Why People Fail the Bar Exam

Passing the bar exam requires hard work and diligence. But it also requires you to avoid some very common pitfalls.

Let’s walk through the most common reasons students fail the bar exam and how you can avoid these traps to drastically increase your chances of passing the bar exam.

  1. Too much passive studying: The number one reason students fail the bar exam is because they’re engaging in too much passive studying. Bar review companies are great at assigning a bunch of videos to watch and giving you extremely long outlines to read. While these are valuable resources that can and should be utilized, you need to make certain that you’re actively engaged in the lesson and reading. You also need to make sure your study approach is well-rounded with ways to test what you’re learning.
  1. Not enough practice questions: A secret ticket to bar exam success lies in practice questions. You only have a finite amount of time to prepare for the bar exam, and you must spend that time wisely in order to pass. Real MBE Practice questions (those currently licensed by the NCBE) yield a high return (i.e., added points on the bar exam) on your time investment. Make sure that you are aiming for 2,000+ multiple choice questions and upwards of 20-30 essays/practice tests throughout your bar prep. And don’t forget, as you get further into your studies, it’s a great idea to time yourself as you do practice questions to help you prepare for the time constraints you’ll face on exam day.
  1. Trying to outsmart the exam: You simply can’t outsmart the bar exam. Many, many students unsuccessfully attempt to pass this test through sheer volume of knowledge. At a minimum, you must know a certain amount of law to pass the test; there is no getting around that. However, there are other critical skills you need in order to pass, such as issue spotting, process of elimination strategies, and the ability to formulate rule statements, develop analysis, and complete the test under the time constraints. If you solely focus on what you know and not how to use that knowledge, you are seriously jeopardizing your ability to pass.
  1. Advice and resource overload: Everyone who has ever taken the bar exam has an opinion on how you should prepare. Even though those people usually have the best intentions, this can lead to you having an overwhelming number of options to choose from and information to sort through. When deciding whether to take a piece of advice or use a particular resource, you should consider the source of the information and what you know about your own learning style.
  1. Self-doubt: This is the most heartbreaking reason students fail the bar exam. Mindset matters when it comes to passing this test. Unfortunately, the only thing many bar exam takers feel confident in is their perceived shortcomings. They believe they “can’t do multiple choice questions” or “don’t have enough time to study.” Your own self-doubt will be your own worst enemy. Taking the bar exam is extremely stressful. It’s important that you put guardrails in place to manage stress and self-defeating thoughts, which, left unchecked, can prevent your success.

Keep your eyes open for these pitfalls. And if you notice yourself starting to form one of these bad habits, be sure to quickly address them and reformulate your game plan.


MBE and MEE Essay Flashcards that help you learn and memorize key bar exam concepts, effectively and affordably.

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