MBE

Top 3 Reasons Why Students Fail the Bar Exam

Law graduates trying to understand the top reasons why candidates fail the bar exam

Whether you failed the bar exam or want to pass the first time around, now is a good time to take a step back and assess your study plan. One of the most common misconceptions is that you should do more of what you did before to succeed. Instead of adding more hours to your already long study schedule, take the time to identify what you did (or could be doing) wrong and how to course-correct.  

Reason 1: Passive Learning

According to neuroscientists from U.C. Berkeley, you can improve your reasoning skills by actively analyzing and synthesizing information. Answering practice questions or making flashcards—as opposed to passively reading outlines or watching videos—can help alter the connections in your brain to improve your ability to analyze, evaluate, and synthesize information. These skills are essential to your success on the bar exam! 

Unfortunately, many students go through the motions of studying without digesting the material in a meaningful way. Here are some ways you can get the most out of active learning and avoid this trap: 

  • Focus on understanding how the rules fit into the “big picture.”
  • Understand why the correct answer is correct—even if you got it right. 
  • Identify why you missed a question by reviewing the rationales for the correct and alternative answer choices.
  • Work on your weaknesses. If you struggle with writing, don’t give up! Practice outlining and drafting sample essays and MPTs®.
  • Reinforce what you have learned based on your individual learning style. If you’re a visual learner, try creating a flowchart that ties concepts together. If you’re an auditory learner, talk through challenging legal concepts with friends.

Reason 2: Misallocating Your Study Time

Studying more is seldom the right answer. Studies have shown that constant studying or studying too much at once can reduce long-term retention of information. It’s how you spend your time studying that makes the difference. Use the following strategies to get the most out of your study time: 

  • Practice your endurance in test-like conditions. This often-forgotten strategy will help you develop the mental stamina needed to stay sharp through all 200 questions on MBE® day. 
  • Be sure to learn all of the heavily tested subject areas. You may find this information in the MBE Subject Matter Outline the NCBE® provides.  
  • Hone in on your weaker areas and dedicate more study hours to those subjects. 
  • Be mindful of your time, and don’t overcommit to social and other extracurricular activities. 

Reason 3: Self-Sabotaging Behavior

Old habits die hard and may be holding you back. For example, your drive for perfection is impressive—except when you’re in a time crunch. It could cause you to spend too much time perfecting one subject area and not leave enough time for others. Or it could keep you from moving onto the next essay on exam day. In other cases, you may need to develop new strategies to cope with exam pressure. Take this time to consider whether your habits or tendencies will negatively impact you on test day and find ways to address them now. 

  • Avoid procrastination. Cramming may have worked in the past, but it’s not an effective way to prepare for a multi-day exam. 
  • Find healthy ways to relieve stress and avoid burnout before the bar exam.
  • Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good enough.
  • If you have test anxiety, don’t be afraid to talk to your friends, family, or a professional. You can also try other techniques to overcome exam anxiety.  
  • If you’re dealing with self-doubt, work on your self-confidence. Remember: you can do this!

Now that you know the top reasons why students fail the bar exam, you can avoid these common traps and course correct now. By actively engaging with study materials and better allocating your study time, you can increase your chances of success on exam day. 


As you make sure you avoid these top reasons students fail, study with a robust bar prep, click here for a free trial of our MBE QBank. We’ll have you ready to ace the MBE on exam day.

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