failed the bar exam, what to do if you failed the bar exam, study plan if you failed the bar exam

Failed the Bar Exam? A Detailed Guide to Creating an Action Plan

If you failed the bar exam, you are not alone! We are going to go through three steps to help ensure that you pass the next bar exam you take:

  • Introduction: we will discuss getting into the right mindset!
  • Step one: we will examine exam day (your scores on each portion of the exam, the number of times you have taken it, and anything unusual that may have affected your score).
  • Step two: we will examine how you studied for the bar exam using a short questionnaire.
  • Step three: we will figure out what you need to change, how you can make a bar exam study schedule, and minor adjustments that can make a big difference in your score.

Please set aside at least an hour to do this! It will take time but you will find it to be invaluable and likely make a huge difference in contributing to a successful bar exam result.

If you just found out that you failed the bar exam, you may want to check out a few resources that particularly help when the results still sting. These include this note to those who failed the bar exam, some quotes for those who failed the bar exam, and this brief article that answers basic questions on what to do if you failed the bar exam.

This post contains a detailed guide to creating an action plan if you failed the bar exam so should be reviewed when you are ready to create an action plan!

Note: we have all the content here for free but if you find it more convenient to have in a PDF form, please download it for free here!

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Failed the Bar Exam? A Detailed Guide to Creating an Action Plan

Introduction: Getting in the Right Mindset

How to Get Motivated as a Repeat Bar Exam Taker


The most common reason repeat bar exam takers have trouble getting motivated is because they feel like they are going to do the same thing again and that their result will not change. And they cannot imagine going through the whole study process again – and the feeling of failing the bar exam again! But, this time will be different!

  • Remind yourself that you are not starting from scratch! You already know a lot from studying before – including how the bar exam experience will be! You are actually at an advantage.
  • If possible, get new study supplies (i.e., pens, pencils, etc.). Study in a new place. Or get a new course or tutor. This will help you avoid feeling like you are in a rut.
  • Analyze what went wrong last time and come up with a new study routine. You may change when, where, or how you study.
  • Find a support system – a tutor, a study buddy, a law school faculty member, etc.
  • Make relieving stress and keeping yourself mentally healthy a priority – e.g., exercise, meditate, consult a therapist, etc.
  • Remind yourself that repeat bar exam takers pass every administration. You can do it!
“And if only we arrange our life in accordance with the principle which tells us that we must always trust in the difficult, then what now appears to us as the most alien will become our most intimate and trusted experience. How could we forget those ancient myths that stand at the beginning of all races, the myths about dragons that at the last moment are transformed into princesses?  Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.” — Rainer Maria Rilke

Advantages of Being a Repeat Bar Exam Taker

It is common to point out the disadvantages of being a repeat bar exam taker. Here, we point out some of the advantages of being a repeat bar exam taker.

  • Remember, you are not starting from scratch! You will not forget what you already know.
  • You have great information at your fingertips (that is, how you scored on at least one bar exam!). Use this information to your advantage!
  • You will feel more comfortable walking into the bar exam next time because you have already done it before. You know what to expect.
  • You have the ability to analyze what went well and what didn’t and tweak your study schedule to make it super-efficient. You will probably study better even if you have less time!
  • You will develop qualities of resilience, perseverance, and courage – which you will have to guide you your whole life!

Common Mistakes Repeat Bar Exam Takers Make

  • Doing the exact same thing again and expecting a different result (i.e., not changing one’s study routine at all)
  • Ignoring valuable data by not analyzing score reports or requesting essays (if possible)
  • Not studying very much because they are “close to passing”
  • Not analyzing how studying went or how the exam went last time
  • Diving into answering practice questions without considering one’s general overall approach
  • Not using available resources (law school, family members or friends, free resources online)

Why Smart People Fail the Bar Exam

  • You think too far outside of the box. Ironically thinking outside of the box can be a fantastic quality for a lawyer to have. However, thinking too creatively or too far outside of the box (the fact pattern) on the bar exam can really hurt your score.
  • You do not know the law well enough. Note that there can be a variety of reasons for this (either you did not have enough time to study or you simply did not study the way that is best-suited to your learning style).
  • You suffer from anxiety during study period and/or during the actual exam.
  • You need to improve your time management. It’s hard to pass an exam you don’t finish!
  • You simply have bad luck.  This can be the flu, an unexpected emergency, locking your keys in your car the day of the bar exam, or a number of other things that happen that can throw you off your game.
  • You did not practice answering questions.  Some students practice too many questions(that is, they go overboard practicing when they do not know the law — see #2 above). But others practice too few because they are waiting to “perfect” their knowledge of the law before trying out any questions. Both are strategies that may cause failure. (But the good news is, there is a happy middle ground!)

Famous People Who Failed the Bar Exam

  • The First Lady Michelle Obama (a graduate of Harvard Law School) failed the Illinois bar exam on her first try.
  • Secretary of State Hillary Clinton failed the DC bar exam the first time she took it. She passed the Arkansas bar after that.
  • President Franklin D. Roosevelt failed the New York bar exam on his first try after attending Harvard College and Columbia Law School
  • John F. Kennedy, Jr. failed the New York bar exam twice before passing it on his third try.
  • Several Governors have failed the bar exam. Former California Governor, Pete Wilson, failed the California bar exam three times before passing it on his fourth try. Two-time governor of California, Jerry Brown, also failed the bar exam.
  • Several Mayors have failed the bar exam, including: New York mayor, Ed Koch; Chicago Mayor, Richard Daley, and Los Angeles Mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa.

Step One: Examining Exam Day 

We are going to start by examining three primary things about exam day:

  • Your scores on each portion of the exam and your overall score
  • How many times you have taken the exam
  • If anything unusual happened that may have artificially lowered your score

Question 1: MBE score

(Note: If your state tells you your percentile, no need to use this chart! Some states, like New York and Washington, will tell you your percentile for each MBE subject as well as your overall percentile, which can be helpful when determining the next step.)

MBE score MBE percentile
165 – 180 98-99
160 96
155 93
150 89
145 81
140 71
135 60
130 45
125 32
120 21
115 12
110 7
105 3
100 1
95 1

*This is based on the Illinois February 2018 percentile equivalent chart. Note: These numbers are subject to change every administration and are not revealed by the examiners. This is an estimate of your percentile.  

What does your percentile mean? It tells you what percent of examinees you scored above. So, if you scored in the 90th percentile, you scored above 90% of examinees. If you scored in the 5th percentile, you scored above 5% of examinees. The higher your percentile, the better you did.

Note

  • To get a score of 130 (which is passing in states that have 260 as a passing UBE score), you need to score in the 45th
  • To get a score of 135 (which is passing in states that have 270 as a passing UBE score), you need to score in the 60th

What is my approximate overall MBE percentile? __________.

Approximately how far is this from passing? ___________.

Question 2: essay score

Approximate overall essay percentile if you are in a Uniform Bar Exam (UBE) state:

Essay score Essay percentile
165 – 180 99
160 98
155 94
150 88
145 81
140 69
135 57
130 44
125 30
120 21
115 13
110 7
105 4
100 2
95 1

What is my overall essay percentile? __________. (If not sure, leave blank)

Essay scores

Most states grade essays (MEE’s) on a scale of 1–6. A 3.9–4.2 is passing. (A 4.0 is passing in UBE jurisdictions that require a 266 to pass.)

  • If you are in New York, you are graded on a scale of 20– A score of 50 is generally considered passing. (See this post for more information on dissecting your New York Bar Exam score report.)
  • If you are in in California, you will have five essays and one performance test. Each essay is worth 100 points and the performance testis worth 200 points. In California, each essay is scored from 40–100 and performance tests are scored from 80– (See this post for more information on California Bar Exam scoring.)

Please state your score on each essay:

  • MEE #1: _____
  • MEE #2: _____
  • MEE #3: _____
  • MEE #4: _____
  • MEE #5: _____
  • MEE #6: _____
  • Average MEE score (add up all six numbers, then divide by six): _______

So, if your scores were 4, 2, 3, 2, 1, 4, add these up and divide by 6. The overall average would be 2.66, which means it is far from a 3.9–4.2 passing range in a jurisdiction that grades on a scale of 1–6.

MPT scores

The grading scale is the same as above.

  • MPT #1: _____
  • MPT #2: _____
  • Average MPT score (add up the numbers for MPT #1 and MPT #2, then divide by two): _________

Question 3: overall Uniform Bar Exam score

This chart will tell you how you scored overall on the Uniform Bar Exam. It is important to pay attention to the percentile you were in and the percentile you need to be in to pass.

Total Score Total percentile
330 99
320 98
310 94
300 90
290 85
280 73
270 58
260 44
250 26
240 17
230 9
220 5
210 2
200 2
190 1

Ask yourself the following questions:

1. In general, how did I score?

    • Far below passing (a score of 150–230)
    • Below passing (10 points or more below passing, a score of 240–250, depending on jurisdiction)
    • A little below passing, (5–10 points below, a score of 250–275, depending on jurisdiction)
    • Very close to passing (a point or a few points away)

Was my score significantly lower on one portion of the test?

    • Yes, the MBE
    • Yes, the MEE
    • Yes, the MPT
    • My scores were about the same

What does this mean?

The lower your score is, the more work you have to do! This section will also tell you if one portion of the test needs significantly more improvement than other portions.

2. How many times have I taken the bar exam?

    • 1 (this was my first exam)
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
    • 5
    • Other: ____

If I am a repeat taker, have I seen significant improvement in between exams (this will vary based on jurisdiction, but your overall score should have improved at least 10 points in a UBE jurisdiction)? ______________.

What does this mean?

If this was your first exam, it may be easier to change your approach and significantly raise your score. However, make sure you do not become complacent. Put the work in and pretend you have to raise your score significantly, even if you do not.

If you have taken the bar exam more than once, you want to look for an improvement in your scores. If you have not seen significant improvement, you should consider majorly changing your approach if you are serious about passing.

3. Did anything very unusual happen that may have affected my score?

Ask yourself if any of the following apply:

    • Major timing issues (missing multiple questions)
    • Major anxiety issues that affected performance
    • Major sleep deprivation issues that affected performance
    • Sickness or illness that affected performance
    • A personal or family emergency (e.g., death, medical emergency, etc.) prior to the exam that affected performance
    • Major life issue or event caused me to not study properly prior to the exam for a lengthy period of time

Ask yourself honestly if any of the above affected your performance.

Most students do not have major issues. If you were feeling anxious during the bar exam, or didn’t sleep your best the night before, that is to be expected. For the above, we are focusing mostly on major issues. Most examinees do not have any of these occur, but occasionally someone will.

What does this mean?

If you did have a major issue that affected exam performance, your score on the exam may have been artificially low (i.e., not a reflection of where you would score on a different day).

What do answers to these questions mean?

It is important to look at your score overall if you failed the bar exam.

For example, if you scored relatively close to passing, and it was your first time taking the exam, you still want to work hard but you may have to modify your approach a little less than someone who is far from passing and has taken and failed the bar exam multiple times. (You may want to pretend your score was far from passing anyway, though, so you maximize your chances of passing on the next attempt.)

If you have taken the bar exam several times and you are not scoring very close to passing, you should consider a complete revamp to your bar exam approach!

Also note: for some students it is easier to improve one portion of the exam over the other (so, for example, some students find it easy to improve their essay score rather than their MBE score). Almost all jurisdictions just require an overall passing score, so if writing is your strength do not ignore the written portion. The fastest way toward boosting your score might be focusing on the written portion.

Step Two: Examining Preparation

Answer the following questions honestly and quickly. We recommend you go with your gut reaction. The questions themselves may immediately raise solutions regarding how you can improve your performance next time.  Potential solutions are discussed in the next step.

Fundamentals

  1. Did I dedicate enough time to studying each week?

No                               Needs improvement                         Yes

  1. Did I dedicate a sufficient number of weeks (8–10 weeks) to study?

No                               Needs improvement                         Yes

  1. Did I have a distraction-free environment to study in?

No                               Needs improvement                         Yes

  1. Was I able to maintain my mental health when I studied (e.g., I didn’t suffer from depression, excessive anxiety, excessive stress or panic attacks, or suicidal thoughts)?

No                               Needs improvement                         Yes

# of No:   ________

# of NI:    ________

# of Yes:  ________

Resources

  1. Did I use a bar review course?

No                               Needs improvement                         Yes

  1. Were my outlines helpful, organized, and easy to review?

No                               Needs improvement                         Yes

  1. Did I use released essay questions (MPTs and MEEs)?

No                               Needs improvement                         Yes

  1. Did I use released MBE questions?

Note: The NCBE, JD Advising, AdaptiBar, and Strategies & Tactics for the MBE (Multistate Bar Exam) by Emanuel offer released questions.

No                               Needs improvement                         Yes  or unsure

# of No:   ________

# of NI:    ________

# of Yes:  ________

Understanding

Would I be able to provide an explanation of the following concepts? (These go to whether you understand the law.) We recommend you actually try to explain these out loud.

  1. Mortgage priorities if there is a wild deed in the chain of title?

No                               Needs improvement                         Yes

  1. Dormant Commerce Clause (levels of scrutiny and when they apply)?

No                               Needs improvement                         Yes

  1. Actual and proximate causation in torts?

No                               Needs improvement                         Yes

  1. The differences between a statement against interest and a party admission?

No                               Needs improvement                         Yes

# of No:   ________

# of NI:    ________

# of Yes:  ________

Memorization

  1. Do I have the law memorized?

No                               Needs improvement                         Yes

  1. Did I focus on the highly tested areas of law?

(If you cannot name a few highly tested areas of law, the answer should be no)

No                               Needs improvement                         Yes

  1. Did I dedicate time each day (at least 1/7th of the study time) to reviewing the law?

No                               Needs improvement                         Yes

  1. Did I use active learning techniques? (if you just read the outline, then state no. Examples of active learning techniques include using flashcards, quizzing yourself, making charts/diagrams, etc.)

No                               Needs improvement                         Yes

# of No:   ________

# of NI:    ________

# of Yes:  ________

Practice questions

  1. Did I practice enough MBE questions? (at least 800)

No                               Needs improvement                         Yes

  1. Did I practice enough MEE questions? (at least 50)

No                               Needs improvement                         Yes

  1. Did I practice enough MPT questions? (at least 10)

No                               Needs improvement                         Yes

  1. Did I review model answers and compare my answers for the essays and MBEs I practiced?

No                               Needs improvement                         Yes

# of No:   ________

# of NI:    ________

# of Yes:  ________

Timing

  1. Did I complete the MBE portion within the appropriate time on exam day?

No                               Needs improvement                         Yes

  1. Did I complete the essays (MEE if you are in a UBE state) within the appropriate time on exam day?

No                               Needs improvement                         Yes

  1. Did I complete the MPT within the appropriate time on exam day?

No                               Needs improvement                         Yes

  1. Did I feel rushed during the bar exam?

No                               Needs improvement                         Yes

# of No:   ________

# of NI:    ________

# of Yes:  ________

Look at sections where you have the most “Nos” and “Needs improvement.”

Those are the most important sections to start with when changing your bar exam plan.

In step three, we will examine each “No” and “Needs improvement”—and determine how you can improve these. You can write down ideas to improve them (feel free to write down ideas you may not even pursue!).

Lastly, go through the “Yes” answers, congratulate yourself on doing well, and make a note on how you are going to continue to maintain these areas. This is also discussed in step three.

Step Three: Coming up with a New Approach 

 Here, we go through the questions above and tell you how you can change your approach based on your responses. Next, we discuss how to create a bar exam study schedule that incorporates these changes.

Review of Answers to Questions

Fundamentals

  1. Did I dedicate enough time to studying each week?

If not, how can I improve this?

  • Take time off work if possible.
  • Seek help with obligations if possible (e.g., childcare or chores).
  • Put time in your calendar to study now so it is blocked off.
  • Consider skipping a bar exam if you have full time obligations that cannot be changed.
  1. Did I dedicate a sufficient number of weeks (8–10 weeks) to study?

If not, how can I improve this?

  • Put time in your calendar to study now so it is blocked off.
  • Consider skipping a bar exam if necessary.

Note: there should be more than enough time if you start studying in the next couple of weeks.

  1. Did I have a distraction-free environment to study in?

If not, how can I improve this? Look at:

  • When you study (e.g., morning may be better than evening)
  • Where you study (e.g., library might be better than at home)
  • How you study (e.g., should not have phone out, delete social media)
  • Who you study with (e.g., by yourself might be best)
  • What you study (e.g., do you make a to-do list every day; otherwise it is easy to get prone to distractions)

It is also helpful to limit the demands on your time. For example, tell family members or friends that you will not have as much time to hang out. Anything that might cause anxiety or guilt while you study can serve as a distraction. So, being up front with others about demands on your time may be helpful.

  1. Was I able to maintain my mental health when I studied (e.g., I didn’t suffer from depression, excessive anxiety, excessive stress or panic attacks, or suicidal thoughts)?

If not, how can I improve this?

Consider the following:

  • Talk to your doctor
  • Incorporate exercise into your schedule
  • Make sure you are sleeping enough
  • Incorporate other stress relievers into your schedule

Mental health is of the utmost importance.

Resources

  1. Did I use a bar review course? 

If not, how can I improve this?

Note that if you paid for a course this does not necessarily mean you used it. Did you watch the lectures, complete the assignments, etc.? If you did not use a course, consider if a course would provide you with better structure, updated materials, and a new approach.

If you did not like your course, you may want to consider a different one, private tutoring, or using other resources. There is not one right answer as to whether you should sign up for a course because it is very personal as to your scores, your study preferences (i.e., having the benefit of a course structure, new materials), etc. You have to be honest with yourself.

We typically do not recommend that you simply repeat the exact same bar review course in the exact same fashion that you used it before. There is no point in doing the same thing twice and expecting a different result!

  1. Were my outlines helpful, organized, and easy to review?

If not, how can I improve this?

Consider:

  • using different outlines (some courses will give you multiple versions of outlines),
  • signing up for a different course (and before choosing one, ask to see samples to make sure that they fit with your learning style), and
  • using best practices (e.g., remember to stick to one outline per subject).

Your outlines are a very important resource. It is possible you did not consult them that much last time as you may have focused on completing lectures and practice problems instead. This next time, make active reviewing of your outlines a priority.

  1. Did I use released essay questions (MPTs and MEEs)?

If not, how can I improve this? Get released questions!

  • The NCBE offers questions and answers for those taking the Uniform Bar Exam or any state that administers the Multistate Performance Test portion of the exam or Multistate Essay Exam portion of the exam. (There are some free samples on the website.)
  • Companies sell them online, including JD Advising.
  • If you are in a state that does not administer the Uniform Bar Exam, check your state’s website.
  • Your bar review course should offer these. Most commercial courses offer released MEE and MPT questions.
  1. Did I use released MBE questions?

Note: The NCBE, JD Advising, AdaptiBar, and Strategies & Tactics for the MBE (Multistate Bar Exam) by Emanuel offer released MBE questions.

If not, how can I improve this?

  • Cheapest source: Strategies & Tactics for the MBE (Multistate Bar Exam) by Emanuel (these are in a paper book you can get on Amazon—get the latest edition, about 550 questions)
  • JD Advising—$300 for over 1,500 questions
  • AdaptiBar—$400 for over 1,500 questions
  • NCBE—most expensive per question, have various packages

Understanding

Would I be able to provide an explanation of the following concepts? (These go to whether you understand the law.) We recommend you actually try to explain these out loud.

If not, how can I improve this?

  • Rewatching helpful course lectures (we don’t recommend you rewatch all of them if you watched them already)
  • bar exam private tutoring
  • Signing up for a different course
  • Other resources—study groups, consult your school to see if they offer something for bar exam takers

Memorization

  1. Do I have the law memorized?

If not, how can I improve this?

  • Focus on one outline per subject.
  • Focus on the highly tested areas (see next step).
  • Break down an outline into manageable chunks (i.e., in Torts, start with “intentional torts” and memorize that, then move on to the next section, i.e., “defenses to intentional torts” and memorize one section at a time).
  • Use active learning techniques.

We discuss a lot of active learning techniques in this blog post on memorization tips and these YouTube videos.

(Note: you can also take our longer (free) bar exam memorization quiz if you are unsure if you struggle with memorization!)

  1. Did I focus on the highly tested areas of law?

(If you cannot name some of the highly tested areas of law, the answer is no.)

If not, how can I improve this?

  • Free MEE Guide—highly tested topics are listed in detail in our free MEE Guide
  • Free MBE Guide—highly tested topics are listed in detail in our free MBE Guide
  • Free California Essay Guide: highly tested topics are listed in detail in our free California Essay Guide
  1. Did I dedicate time each day (at least 1/7th of the study time) to reviewing the law?

If not, how can I improve this?

  • Add in dedicated review time to your study schedule every day. The best time to review an outline is within 24 hours of watching a lecture on the subject. (You will retain significantly more if you do this.) Put your dedicated memorization time at your best time of day (so, in the morning if you study best in the morning). Memorization requires a lot of concentration and focus. So, you will set yourself up for success if you aim to complete this task at your best time of day.
  • Focus on memorizing one outline per week but also dedicate some time to review past outlines so that you keep the information retained (i.e., a retention schedule). So, if you review Torts in week one, look at it again (at least briefly) in the following weeks (week two, week three, etc.).
  1. Did I use active learning techniques? (If you just read the outline, then state No. Examples of active learning techniques include using flashcards, quizzing yourself, making charts/diagrams.)

If not, how can I improve this?

Practice questions

  1. Did I practice enough MBE questions? (at least 800)

If not, how can I improve this?

  • Complete 80 questions per week if you study for 10 weeks. You can do less in the beginning and incorporate more timed exams at the end. This is 16 questions per day for five days.
  1. Did I practice enough MEE questions? (at least 50)

If not, how can I improve this?

  • This is at least five questions per week if you study for 10 weeks. So, this is one question per day for five days.
  • It would be better if, once you got the structure for an essay answer down, you completed more than five per week by bullet pointing essays.
  1. Did I practice enough MPT questions? (at least 10)

If not, how can I improve this?

  • This is one question per week if you study for 10 weeks. We recommend you complete at least 20 MPTs in total—so a minimum of two per week, and some students may need to complete more.
  1. Did I review model answers and compare my answers for the essays and MBEs I practiced?

If not, how can I improve this?

The key to improving your score is to self-grade your answers. Basically, after you are a student answering a question, switch into teacher mode where you grade the question like a teacher or grader would. This is critical to seeing score improvement. Otherwise, you are just doing a lot of work without learning much from it!

With regard to MBE questions, it is crucial to slow down and answer questions methodically rather than racing through them. This can also help with issues of understanding, memorization, and even timing. Students have improved their score significantly by switching to a slow and methodical approach.

Timing

  1. Did I complete the MBE within the appropriate time on exam day?

If not, how can I improve this?

  • Use released questions when you practice (these will get you most used to the difficulty and the format of the exam).
  • Start practicing doing timed tests earlier on—two months before the exam. Set up a schedule that might look like the following:
    • 33 questions in an hour
    • 66 questions in two hours
    • 100 questions in three hours
  • Develop a scantron strategy so you can allow yourself to move on if you don’t know the answer.
  • Answer the questions slowly and methodically as noted above.
  • Learn the law better, and focus on the highly tested areas of law.

Read MBE timing tips here.

  1. Did I complete the essays (MEE if you are in a UBE state) within the appropriate time on exam day?

If not, how can I improve this?

  • Read the call of the question and facts carefully.
  • Omit background information.
  • Learn the highly tested areas of law.
  • Use released essay questions when you practice (see above for sources).
  • Start practicing doing timed tests earlier on—two months before the exam. Set up a schedule that might look like the following:
    • Two questions in an hour
    • Four questions in two hours
    • Six questions in three hours

Read more MEE timing tips here.

  1. Did I complete the MPT within the appropriate time on exam day?

If not, how can I improve this?

  • Use released MPTs.
  • Make sure you get the basic MPT formatting
  • Try a different way of approaching the MPT.
    • Don’t brief cases!
    • Outline while you read the MPT.
  • Set up a schedule where you are timing yourself.
    • One MPT in 90 minutes (x3)
    • Two MPTs in three hours (x3)

Remember, if you are in a Uniform Bar Exam state, the MPT is worth 20% of your overall score. Consider dedicating 20% of your time (one full day a week if you study five full days a week) to the MPT.

Read more MPT timing tips here.

  1. Did I feel rushed during the bar exam?

If not, how can I improve this?

  • Incorporate the above timing practices into your schedule
  • Try doing a few full timed sections (i.e., three hours of MBE, three hours of essays, etc.) before the exam. Some people feel rushed due to anxiety so practice exams ahead of time can be helpful.
  • Work on mindfulness techniques such as meditation, visualization, and affirmations.

How to Create a Bar Exam Study Schedule

Two-month bar exam study schedule

If you are doing bar prep on your own, you may wonder where to begin! Many students ask us how to create a great bar exam study schedule. Below we have a two-month bar exam self-study schedule for you to follow. It tells you what to review, how many MBE questions to complete, and which questions to answer, We link to as many free resources as possible. (However, some resources are worth the investment, and we list them below as well.)

Note: We actually highly recommend students invest in a bar exam preparatory course and have our own great, affordable, highly rated option here. But if you cannot or choose not to, here is the next best thing!

Our two-month bar exam study schedule will have you do all of the following:

  • Review all of the Uniform Bar Exam subjects
  • Complete 1,360 Multistate Bar Exam (MBE) questions
  • Complete 72 Multistate Essay Exam (MEE) essays
  • Complete 19 Multistate Performance Test (MPT) problems
  • Study for 56 days with eight days off (so 48 days of actual studying!)

Before you get started…

Before you get started, please review these resources—particularly the free MEE and MPT links as you will rely on them heavily if you follow the two-month bar exam self-study schedule below:

FREE resources to consult throughout

We tell you to complete MEEs and MPTs throughout the study schedule. Please find links to all of them for FREE here:

Supplements we highly recommend you invest in

Investing in these supplements will help you pass the bar exam. They are WELL worth the investment.

  • Released MBE questions—through the our MBE Qbank, or Strategies & Tactics for the MBE (Multistate Bar Exam) by Emanuel, the NCBE, or AdaptiBar.
  • We also recommend our MPT Guide. Many students struggle with the MPT. This guide breaks down the MPT in a step-by-step format.

We also have a list of recommended supplements below.

Notes before beginning

  • This bar exam self-study schedule packs a lot into each day. If you can spread out your study schedule beyond these two months, please do!
  • MEEs can be written or bullet pointed. You should self-grade all of the MEEs you write. If you struggle with timing, you should write out more full MEEs and do so in a timed setting.

Bar exam study schedule: a two-month self-study plan

The two-month (eight-week) self-study bar exam schedule is below! Please modify it as it suits your needs. This is just a general schedule for you to follow.

Day 1: Real Property

Day 2: Real Property

Day 3: Real Property

  • Review Real Property outline
  • Feb 2012 Real Property MEE
  • July 2013 Real Property MEE
  • 30 Real Property MBE questions
  • Review our free guide on highly tested MEE topics(and save it as a reference)

Day 4: Torts

  • Review Real Property outline
  • Review Torts outline
  • 30 Torts MBE questions

Day 5: Torts

  • Review Torts outline
  • Feb 2011 Torts MEE
  • Feb 2012 Torts MEE
  • 30 Torts MBE questions

Day 6: review and practice

  • Review Torts and Real Property in depth
  • July 2012 Torts MEE
  • 30 Torts MBE questions
  • Review entire MPT Guide

Day 7: OFF

Day 8: Evidence 

  • Briefly review Torts and Real Property
  • Review Evidence outline
  • July 2014 Evidence MEE
  • 30 Evidence MBE questions

Day 9: Evidence

  • Review Evidence outline
  • Feb 2011 Evidence MEE
  • July 2013 Evidence MEE
  • 30 Evidence MBE questions

Day 10: Evidence

  • Review Evidence outline
  • Feb 2012 Evidence MEE
  • 30 Evidence MBE questions

Day 11: MPT

  • Review Evidence
  • MPT: read about Objective Memo in the MPT Guide and complete baby MPT
  • MPT: look at July 2011 Objective Memo to see format (In re Field Hogs, Inc.) and jot out answer untimed. (Note: all other MPTs from here on out should be timed!)
  • MPT: 90 minutes, Feb 2014 (In re Peterson Engineering Consultants)

Day 12: review and practice

  • Review Torts, Real Property, and Evidence
  • 30 Evidence, Torts, Real Property MBE questions (10 each, mixed)
  • MPT: 90 minutes, July 2014 (In re Kay Struckman)

Day 13: Wills (Decedents’ Estates) and Trusts

  • Review Wills outline
  • Review Trusts outline
  • MEE 3 questions, 90 minutes
    • July 2013 Wills MEE
    • Feb 2013 Trusts MEE
    • Feb 2011 Trusts MEE

Day 14: OFF

Day 15: Wills (Decedents’ Estates) and Trusts

  • Briefly review past outlines from prior weeks (e.g., Torts, Real Property)
  • Review Wills outline
  • Review Trusts outline
  • Review difficult areas of Evidence outline
  • July 2012 Trusts MEE
  • Feb 2013 Evidence MEE
  • 30 Evidence, Torts, and Real Property MBE questions (10 each, mixed)

Day 16: MPT—Persuasive Memo

  • Briefly review areas above you are having trouble with
  • Review Wills and Trusts outlines
  • MEE 3 questions, 90 minutes
    • July 2011 Trusts MEE
    • Feb 2012 Wills MEE
    • Feb 2011 Wills MEE
  • MPT: read about Persuasive Briefs in MPT Guide and complete baby MPT
  • MPT: 90 minutes Feb 2014 (In re Rowan)
  • MPT: 90 minutes July 2012 (Ashton v. Indigo Construction Co.)

Day 17: Constitutional Law

  • Review Constitutional Law outline
  • July 2011 Constitutional Law MEE
  • July 2012 Constitutional Law MEE
  • 30 Constitutional Law MBE questions
  • MPT: 90 minutes, July 2013 (Monroe v. Franklin Flags Amusement Park

Day 18:  Constitutional Law, Conflict of Laws

  • Review Constitutional Law outline
  • Review Conflict of Laws outline
  • Feb 2013 Constitutional Law MEE
  • Feb 2014 Constitutional Law MEE
  • 30 Constitutional Law MBE questions
  • MPT: 90 minutes, Feb 2013 (In re Guardianship of Will Fox)

Day 19: MPTs—Demand Letter

  • Review Constitutional Law outline
  • Review Conflict of Laws outline
  • July 2012 Wills/Conflict of Laws
  • 30 Constitutional Law MBE questions

Day 20: MPTs—Demand Letter

  • Review Constitutional Law outline and Conflict of Laws outline
  • MPT: Read about Demand Letters in MPT Guide and complete Baby MPT
  • MPT: 90 minutes, July 2014 (In re Linda Duram)

Day 21: OFF

Day 22: Contracts and Sales

  • Briefly review past outlines from prior weeks
  • Briefly review Constitutional Law outline
  • Review Contracts and Sales outline
  • Feb 2011 Contracts MEE
  • Feb 2012 Contracts MEE
  • 30 Contracts MBE questions

Day 23: Contracts and Sales and MPTs—Opinion Letter

  • Continue to briefly review past outlines from prior weeks
  • Review Contracts and Sales outline
  • July 2014 Contracts MEE
  • 30 Contracts MBE questions
  • MPT: read about Opinion Letters in MPT Guide and complete Baby MPT
  • MPT: 90 minutes, Feb 2013 (In re Wendy Martel)

Day 24: Contracts and Sales

  • Review Contracts and Sales outline
  • MEE 3 questions, 90 minutes
    • Feb 2013 Contracts MEE
    • July 2013 Contracts MEE
    • Feb 2014 Trusts MEE
  • 30 Contracts MBE questions
  • MPT: 90 minutes, Feb 2012 (In re WPE Property Development)

Day 25: catch up day

Day 26: review and timed practice

  • Review Constitutional Law and Contracts & Sales
  • Briefly review Torts, Real Property, Evidence
  • MPT: 90 minutes
  • 30 Contracts and Constitutional Law MBE questions (15 each, mixed)

Day 27: Criminal Law and Procedure

  • Review Criminal Law and Procedure outline
  • 30 Criminal Law and Procedure MBE questions
  • July 2011 Criminal Law and Procedure MEE

Day 28: OFF

Day 29: Criminal Law and Procedure

  • Briefly review past outlines from prior weeks
  • Review Criminal Law and Procedure outline
  • July 2012 Criminal Law and Procedure MEE
  • MBE: 100-question MBE timed (optional, without Civil Procedure)

Day 30: Criminal Law and Procedure

  • Continue to briefly review past outlines from prior weeks
  • Review Criminal Law and Procedure outline
  • Feb 2014 Criminal Law and Procedure MEE
  • July 2014 Criminal Law and Procedure MEE
  • 30 Criminal Law and Procedure MBE questions

Day 31: Civil Procedure

  • Review Civil Procedure outline
  • Feb 2012 Civil Procedure/Conflict of Laws MEE
  • July 2014 Civil Procedure MEE
  • 30 Civil Procedure MBE questions

Day 32: Civil Procedure

  • Review Civil Procedure outline
  • July 2013 Civil Procedure MEE
  • Feb 2011 Civil Procedure MEE
  • 50 Civil Procedure MBE questions timed

Day 33: Civil Procedure

  • Review Civil Procedure outline
  • MEE 3 questions, 90 minutes
    • Feb 2013 Civil Procedure MEE
    • July 2012 Civil Procedure MEE
    • July 2011 Civil Procedure MEE

Day 34:

  • Review Civil Procedure outline—difficult areas
  • Feb 2014 Civil Procedure MEE
  • 30 Civil Procedure and Criminal Law/Procedure MBE questions mixed (15 each)

Day 35: OFF

Day 36: review and timed practice

  • Review all MBE subjects and MEE subjects to date
  • MBE: 100-question MBE timed

Day 37: Secured Transactions

  • Review Secured Transactions outline
  • MEE 3 questions, 90 minutes
    • Feb 2011 Secured Transactions MEE
    • July 2011 Secured Transactions MEE
    • July 2012 Secured Transactions MEE
  • 30 Civil Procedure and Criminal Law/Procedure MBE questions mixed (15 each)

Day 38: Secured Transactions, MPTs—Wildcard Tasks

  • Briefly review Secured Transactions outline
  • Feb 2013 Secured Transactions MEE
  • Feb 2014 Secured Transactions MEE
  • More MBE questions as necessary
  • MPT: read about Wildcard Tasks in MPT Guide
  • MPT: 90 minutes, July 2013 (Palindrome Recording Contract)

Day 39: Family Law, MPTs—Wildcard Tasks

  • Briefly review Secured Transactions outline
  • Review Family Law outline
  • July 2011 Family Law/Conflict of Laws MEE
  • July 2012 Family Law MEE
  • July 2013 Family Law MEE
  • MPT: 90 minutes, July 2012 (State of Franklin v. Soper)

Day 40: Corporations and LLCs, Agency and Partnership

  • Review Corporations and LLCs outline
  • Review Agency and Partnership outline
  • Feb 2012 Corporations MEE (bullet point)
  • Feb 2012 Partnership MEE (bullet point)
  • Feb 2014 Agency and Partnership MEE (bullet point)
  • More MBE questions as necessary
  • MPT: 90 minutes, Feb 2012 (Franklin Resale Royalties Legislation)

Day 41: Corporations and LLCs, Agency and Partnership

  • Review difficult areas of Corporations and LLCs
  • Review difficult areas of Agency and Partnership outline
  • July 2013 Torts/Agency MEE (bullet point)
  • Feb 2011 Corporations MEE (bullet point)
  • July 2011 Partnership MEE (bullet point)
  • Feb 2013 Agency MEE (bullet point)
  • MBE: 100 question MBE timed (optional)

Day 42: OFF

Day 43: review and timed practice

  • Review all MBE subjects and MEE subjects to date (part 1)
  • MEE 3 questions, 90 minutes, Feb 2010 exam (first half)
  • If you need more Corporations practice, briefly bullet point
    • July 2012 Corporations MEE
    • July 2013 Corporations MEE
    • July 2014 Corporations MEE
  • MPT: 3 hours, Feb 2010 MPT if additional practice is needed

Day 44: review and timed practice

  • Continue to review all MBE subjects and MEE subjects (part 2)
  • Set up a brief schedule for reviewing in the next 10 days
  • MBE: 100-question MBE timed
  • MPT: 90 minutes, Feb 2011 MPT #1 (In re Magnolia County)

Day 45: review and timed practice

  • MPT: 90 minutes, Feb 2011 MPT #2 (Franklin Resale Royalties Legislation)
  • MEE 3 questions, 90 minutes, Feb 2010 exam (second half)

Day 46: review and timed practice

  • Review
  • MBE: 100-question MBE timed

Day 47: review and timed practice

  • Review
  • MBE: 100-question MBE timed

Day 48: review and timed practice

  • Review
  • MPT: 3 hours, July 2010 MPT (both MPTs administered)

Day 49: OFF

Day 50: review and timed practice

  • Review
  • MEE 6 questions, July 2010 exam

Day 51: review and practice as necessary

Day 52: review and practice as necessary

Day 53: review and practice as necessary

Day 54: review and practice as necessary

  • Finish packing for the bar exam

Day 55: review and practice as necessary

Day 56: OFF

Take the bar exam!

How to Create a Daily Bar Exam Study Schedule

This schedule contains all the components necessary to succeed on the bar exam. To make it bigger, you can click on it and it will open in a browser.

What to Include in Your Daily Bar Exam Study Schedule

As you can see from the above sample bar exam study schedule, there are a few items you want to include in your schedule on a daily basis:

  • Listening to lecture is a critical component of your bar review course. A lecture should help you understand the law (so you can best memorize and apply it!)
  • Memorize the law. Many students do not prioritize this! Do not put this off until your review period. Make sure that you are memorizing the law on a daily basis. It is best to memorize within 24 hours after you attend lecture. The material is freshest in your mind at that point! Start with the highly tested areas so you are maximizing your study time.
  • Complete essays, multiple-choice questions, and Multistate Performance Tests (MPTs) (if your state bar exam administers MPTs). It is critical to practice applying what you know every day.
  • Exercise. Some students forego exercise so they can study more. But, you will study much more efficiently and find you are much more productive if you incorporate exercise into your daily routine. You don’t have to train for a marathon. Even something small, like going on a walk to clear your head, will do wonders for your ability to understand difficult concepts, focus, and retain information.
  • Regular breaks. We advise you take breaks every day (i.e., at breakfast time, lunch time, and dinner time, and to exercise). We also advise you take longer breaks at least once a week. You can easily take a full day off every week during bar prep if you are spending the other six days a week effectively.

How Your Study Schedule May Differ from the Sample Study Schedule

We don’t recommend that you just copy and paste the schedule above! Here are some ways your schedule may differ from the sample schedule above:

  • You may study at different times. If you do your best work in the morning, 10:00 a.m. might be too late to get started. You may want to start studying at 5:00 a.m. and end much earlier. Tailor your schedule to when you do your best work!
  • You may want to listen to lecture later in the afternoon. Some students find it more helpful to get their hard work of memorizing or answering practice questions done in the morning. They prefer to listen to lectures later since this is a more passive activity.
  • You may want to spend six days instead of seven days a week studying. In fact, we recommend this! Breaks are important and often students find it helpful to have a day to clear their head and gear up for the next week.
  • You may want to switch up your daily routine. Some people thrive with structure and doing the same things each day. Others want to mix things up! If you like to mix things up, you may want to flip-flop your schedules some days (i.e., complete essay and MBE questions in the morning, and lecture/memorization in the evening).

Your schedule may also look completely different than this, and that is okay! This is just a sample schedule.

The last note we want to make is that at some point during the week, it is a good idea to take a few minutes to reflect on what is working for you and what isn’t. For example, if you are spending a long time on lectures and don’t find them very helpful, is there a way you can spend less time—e.g., watch them on 1.5x or 2x speed? Consider how you can tweak your schedule to make the best use of your time. 

Fill-in-the-Blanks Bar Exam Study Schedule

daily bar exam study schedule fill in the blanks

Resources to Consider as a Repeat Taker

There are a lot of other resources you should consider if you failed the bar exam. Some may be obvious and others may not be so obvious. Remember, that you are not the only person invested in your success! Your family, your law school, and your future employer all want you to pass the bar exam!

Personal Resources:

Some personal resources you should consider using are:

  • Family and friends (e.g., to help with chores, child care, errands)
  • School (e.g., provide extra resources, incentive to improve repeat taker bar pass rates)
  • Employer (e.g., pay for course, time off)
  • Free resources online (e.g., we have numerous blogs, guides, YouTube videos, etc.)

Other supplements we recommend if it is in your budget:

  • On Demand Course: Our full-service On Demand Course is rated five stars among students due to our expert instruction, top-notch outlines, and real, released practice questions.
  • Private tutoring: We offer personalized, one-on-one tutoring for all portions of the bar exam. We offer tutoring both online and in person. With your purchase, you receive an outline relevant to the topic you are discussing. (We recommend early application!)
  • Our MEE One-Sheetsand MBE One-Sheets contain the most highly tested areas of law on the MEE/MBE and are one of our best selling products.

Contact Information:

Please contact us if you have any questions!

Note: we have all the content here for free but if you find it more convenient to have in a PDF form, please download it for free here!

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