Failed The South Dakota Bar Exam

I Failed The South Dakota Bar Exam. What Should I Do?

Firstly, if you found out that you failed the South Dakota bar exam, know that you are not alone! We have a note to those who failed the bar exam here.  You have come to the right spot to determine how to prepare for the next administration. Before hopping into the how to come up with a study plan for the next bar exam, it is first important to understand the intricacies of the exam so that you can better prepare.

I Failed The South Dakota Bar Exam. What Should I Do?

What does the South Dakota Bar Exam Consist of?

South Dakota administers the MBE, MEE and MPT, however they are not considered a UBE jurisdiction because it still writes and administers one of its own questions on Indian law. More specifically, South Dakota gives five MEE questions (whereas UBE jurisdictions administer six). The sixth essay question administered in South Dakota is the question that tests Indian law.

The sixth question can test the following: civil jurisdiction, criminal jurisdiction, the Indian Civil Rights Act, the Indian Child Welfare Act and the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. However, pursuant to South Dakota’s rules and regulations regarding the bar exam, the Indian law essay question will not test tribal law or customary law.

South Dakota also administers the MPT, which consists of two tasks, each requiring 90 minutes, or three hours in total. The MPT provides a file and library and presents a task for you to accomplish. It is a “close universe” assignment, so you shouldn’t use any outside knowledge or facts to finish the task. The tasks range from objective memos, persuasive briefs, demand letters, opinion letters and “wildcard” or odd tasks.

Lastly, South Dakota gives the MBE, or a six hour 200 question multiple-choice portion of the exam which tests the following subjects: Constitutional law, Criminal law and procedure, Real Property, Civil Procedure, Contracts, Evidence and Torts.

I Failed the South Dakota Bar Exam, What Should I Do?

If you failed the South Dakota bar exam, and you want to put together a plan to move forward, you should first figure out where you need to improve. According to the Regulations of the Board of Bar Examiners State of South Dakota, examinees must pass each portion of the exam in order to be licensed in the state. This is important to understand because the state only allows you to take the exam three times before forcing you to get permission to sit again. Therefore, you want to take your application to the bar seriously, as you have limited chances.

Pursuant to the regulations, the score of 75% or higher on the written portion—or MEE, MPT and Indian law question, is considered passing. A scaled score of 135 on the MBE is considered passing. It is important to understand your score because if you passed one portion of the exam, you only have to seek permission to re-examine for the portion that you failed. So, if you did really well on the written portion but failed the MBE, you only have to retake the MBE.

So, What Should My Plan of Attack Be?

1. Let it sink in.

First, let it sink in that you have failed the South Dakota bar exam. It is okay to give that some time. In fact, most people need to let it sink in before they are ready to take the next step of moving on.

2. Evaluate your score sheet to determine what portion(s) of the exam you are taking.

Once you are ready to move on, your next step should be determining if you are going to re-take both the written and multiple-choice portion or just one or the other. See the portion of the post above regarding passing scores. This will help you determine how much time you need to study and what subjects you need to review. If you need help evaluating your score report, feel free to contact us.

3. Make a complete bar prep schedule.

The next step is to make a bar prep schedule. Regardless of whether you are taking both portions or just one part of the exam, be sure to start studying early. You should consider all factors—such as whether you are working, full or part time, family obligations, etc. If you have a lot of obligations, you should start even earlier.

At this point you should rank the subjects, for each portion of the exam, from hardest to easiest for you. Then, you should make a schedule starting with the hardest subject and moving towards the easier subject. When making your schedule you want to determine at what point you want to stop studying so that you can simply review and take timed exams. For a more in-depth guide on how to make a bar exam study schedule click here.

4. Make a daily study schedule.

Once you have your overall schedule completed, you should make a daily schedule. This is really important for everyone—regardless of whether you are working or not working. Knowing how you should be spending your time each day will keep you on track. Each week you should allocate time to listen or attend lectures on those subjects that you really struggle. We usually don’t recommend that repeat takers listen to ALL of the lectures again. It is usually a waste of time. However, if there was a subject or two that you really struggled with (or worse, skipped) last time, then you could consider listening to those lectures again.

For a more help on how to create a daily study schedule check out this post.

5. Make active review a priority.

But the bulk of your time should be spent active reviewing. This is why we commonly hear that people have failed the South Dakota bar exam (and bar exams in general). They do not dedicate enough time to actually memorizing the law. Active review simply means you are not passively reading your outline—some active review strategies include rewriting the law, teaching it to someone else, making a chart, or making an attack outline. For more active review strategies click here.

6. Practice applying the law.

Next, be sure that you are spending a big chunk of time practicing application of the law. This means you are practicing MEEs, Indian law essay questions, MBEs and MPTs. You should do both timed and untimed practice. If you really struggle with timing, you should do A LOT of timed practice until you get the timing issues under control. Remember, it doesn’t matter how well you know the law, if you can’t give it to them in the time allotted you won’t be successful with the exam. If you do not struggle with timing, you should still be incorporating that into your practice to ensure that you are on track.

When you practice application of the law, be sure that you are taking time to self-grade. This is true for all portions of the exam—the essays, MPTs and MBEs. Self-grading is arguably the most crucial part of this portion of your preparation because this is where you learn where you are making your mistakes. If you simply go through the motions and don’t take time to figure out what you are doing wrong, you will never learn. For information on how to self-grade essays check out our post.  If you are interested in how to self-grade MPTs click here. Lastly, for a step-by-step guide on how to improve your MBE score check out this post.

7. Change your approach. Get help if necessary!

Another thing to keep in mind, is that you should try to approach the bar exam differently this time around. Think about it like this—whatever you did last time did not work because you didn’t pass. So, instead of wasting time and possibly having to re-take the exam again, you should try to do something different. “Something different” may be exactly what you need to pass. Click here for a post that may help you figure out if you need to do something different this time around by providing a list of questions to ask yourself.

If you failed the South Dakota bar exam and think you need more individualized help in preparing for the next exam, contact us. We would be happy to see what we can do for you.