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Raising the Bar: When you have to retake

October 6th, 2011 was the day that they released the pass list for those of us that took the July Bar in Colorado. I'll never forget scanning the list, excitement and anticipation building, then scanning it again, wondering where my name was. However, the next ten minutes are blurry- I vaguely remember that I was calling my mom, clutching the cat, sobbing, and trying to eat a cupcake all at the same time. 

For those of us that are facing another Bar exam, it's easy to get discouraged. Or pissed off that we'll have to unwrap all of our food and put it in a little plastic bag to take into another intense exam. Or even embarrassed when we sit through that CLE where the presenters keep congratulating everyone on passing

There are two aspects of Bar Prep attack that I'd suggest for us second(+) timers: mental preparation and study planning. 

Mental preparation: 

1. Sit with it the fact that you didn't pass the first time. Before you can really go back and figure out where you went wrong and develop a new strategy, it's important to clear your head. A good way to clear your head is to take some time and process the disappointment, anger, embarrassment, or other fun emotions that likely popped up when the Bar Examiners mailed you a sheet saying "Status= Fail." Some great advice that I received was "I'm sorry that you didn't get it the first time, but I hate to tell you, this is not the biggest setback you'll ever have in your life." Which is -unfortunately- true. I've found it incredibly helpful to take a step back and get some perspective before diving into prep again. 

2. Relax. A friend who also failed went to one of our Professors to talk about where she went wrong. This professor has been doing a supplemental Bar Prep class at our school for several years. His suggestion to her was "Chill the F out." There are those of us who had other things going on and just weren't able to devote time to study. However, chances are you were pushing yourself to the breaking point to follow a timeline that your Bar Prep class gave to you. It's better to study effectively than study too much. 

Study Planning:

1. If you know what your weak spots are, throw out the schedule. There are at least five different styles of learning, and a Prep class has to accommodate as many of them as possible. If you know that sitting through another lecture won't help you as much as re-reading through the book or making flashcards, no point in wasting time. You also know what areas you only need to brush up on and what you're shaky and can dedicate your efforts to. 

2. Know the Exam. Half of the battle is knowing how to take the exam. Which means don't skimp on the practice MPT, MBE, or MEE! Spending time figuring out how to answer these questions will help you gain those precious points. The Bar exam is designed to test you on how well you can take tests as much as it is on your knowledge of the laws. 

3. Build your stamina. If you live in Colorado, you'll need to be able to focus on essay writing for 3.5 consecutive hours and answering multiple choice questions for 3. Now is a good time to condition your brain to focus for those time periods. A clock or even a countdown timer can help you start to build up your mental stamina so you won't get too exhausted to focus during the exam. 

2 Comments

RMGoldsmith

Good luck, “+ timmer”! Most importantly, thank you for your willingness to share the challenges of this experience.
 

alisonmonahan

Great article, and best of luck! Here are some tips from a bar exam tutor friend, about things to consider if you’re retaking: http://thegirlsguidetolawschool.com/11/i-failed-the-bar-exam-now-what/.
Much of it is what you’ve already discovered, but maybe you’ll find something helpful there.
I think the idea of focusing on your weak spots is the right strategy. For me, drilling relentlessly on the specific things I kept missing on the MBE really helped.
Good luck!

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