The 4 Reasons You Failed the Bar Exam

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So you just found out you failed the bar exam. What now?

We know how troubling failing the bar exam can be, particularly when considering that the majority of you probably prepared with the self-proclaimed “most successful bar review ever developed.”

So it must have been you right? WRONG!

The truth is that the methodology employed by the leading bar review courses simply does not put students in a position to be successful on the bar exam.

To highlight this reality, please note that the overall pass rate for the July 2015 California bar exam was 46%, which means that the MAJORITY OF STUDENTS FAILED the bar exam.

Many people assume that these statistics are the result of repeaters, but first-time test takers in California faired only slightly better on the July 2015 bar exam with a 59.1% pass rate.

The number #1 ranked law school in California and perennial top-3 law school—Stanford Law School—had over 15% of its graduates fail. As did my alma mater, Harvard Law School.

Hopeful that July 2016 would be better? Sadly, even with the increased adoption of the Uniform Bar Exam, bar exam passage rates continue to plummet.

In an effort to ensure that your name appears on the pass list when you retake the bar exam, we thought we would highlight four mistakes students make when it comes to bar exam prep as well as offer an alternative approach that has helped countless repeaters who have turned to BarMax after being let down by a name they assumed they could trust.

Made Up Questions

Across the country, MBE scores have dropped to a 33-year low, which is not at all surprising given the prevalence of made-up MBE questions in bar prep materials.

It is a fundamental tenet of standardizing testing to teach to the exam—and this requires the use of real, officially licensed questions.

This is precisely why BarMax exclusively offers real, officially licensed MBE questions (1580+ including Online Practice Exams 1-4) as well as real, officially licensed MEE and MPT questions.

We have a strict no fugazee policy because only by preparing with real questions, will you adequately prepare yourself for what you will actually encounter on exam day.

The Kitchen Sink Approach

Just looking at the amount of materials provided by other bar review courses is overwhelming. A short outline, a long outline, a state-specific outline, an MBE outline . . . where do you even start?

The problem with this approach is that the standard to pass the bar exam is a 65%, which is a D. This means that you do not need to be an expert in any subject, let alone all of them.

For this reason it is extremely important for you to minimize the amount of black letter law you are trying to digest. You do not get bonus points for scoring higher than what is needed to pass, so why stress yourself out for no reason?

BarMax was built with this principle in mind. Everything you need to pass, nothing more.

You won’t believe how much more information you will retain when you start focusing on the forest instead of the trees.

Perfect Model Answers

Something else you definitely want to avoid as you prepare to retake the written portion of the bar exam is relying on perfect model answers written by professors under no time pressure.

Perfect model answers are good for one thing and one thing only—making you feel inadequate. There is absolutely no way you can accomplish anything near a perfect answer under time pressure on the bar exam and, given that you need a 65% to pass, there is absolutely no reason to even try.

At BarMax, we provide real model answers from actual bar examinees written under time pressure on the day of the bar exam and the reason we do so is that these model answers are nowhere near perfect. They are riddled with misstatements of the law, but it doesn’t matter—not only did these students pass, but they were also selected as model answers.

With real model answers constantly reminding you of the standard actually required to pass, the writing section will be far less intimidating and far more manageable.

No IRAC

Most students also do not understand the importance of formatting on the written portion.

But think about it like this . . . imagine you wrote the perfect answer to a question on the bar exam but your response was one long paragraph with no line breaks. The odds are you would still fail.

How can this be? It is important to remember that the written portion of your bar exam will be graded by people, who are paid very little and who have mountains of answers to grade. As such, the more difficult you make it for the grader to follow your response, the less likely you are to receive a passing score.

This means that you want to write in a methodical and easy to follow format that you should remember from law school—IRAC (i.e. Issue, Rule, Analysis and Conclusion).

We recommend breaking down the discussion of every issue as follows:

Header = Issue
1st Paragraph = Rule
2nd Paragraph = Analysis
3rd Paragraph = Conclusion

Here is a great example of how to use IRAC to format your bar exam essays.

The 34.9% passage rate for attorney examinees (i.e. lawyers practicing in other jurisdictions) on the California bar exam should further highlight that these abysmal results have nothing to do with intelligence or knowledge of the law.

In fact, you can argue that the writing style you need to employ to be successful on the bar exam is the opposite of intelligent writing.

The key for you is to make sure that your answer is formatted in a way that a grader, who is skimming, will easily be able to identify the different parts of your response and give you maximum credit.


And there you have it. We understand how discouraging failing the bar exam can be, but it is important that you keep it in perspective.

The national pass rates should make it clear that this failure was not a personal one. So all you need to do is address the shortcomings of your previous bar prep experience.

Remember, insanity is doing the same thing but expecting different results.

Avoid the mistakes outline above and your name will appear on the pass list!

We are so confident we actually guarantee it.

Updated on Feb 6, 2018