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The Second Time Around: 9 Tips for Retaking the Bar

Learning that you did not pass the bar exam is one of the more discouraging moments of your career.  After three years of law school and hours of studying to prepare for the bar exam, the prospect of having to take it again is hard to swallow.  While it may be difficult, it is important to turn your attention to taking the bar again.  Here are a few ideas for how to increase the likelihood of passing the bar exam the second time.


  1. Review your scores from the 1st exam to determine your strengths and weaknesses. Review your scores from the prior exam to help determine how you should study for the next exam. If the essay sections were your weakness, writing essays should be a priority. If your multistate score was weak you need to do hundreds of practice questions under timed conditions. If you are in state with performance tests and those were your weakness, you must practice organizing lots of information under the pressure of time. Make sure your understand how the questions and sections are weighted. That will help you to know on which areas to focus.


  1. Create a study schedule. Create a schedule that incorporates time to review the substantive law and do practice questions for each area of law on the bar exam.  Time should also be set aside to do at least one practice exam and performance test, if applicable.


  1. Do practice questions. Do many, many, many practice questions.  Initially, you can take your time and look back at your materials as you do the questions. This will help you learn the law.  Eventually, you should do the practice questions under timed conditions without looking at your materials. It is important to finish the exam. If you take too much time on any question there will be insufficient time for other questions. Practicing under timed conditions will help you get used to working quickly. Be sure to carefully review sample answers.


  1. Do full practice exam. Do practice exams under exam- like conditions.  That means sitting for at least 3 hours for a morning session and 3 hours for an afternoon session. No food, drinks or looking at materials allowed. Practice at a time and place where you will not be distracted. After you finish, review the sample answers carefully to gain information about how to organize an answer and what information to include.


  1. Get a Study Partner. This can be a great idea for retaking the bar exam- it can also be a bad idea.  A study partner is truly a double edged sword!  A study partner can be a great asset if they are 1) motived 2) on schedule (work out a schedule together) and 3) they do not panic!!!  Be careful in your choice of study partners that they are positive about the two of you passing together and they will keep you on task.  It is also extremely important that the two of you practice and write out your exams under timed conditions!  Just make sure that your study partner is also positive and is someone who you can deal with when studying for long periods of time together.


  1. Get a tutor or take a class focusing on weak areas. Having taken the bar exam and reviewed your scores, you should consider working with a tutor or taking a specialized class to work on your weak areas. For example, if writing essays is your weakness, you can take a class that focuses on writing essays. There are classes that focus on the performance test.  In those classes the instructor will provide strategies and review practice essays or performance tests that you write.


  1. Set aside sufficient time to study and minimize distractions. You should organize your life to minimize distractions during the two months prior to the exam. The amount of study time needed varies with each person. You should try to allocated at least 6 hours of study time per day during the 2 months prior to the exam. Identify a place to study with minimal distractions such as a library. You should let the people in your life know that you need to focus on preparation and need large blocks of time to study.


  1. Type exam rather then write it, if that is an option.  If you hand wrote the first exam, you should consider typing it on a lap top computer this time, if that is an option. The advantage of typing is that you produce a neater product that is easier for the grader to read.  It is easier to edit what you write, and add or delete information as you go.


  1. Take breaks and take care of yourself.  Studying for the bar exam is a stressful experience, particularly after not passing it the first time. Be sure to take care of yourself during this time. Get enough sleep and take time to relax and do something fun.




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