Take the Next Bar Exam or Skip an Exam?

If you recently got your bar exam results, and were unsuccessful, I can absolutely guarantee you that you are not alone. There isn’t a single jurisdiction in the United States that has a 100% pass rate for the bar exam. You’re probably experiencing a lot of feelings–disappointment, stress, anxiety, and apprehension. All of those feelings are natural, and again, you’re not the only one experiencing them. If you’re like most of your peers, you probably don’t want to take the bar exam ever again, but if you want to be a lawyer, you definitely should. If you’re trying to determine if you should take the test again during the next administration or wait, there are some things to consider.

There are some circumstances under which it is a good idea to sit out one exam (see below), but in all likelihood, it’s probably a good idea for you to take the next bar exam, but why?

1) Freshness

The law is still fresh in your head. You probably spent at least six weeks studying for this test, so you have a lot of the info ready to recall. When you start studying again, you’ll realize how much you remember. If it’s obvious from your results that you didn’t know the substantive law well enough, you can spend more time making sure you know the law.

2) Don’t prolong the process

You should go ahead and get the bar exam over with as soon as possible. Unless there’s some reason why you can’t take the next test (see below), you should just try to get it over with. If you wait, you’ll just prolong your anxiety, and lose some of that precious knowledge that you spent all that time learning just a few short months ago.

Each test is 5-7 months apart. That means if you don’t take the next exam administration, you’ll have to wait a whole year to take the test!

3) You know what to expect and work on

Now, you know what you need to work on. If your jurisdiction provided you with a score report, then you’ll be able to tell what areas you need to work on. If your MBE score is low, then you know you need to work on multiple choice questions. Study the law and do NCBE released practice questions. If you did poorly on the essay portion of the exam, look at the breakdown. If it’s across the board, then you probably need to know the law better and work on your essay writing skills. If you only did poorly on one or two essays, analyze what those were, and focus your efforts.

4) There’s usually no downside

In almost every state, there is no limit on the number of times you can take the bar exam. Therefore, there’s really no downside to taking the bar exam, except the possibility of failing it. And if you don’t take it next time, it’s the same result as if you take it and fail! Unless you know that you’ll be significantly psychologically impacted by failing the exam, it doesn’t make sense to wait. Keep in mind that there are some states that limit the number of times you can take the test, or the number of times you can take the exam in a given amount of time. Some states that have had these limitations include Texas, Tennessee, and Wisconsin. The limitations, however, have been challenged in court recently and there is a growing movement against these limitations.

5) Extend your prior course access

If you took a bar prep course to prepare, they will usually extend it to the following (only) exam if you did not pass. This may not be true for all companies, but AmeriBar extends this courtesy to our students. If you couple good review materials with personalized tutoring, you’ll improve your chances of passing.

There are also some situations when it makes sense to skip the next bar exam.

1) You can’t adequately prepare

If you don’t think you’ll be prepared by the next test, or you just simply think you need more time to study, then it may make sense to wait. Nonetheless, don’t make the mistake of thinking that 3-4 months is not enough time; it is. But if you only have a few weeks left to study, and you haven’t gotten started yet, then waiting may make sense.

2) Financial reasons

If you don’t have the finances to pay the registration or application fee with the state, then you may have to wait until the following exam to apply. Additionally, if you don’t have the money to enroll in a bar prep program (if you didn’t use one previously), then you may want to wait. As a repeat taker, personalized instruction may be necessary to help get you over the hump. Unfortunately, personalized attorney instruction can be expensive, but delaying your bar admission can be even more costly.

3) Work and other personal commitments

If you can’t get extra time off work, or if you have personal commitments that will significantly impact your preparation time, or your time around the exam, then waiting may make sense. If you are taking the test twice in the same calendar year, it’s likely that you’ve used a good amount (or all) of your leave time. If you can’t afford not to work, then you should wait.

If you have any questions about whether you should take the next exam, or wait until a later exam administration, feel free contact us for guidance.