the desertion

it's hot and dry out here

Month: October, 2013

What I Did Differently When I Took the Bar Exam Again

Now that most states’ bar exam results are out, I am hearing a lot of good news and bad news. Some of my friends are happy to share that they have passed the exam, and others are sad to report that they have failed the exam. One of my friends asked me, “What did you do differently the second time around?”

Since lists are clear and concise, I will discuss the answer to this question in the form of a list.

What I Did Differently When I Took the Bar Exam for a Second Time

  • Forget Barbri’s study schedule. It doesn’t work for everyone. It drove me crazy so I created my own schedule that worked for me.  For me, studying just one or two topics a day was better than studying many topics without any level of mastery before moving on to the next thing. I felt like I needed to “get it” before I moved on to the next topic. I started studying early, and I would spend anywhere between 1 and 3 days per topic. That way I had plenty of time to fit all the topics in, and I was able to study them all in depth to the point where I felt like I “got it.”
  • When you get your score back, if MC is higher than Essay, or vice versa, don’t neglect the format you did better on. For example, if you did poorly in the MC, don’t only study MC on your second time around. Clearly, put emphasis on your weak format, but don’t let your stronger format by the wayside. Too many times I have heard of other test takers who failed a second time because when they went to re-study, they only studied the area they were weakest in. Essentially, their score flip-flopped, and they still failed.
  • Create an Error Log. I created an error log in the form of an Excel spreadsheet. Every time I got a multiple choice question wrong, I would write down the area of law, the subtopic, the rule needed to answer the question, and an explanation as to why I got the question wrong.  This is a tedious task, but it is important because journaling your wrong answers helps you to fully understand why you got it wrong. If you know why you got a question wrong, you won’t get it wrong twice. You will spot it right away and know exactly what answer to look for.
  • Make flash cards. I was never a flashcard person. I was never that person who made flash cards and studied from them. Flash cards always seemed stupid and a waste of time. But I wanted to pass in this jurisdiction and I was not too proud to try something new and different. I made flash cards every day for questions I would get wrong, and I also made flash cards for good rule statements I wanted to use in essays. I reviewed the flash cards in the evening while sitting on the couch with my husband. He would run through them with me and it was nice to have a study buddy. I looked forward to it every evening. The flash cards were great for all those stupid little things you need to know for criminal law (M’Naghten, MPC, Irresistible Impulse, Durham). I always kept screwing those up before but the flash cards helped a lot. 
  • Try the Kaplan MBE questions. I feel like after I started doing the Kaplan MBE questions, I really started to see a jump in my MBE score. They’re worded differently and they get you to see a different side to the questions. If you have already spent your life savings on Barbri, go on craigslist or ebay and try to find an old Kaplan MBE set rather than sign up for the entire program. Also, you could check your law library. Some schools keep old bar prep materials lying around.
  • Read every essay in the book. In the last week and a half before the exam, I spent a lot of time with the Barbri essay book. I would sit on the couch for hours and just read essay after essay. No outlining, no writing, just reading. I read through each essay and model response. I must have read almost every single essay in the book. If you go through each essay, at least in this minimal manner, you will see every “trick” they try to put in there. Nothing will really be a surprise once you hit the exam. I picked up a lot of great canned rule statements this way, and I would copy them down on flash cards to review later. 
  • Create your own outlines based off of the lecture handouts and the Conviser. I hate creating outlines but really it’s the best way to internalize the knowledge. You pick up so much just by organizing all the information yourself. I never understood evidence. In fact, I almost failed it in law school. By the time I finished compiling that evidence outline for the bar, I felt that I finally got a grasp on the topic. Even if you don’t have time to review the outlines you create, the act of creating them is the act of studying and memorizing the material all in one. 


I feel like this blog has finally come full circle. I originally started the blog to chronicle my experience after I failed the bar exam. I wrote about a lot of things that I did differently in my second time around. I also wrote a long post about what to expect on the dates of the exam. I really hope you all have found the information helpful, but most importantly, I hope that my experience inspires you and gives you hope. You can overcome failing the bar. Life goes on. You study again, but in a different way, and then you pass.

When I found out I passed, I cried tears of sweet relief. I probably cried for a solid 10 minutes. I couldn’t even open my eyes long enough to see my name on the pass list. My husband asked me to rank my feelings from strongest to weakest. The order I came up with was: 1) relief 2) disbelief 3) accomplishment, at a distant third place.

Onto the numbers:

Old, failing score: 263 (133.6 written, 129.8 MBE = 263)

New, passing score: 283 (136.6 written, 146.6 MBE = 283)

On my passing exam, I ended up doing just 3 points better on the writing portion but I did 17 points better on the MBE.  I really only needed to do 10 points better overall, since I had failed the exam by only 10 points to begin with. But, I beat my old score by a total of 20 points, and ended up getting a score high enough to pass me in every UBE state. So far, as of October 2013, that’s 10 states if I’m not mistaken. That’s 20% of the states in the country. If that’s not success, I don’t know what is. I am ecstatic, but still pretty shocked. I walked out of the exam feeling that I had done a little better, but not that much better. All I wanted was to pass in my own jurisdiction, Arizona, with a 273. I ended up getting a whole lot more than that. I learned about myself and about perseverance, and the importance of remaining calm under all circumstances to really reach my true potential.

So for those of you who want to read about logistics:

How do results get released? Well, every jurisdiction does it differently, but I found that many, if not most, jurisdictions pick a date and time in which to post a list names of examinees who have received a satisfactory score on the exam. They list the date and time on the Committee on Examinations’ website a few weeks in advance so that you will know what date to come back and check. My jurisdiction, Arizona, said that the July 2013 results list will be posted on Friday, October 11, 2013 at 4:30pm. Most of the time the results are released late on a Friday. Basically, a lot of people try to leave work early and just have some peace and quiet in the privacy of their own home to check the results. You don’t want to have a meltdown in the car or in the office, anyway.  On results day, a list of names of everyone who received a passing score in the jurisdiction is posted in a PDF file uploaded to the AZ Supreme Court website. On that same day, the Committee mails every examinee a letter listing the test results and what next steps should be taken. Since I live very close to the office of the Committee on Examinations, I received the letter the very next day – Saturday.

If you FAIL the UBE:

It lists what the passing score is in the jurisdiction where you sat for the exam. (273 in Arizona) It also lists a breakdown of what you scored in the written portion (MEE and MPT combined) and what you scored in the MBE portion. Then it lists what your total combined score was. Your letter will let you know that your score, although not passing for the jurisdiction in which you sat for the exam, may still be eligible (portable) to other UBE jurisdictions. The letter directs you to a website where you can find more information on that. In case you want to give the exam another go, the letter includes a short application form for the next administration of the exam. It gives you a pretty quick deadline, so you have to mail in your application and your $580 fee as soon as you wipe your tears dry. You don’t have to pay a late application fee to re-sit for the exam if you failed, at least not in Arizona. You don’t have to send in a new passport photo and all those other formalities you had to comply with the last time. They re-use all that stuff for the next time you sit for the exam.

I wanted to share with you my FAIL letter:


If you PASS the UBE:

The first word in your letter is: Congratulations. It has a checklist of what items are still outstanding in your application for admission to practice law. There are four items on the checklist: 1) you have not submitted your character report to the Committee on Character and Fitness 2) Your report is being processed by staff, or your file is being reviewed by the Committee. 3) You have not completed the Course on Arizona Law 4) You have not submitted a valid MPRE score. If none of these boxes are checked, then you should be eligible for admission to the practice of law in the state, and the Committee on Character and Fitness will contact you about that.

I also wanted to share with you my PASS letter:


Any questions? Please feel free to leave me a comment.

Bar Exam Study Materials

Bar Exam Study Materials

Excellent website to look at for great bar exam study materials. The materials are organized in charts/graphs/pictures and are very visually organized. I wish I had found this when I was studying for the bar!