I Failed the California Bar Exam: What Should I Do?
If you failed the California Bar Exam, you are not alone! The pass rate in California has been consistently low: it was 40.7% in July 2018 and 27.3% in February 2018. In this post, we provide advice for what you should do if you failed the California bar exam!
I Failed the California Bar Exam: What Should I Do?
First, take a break!
Failing the bar exam comes with all kinds of emotions – anger, sadness, anxiety, despair, embarrassment. The list goes on.
It is hard to work on something and then find out that you did not succeed. Taking a few days to process these emotions is very important. We have a few posts that you may want to read if you failed the California bar exam:
- Read this note to those who failed the bar exam.
- Read this list of famous people who failed the bar exam so you know you are not alone and that you can still do great things despite this minor setback!
- Lastly, you may want to read over some quotes we recommend for those who failed the bar exam.
Don’t try to start studying again the day you find out your results; give yourself some time to process and recover!
Second, wait for your score report.
If you found out that you did not pass because your name did not appear on the pass list on the State Bar of California’s website, wait until you get your score report before doing anything drastic. It will be better to see your score before making any assumptions.
The score report that is mailed to you will contain the score you received for each essay answer, your scaled MBE score, and your national percentile rank for each of the seven subjects tested on the MBE. Don’t lose this information! This will be invaluable in helping you to prepare for the next administration’s bar exam. Your percentile rank amongst California examinees will also be provided for each of the seven subjects.
Obtain your answers.
California will automatically mail the essay answer books of unsuccessful applicants approximately 4-6 weeks after mailing the results. While you should not wait until you receive these answer books to begin studying for the next administration’s exam (if that is your plan), you will definitely want to review your answers and evaluate what went wrong (and what went well!) so that you do not make similar mistakes on the next administration of the California Bar Exam. California generally posts sample student answers shortly after releasing bar exam results. Review your essay answers, compare them to the sample answers, and ask yourself:
- Did I state the law well enough?
- Were my answers organized in IRAC format?
- Did I have any timing issues? Or anxiety issues?
- Was my analysis complete or did I miss key facts?
- Were my conclusions accurate or arguably accurate?
Recognizing what went wrong and learning from those mistakes can be invaluable in ensuring that you pass the next time you take the exam! There is no sense in repeating the same mistakes twice.
Take note of important dates for the next examination.
California estimates that results for the July exam will be released in mid-November and results for the February exam will be released in mid-May. Be sure to check California’s Dates and Deadlines, but you will have approximately 2 weeks to sign up for the next administration’s exam if you plan is to take it again in the next administration.
Reflect on your preparation.
Asking yourself a few key questions if you failed the California bar exam can help you develop a plan for moving forward. Students often find that truly reflecting on their preparation gives them insight into what they did wrong and it also helps show them the path forward.
Some important questions to ask yourself are:
- How much time did I dedicate to studying?
- Do I know the rules well enough?
- Did I practice enough essays?
- Did I answer enough MBE questions? (And, if so, were the practice questions you used actual released questions or were you using course-invented questions?)
- Did I practice Performance Tests?
- Was my study schedule manageable?
Taking time to reflect on these questions will help you come up with a new and efficient approach moving forward?
Commit to changing your approach.
Albert Einstein is quoted with having said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” If your approach to studying did not work and you did not pass the California bar exam, it is not a good idea to do the exact same thing again! Even if you had a tried and true study method in law school, what worked in law school does not always work on the bar exam. Think about how you could study differently or approach the materially different to hopefully change the outcome the next time!
Finally, come up with a plan!
Once you know where you fell short, come up with a plan to conquer your weaknesses. Consider private tutoring if you need a lot of help. Your plan should be tailored to your weaknesses. If you struggled with the MBE, spend more time preparing for the MBE. If you didn’t practice enough essays, for example, come up with a schedule where you write at least five essays a week. Make sure to tailor your plan to the California Bar Exam. We have a variety of California bar exam options, as you can see below!
Looking to Pass the California Bar Exam?
You can read more about our California Bar Exam services, including private tutoring, one-sheets, and essay feedback here.