I over-studied cuz I KNOW the law. Still waiting on results and, for the first time in my life, don’t have a game plan. I am gleaning bits and pieces of all the advice provided here and do think I need to step outside some box and approach it differently for round two. Just not sure what that approach is yet. However, I did inquire with Law Preps and will check it out…so, thank you for that insight. Their website looks promising with a focus on instilling confidence. Which is maybe what I need- I was so terrified of failing that I burnt myself out rather than building myself up.I am keeping my fingers crossed that I can let my MBE score ride and focus on essays only in February. I appreciate the support and advice and am soaking it up one day at a time. Cheers to perspective: I am healthy, have a home, happy fam, and a full Bota Box in the fridge. 🙂

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  6. Many people will be sitting for the bar exam next week. Just wanted all of my readers…especially those who found this blog by accident, due to frustration with failing the bar the first time…that I will be praying for all of you. STUDY THE MPT!!! YOU HAVE TIME!!!! 😉

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  7. I am taking the bar tomorrow. I know I will not pass because I just did not memorize enough of the law (or write enough essays, for that matter…not a bad attitude, just realistic). I did the absolute best I could given the circumstances, but I had far too much on my plate to give it the time it needed. I did about 4 PTs, I’ve done as many MBEs as possible, but I know the essays are going to kill me (especially if they test one of the areas I know very little about: Corporations, Wills/Trusts). So, if you get this this evening, my question is, is it worth even taking it? I paid for it so there’s nothing to lose, but the thought of sitting there, not knowing the first thing about what to write, is absolute terror. Any advice?
    Thanks.

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    • Of COURSE it is worth is. First of all, you will have the experience of knowing exactly what it is like to take the bar, and if you do fail, that is not a little thing when getting ready for next time…we all deal better with what we know.
      Second, don’t forget you are graded against the people taking the bar at the same time you are. February is always a smaller crowd, so though you might not feel like you know enough, what if they test in exactly the areas you DO know something about? It is a gamble every time you take it as to what will be on it…this time might be easier than July, and you honestly may know more than you think.
      If I can give you any advice, it would be to pray first for a clear head and the ability to remember the things you know, and when you sit down and open that first booklet, even if you don’t know the answer, write ANYTHING remotely resembling the subject matter. Approach it like you would a law school exam. “This fact pattern concerns contract formation. A contract is XYZ. In order to have a valid contract one must have XYZ. Ect….” Use as many terms of art as you can, because you get points for them. And, I would encourage you to either guess yes or no and then just stick with it. Such as: Was a contract formed? Yes, a contract was formed. A contract is…blah blah blah. And then apply your facts. Even if you get it wrong, even if a contract was NOT formed, you are going to get more points if you actually attempt some semblance of an answer. The most important thing is not to freeze. Don’t sit. Just write. Write anything.

      Friend, I don’t know you, but I know about how you feel. The night bf I took the bar the first time, I knew I hadn’t studied enough, but I gave it everything I had. I can’t tell you how much easier it made studying the second time. Seriously. It will ALL be okay. This is not the end of life. It is ONE TEST.

      I will say a prayer for you in the morning, and I hope you will let us know how it goes. All the best to you.

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      • Thank you for the encouragement!! I went….and it wasn’t as terrible as I thought it would be (not great, but not horrific). Still a lot of barring to do, but at least I didn’t stare blankly at the screen. Essay one was a crimes essay (which I hadn’t properly studied), but I got creative with my conspiracy statements, and it wasn’t too far off. I ran out of time so my later answers to the interrogatories were not stellar but, I finished it. Then a PR essay, which went ok, I think, then a remedies essay, which was a hot mess. Everyone felt that way, however, which is encouraging, I think. On to the MBEs tomorrow…
        I appreciate the prayer; maybe that had something to do with it!

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  8. I’m so glad to hear that it wasn’t as awful as you thought it would be….self-doubt can often be your worst enemy. Just do your best today on the MBE…use your time wisely….and don’t leave any blank. Praying again! 🙂 Let us know….

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  9. I really appreciate your post. I took, and failed, the bar in July 2012. I was absolutely crushed. I could gives reasons (i.e. make excuses) all day long for what was going on in my life that prevented me from passing, but I learned quickly that it did no good.

    In Texas, the scores are posted around lunch time on a Thursday so everyone is impatiently refreshing the website to see if their name is there. I will never forget the feeling of scrolling down the page and not seeing my name. I refreshed the page a few times thinking that surely I had picked the wrong list. Once I had confirmed that I was on the correct page, I had to have read through all of the names listed in my alphabetical area at least 8 times. I knew that my name had to be there but I was just missing it somehow. Of course, I had not missed anything. I was out at lunch alone when the scores were posted. My co-workers were texting messaging me to see if the scores were posted, and on a whim, I checked on my phone. Worst mistake I’ve ever made. My burrito turned to dust in my mouth and I felt like there was no more air for my lungs. In that moment, this was the worst possible thing imaginable.

    All that being said, I drove home in a daze and immediately went to my dog. I set up a chair in my backyard and spent the rest of the day sitting here watching my pup play and trying to remember that there was more to my life than a bar exam score. My roommate was almost as anxious as I was to get the results, so of course he knew about my failure almost as soon as I did. When he got home he was very careful not to say anything at all that might make me cry. I noticed in the next few days that everyone around was just waiting for me to crack up or go crazy. It took me about a month to convince them that I didn’t really think driving off of a bridge was the best response to a 666 score on the exam. I think convincing them that I was ok was the best possible trick to convincing myself that I was, in fact, alright.

    I made the mistake of trying to make really, really important decisions in the two to three days following the result release. My best advice to anyone who fails in the future is to take at least 3-5 days before you make life-altering changes. I don’t necessarily regret the choices that I made, but I do wish that I had not made them in the shadow of the largest disappointment of my “professional life”. I quit my job (without considering how broke I’d be), deleted my Facebook account, immediately re-enrolled in a bar review course, and started doing practice questions. I moved my money around, made a budget so detailed that I could barely read it nonetheless follow it, and called my loan providers (often in tears) to discuss deferment.

    Now, for the silver lining of the story, I survived (and everyone else will too). I cried for days and wasn’t really a fully functioning human for at least a week. I spent a lot of time with my dogs. It was like a health scare for me– it made me want to embrace the things I love. I revised the decisions I had made to the extent necessary to be able to survive. I did quit my job as planned. I’ve tried really, really hard to stick to my crazy budget and I’ve been just fine. Studying for the second time is not fun at all. I chose to watch Barbri videos online the first time and do practice questions on my iPad when I had the chance. I was working full-time up until 2 weeks before the exam, so that was definitely different. This time, I went to almost all of the in-class Barbri sessions. I missed several due to an injured dog and a broken down car, but I watched the videos at home. I read the outlines, I reviewed the notes from class, and I reviewed past exams. I did practice questions and I made flash cards on the subjects that were the most difficult for me.

    I am now 2/3 of the way through my 2nd bar experience and all I can think about is what will happen if I fail again. I can’t imagine the disappointment, and really, really hope I don’t have to experience it… but, no matter what happens, the main idea is that I know that it is not an insurmountable ordeal.

    So… that is my experience and I know it seems depressing and frustrating and probably not the most encouraging story in the world… BUT I survived and I’m at least 35% more crazy that most people I know. There is always a bright side. I definitely agree with what everyone else says about the bar exam not being a test of how smart you are or how good you will be at practicing law. It is a test of how well you handle whatever convoluted situations the bar examiners throw at you on three specific days. I couldn’t defeat them in July, but there is hope for February.

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  10. Sheri, thank you so much for sharing your story. I think it is so important for people to realize that the world doesn’t end if you fail the bar the first time, or subsequent times. I’ve always believed that our biggest disappointments are what cause us to make changes and do something different or something better, often putting us on the right path. I also believe that God’s hand is in everything, and He makes something good out of even the worst situations if we let him. So I’m thankful to see that failing the first time helped you take stock of the things that are most important in life and put that test into perspective. That is what it is all about.
    I’m hoping for all of the good and happy things for you from here on out! 🙂

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  11. I’m about to embark on my third and fourth bar exams. I’ve already passed NY (first try) and CT (2nd try–missed by 3 points, convinced 3rd day burnout was the cause). I can verify that just taking the essay portion on round 2 is a huge help. Though my MBE scores weren’t stellar, they were enough. It’s easy to boost essay scores. MBE much harder. That was almost 10 years ago, and three years post law school graduation.

    Moved and now taking PA and NJ. Somewhat secretly only care about PA. I’ve landed a job at a great firm. Started studying in April but as a single mom of three kids and a full time job, it’s had its challenges. I’m half scared and half in terminator, take-no-prisoners mode. Three weeks ago, when my boss allowed me to stop working and focus on studying, I cried every day. I’ve decided this is as much a substantive and luck issue (no one knows all of the content on which we will be tested) and half a stamina/mental game. I’ve studied all I could while staying as same as I could. Neither did I do as well as I would have liked.

    I’m hoping for this week’s exam to be able to prove myself on paper. I hope to god not to fail–my children and I have given up too much over the past 3/4 months. It’s frightening to have a job, three kids and a hellish study experience and a new employer generous enough to pay me for 3 or so weeks off to study. It’s also scary how many people have so much faith in me that im smart and can do anything i set my mind to. Love it and i hope they are right, but that self doubt comea creeping in every time. Fingers crossed. And this time, I get to take it with a laptop. Now that seems to be an advantage over the holy crap my hand hurts days in 2003 when I last took the exam!

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  12. Unfortunately, we just discovered that our daughter was not on the Pass List from the Texas exam. She hasn’t said anything yet. We’re heartbroken for her. Any advice for the support staff?

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