I Failed the Michigan Bar Exam. What Should I do?

failed the michigan bar exam, michigan bar exam private tutoringI Failed the Michigan Bar Exam. What Should I do? If you failed the Michigan bar exam, you may not know what do next. We recommend you follow the following steps.

I Failed the Michigan Bar Exam. What Should I Do?

First, give yourself time to grieve.

It is not easy to fail a bar exam! It is emotionally and physically exhausting. Give yourself time to be sad, angry, or whatever. It is necessary or else you will not be ready to tackle the next bar exam.

In the meantime, we also recommend you read this note to those who failed the bar exam and this list of famous people who failed the bar exam so you know you are not alone!  Lastly, you may want to read over some quotes we recommend for those who failed the bar exam. Sometimes this step takes a day. However, sometimes it takes a week or a little longer. If you find yourself in a deep depression or sadness after too long, it is worth it to seek professional help.

Second, analyze your score report when it arrives. 

Your score report will arrive in a couple days. It will look like this.

Multiple Choice score: It will say “Your examination results reflect an MBE scaled score of ________” This is your MBE (multiple choice) score. A 135 is considered to be a passing score. Thus, if you were above a 135, your score was passing. If you scored below a 135, the farther away from a 135 you were, the more work you have to do to pass.

If you scored really low (below a 115) you likely need a lot of help. If you were between a 115 and 125, you still need help!  Wondering how much help you need? Read this post on “What does my MBE score mean?” or watch this youtube video. We break it down for you here.

Essay score:  Next, it will list the scores you received on the individual essays (below the corresponding number)  as well as the total score.

 Your essay scores are listed in the following order for the February 2017 Michigan Bar Exam

  1. Family Law
  2. Workers’ Compensation
  3. Conflicts of Law
  4. Personal Property
  5. Wills
  6. Real Property
  7. Contracts
  8. Creditors’ Rights
  9. Evidence
  10. Criminal Law
  11. Criminal Procedure
  12. Constitutional Law
  13. Partnership
  14. Torts
  15. Civil Procedure

A score of 7 is considered passing. A 10 is a perfect score. Below a score of 7 is not considered passing.

Next, the score report will say, “Your converted essay score was ______” A 135 is considered to be a passing score. If you scored below a 135, you did not technically pass the essay portion.

You can use your score report to see if you did better on your MBE or the essay portion of the exam. For example, if your MBE score was a 120, you have some work to do on the MBE. If it was a 135, you just passed the MBE. The same would go with the converted essay score. This will tell you if you need to focus on the MBE or essays more.

You are welcome to email us your score report at [email protected] and we are happy to decode it for you and tell you what you need to work on, free of charge. 

Third, request your essays.

The Michigan Board of Law Examiners’ allows you to request your essays to see how you did on them. Directions on how to do this will come with your score report.  We strongly recommend you take this step, even if you do not particularly feel like analyzing them.  These essays can provide invaluable information moving forward.

Fourth, consider an appeal:

If you are close to passing (meaning a 132 or above) consider appealing. Out of the six appeals that passed in the state for the July 2016 Michigan bar exam, we wrote five of them. So we know what it takes to win a successful bar exam appeal!

We are happy to read over your essays, free of charge, and let you know if we recommend an appeal. If you scored much lower than that, it is not worth appealing absent a compelling error.

Fifth, consider how you studied and what you need to do moving forward!

Now that you have analyzed your Michigan bar exam score report and how you performed on the actual essays, it is time to look at how you spent the days leading up to the bar exam. Specifically, analyze exactly how you prepared. What did you do well? What did you need to work on? Are there areas of law you still do not understand? Did you spend enough time studying or did you also have other obligations? Were you able to take enough practice MBEs and practice questions? Were you using released questions or did you use questions a course made up? Was your study schedule helpful? How many timed exams did you take? Did you memorize the law to the extent you needed to?

Also, consider other factors that may have contributed to failing. Did you struggle with timing? Were you very anxious? How many times have you taken the bar exam? If you have taken the bar exam multiple times, it is worth it to get a new approach right away.

So, be very honest with yourself! A few hours of truly analyzing your preparation can make a huge difference in how you prepare for (and if you pass) the next Michigan bar exam.

Lastly, come up with a new approach for the Michigan bar exam.

Do not do the same thing twice and expect a different result!! Do not sit through Barbri again, or use the exact same approach. You need a new approach if you want to pass the Michigan bar exam.

We offer several Michigan bar exam options, including:

  • Michigan bar exam appeals. We wrote 5 of the 6 passing Michigan bar exam appeals in the state for the July 2016 bar exam. If you are close, it is worth considering an appeal.
  • A full-service Michigan bar exam course, which is complete with outlines completely tailored to the Michigan bar exam, released multiple-choice questions, and essay questions. You can read more about the course here as well as download a copy of the syllabus.
  • A Michigan bar exam essay course which is super-popular even among those who take standard commercial courses, as we give you a huge advantage on essay day. To read more about the Michigan bar exam essay course, please see this link.
  • Private tutoring for the Michigan bar exam. You cannot beat one-on-one private tutoring. You can sign up for one session or 30 sessions (or any number in between). To learn about our private tutoring services, click here.
  • We have a Michigan bar exam seminar that is held approximately two weeks before the bar exam and has received raving reviews. In it, we predict what will (and will not) be on the exam and we give an (approximate) 45-page outline to students to review.
  • We have a book, How to Pass the Michigan Bar Exam, which contains our strategy for the bar exam, the past five bar exams with model answers and student answers, as well as (our student’s favorites…) “one-sheets” – each essay topic summarized in one sheet!
  • We offer an MBE Strategies workshop. We offer this workshop both one-on-one and in a group setting.

Looking for other helpful posts?

Here are some other posts you may find helpful if you failed the Michigan bar exam.


Ashley Heidemann scored over a 180 on the Michigan Bar Exam in February of 2011. She offers private one-on-one tutoring for bar exam students nationwide as well as Michigan bar exam courses and seminars  and also writes Michigan bar exam appeals. For any questions about her bar exam services, please click here.

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