Learning From Second-Time Bar Takers

The bar exam is a difficult test – we know that. But why? To pass, it takes a lot more than just knowing an abundance of rules. The way you study and approach the material can dictate whether or not you pass the bar exam. For this post, I interviewed a few RWU Law Alumni who were unsuccessful on their first attempt at the test, but were successful on their second attempt. You can learn a lot from these prior bar exam takers, so let’s take a look at what they have to say.

The Interview

Q: Why do you think you were unsuccessful on the bar exam the first time around?

A: The first time I wasn’t studying correctly and I had distractions going on at the time. Simply watching the videos, taking notes, and answering questions was not enough.

A: I barely practiced any essays and I didn’t study enough with my MBE questions. I never saw an increase in my MBE score and I ignored it. I kept doing the same stuff, and in hindsight, I should have fixed what was broken and changed it up.

Q: What did you do differently when you were studying for the exam for the second time?

A: I changed my studying completely and was being a more proactive studier. I did a lot more practice and review, and I tailored my studying to what I personally needed as reflected in my scores. I also changed my study space. For the first time, I was at home in my parents’ house – not ideal. Study space can make ALL the difference. This time, I was working full time, so I would study after work – at my work desk. This way, I was already in the working zone.

A: I did so much that was different. I was so much more active with the material. Instead of just reviewing outlines, I made my own. Instead of just doing hundreds of multiple choice questions and passively reading the correct answer, I wrote down EVERYTHING. I practiced more essays and MPTs. I scheduled time for memorization in my days, which I didn’t do before. I spent time on my weak areas to increase my knowledge and performance in those areas. I went in the second time remembering so much more than the first time, and feeling so much more confident.

Q: How did you approach studying for the MBE differently, if at all?

A: The MBE was my main priority because it was my lower score last time. I started with my weak subjects. I would do around 33-60 questions per day, not all at once. The trick for me was to do maybe a set of 15, then go over the answers. When taking the quiz, I would put a mark by all the ones I felt unsure of, and at the end of the set, I hand wrote every wrong/unsure answer out, and did not move on until I understood why I got it wrong. If I was confused, I would refer to the outline. I must have gone through at least 15 legal pads by the end of it all.

A: When there was three weeks before the bar exam, I did question sets with all subjects, but if I was still unsettled with one, I would do extra in that subject. I was constantly working towards improving my score, even if it meant spending extra time on what I struggled with.

A: When I was working on my weaknesses, I always tried to change it up. For example, I would do 30-40 questions in my weaker subjects, then for the remaining questions for the day, I would add different subjects (sometimes one, sometimes all) just to ensure I was studying everything.

Q: How did you approach studying for the MEE and MPT differently, if at all?

A: For the first few weeks, I used notes while answering the essay questions. I wanted to make sure I was able to make my answers correct and organized. After 2-3 weeks, I stopped using notes for subjects I have been over again. I would self-grade a lot, along with the Kaplan essay grades. I practiced A LOT more essays the second time.

A: I focused on the MBE when I was studying for the exam the first time, and I maybe only did 10 essays. I did about 50 essays before the second bar exam. Practicing writing them and the timing was critical. My essay score increased by 23 points.

A: I neglected the MPT the first time around. I did maybe 2 or 3 all of bar study. The second time, for the first four weeks, I did one MPT per week. Then, in the remaining weeks leading up to the bar exam, I did 2 per week. I also participated in Brittany’s simulated exams in additional to my own practice, which was extremely helpful.

Q: What is the most important piece of advice, in light of your experiences, that you would give to someone studying for the bar exam for first time bar passage?

A: Don’t be distracted. Have a good study spot. Do what makes sense to you, you don’t have to follow the program – make it to your liking/benefit. And most importantly, don’t simply read the material and answer the questions, put in the extra effort.

A: Use all of your resources from the law school. I thought I was too busy to attend sessions and the extra practice. I truly believe the study approaches and extra practice made all of the difference this second time around. My score increased by 32 points!

A: Just because you study 12 hours a day, it doesn’t mean it’s effective studying. Make sure what you’re doing counts. When you’re burnt out, stop studying for the day or take more breaks. Don’t let this exam defeat you by being tired – always do what works best for you.

Thank you to our RWU Law alumni for participating in this interview and for being a part of this blog. To the current bar studiers, remember, we are all in this together!

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