How to Be the Ultimate Sore Loser (to Pass the Bar Exam Next Time)

The demonic countdown reads 1 minute…and it’s finally 6 PM.

You waited for this moment for months, maybe years. Schroedinger’s bar results are available, where irreconcilable possibilities, zero and one, coexist as long as you resist observation.

“Do I really check right now? Should I leave it alone?” Do you choose purgatory or risk hell? “I could just wait until Sunday so I could avoid anxiety / have a relaxing weekend!” Good luck with that, dude.

You can’t handle the anticipation bursting out of the seams of your heart. You slap in your applicant code, endure the few seconds of pristine agony, and see that you…

Did not pass. Only 43.1% did (for the July 2016 California Bar Exam).

FORTY-THREE PERCENT… That’s a February-level low. This was extremely tough.

This is the third-lowest pass rate on record for the July exam, and the trend is getting worse. It hasn’t been this low for the July exam since 1984, and the only other known low of this magnitude was back in 1951. What the hell is wrong with these people?

So you are in the majority. I don’t think that’s all that comforting, though. You still failed the bar.

I’m truly sorry and regretful to hear this news. After reading this, let me know if you want to discuss anything or just vent.

Nonetheless, I can’t sugarcoat it forever. At this point, a time machine is the only thing that will make you feel better.

Maybe you have a job or loans or children or a relationship dependent on your passage. Maybe you need your bar license to get a job in the first place. And maybe this wasn’t your first time taking the bar and need to change strategies (if something didn’t work for you, don’t do more of it).

Whatever the case, how frustrated are you? If you’re the type who hates to lose, who will struggle like an ugly worm because you care about what you are and what you want to do with your talents, I can show you how you just might pass next time…

How to Be the Ultimate Sore Loser (to Pass the Bar Exam Next Time)

All right, so some seasonally employed bar graders thought you weren’t fit to practice law.

That’s how they want to play it? Fine. It happened to me and then I overcame it and even considered leaving the law twice.

It’s not like they really care about your ability to practice law or manage clients anyway. The only way they even care about your existence after you pass the bar is if you don’t pay your annual dues.

But you got people to impress, jobs to get, and people to depend on you to take care of. I get it. You lost this time, but your ambition insists that you’re supposed to win. You’re determined to show them they were wrong because you’re a sore loser who doesn’t want to lose.

Don’t get angry. Don’t get impatient. Desire is a slow-acting poison that will literally paralyze you and burn you out if you make it too strong. You have enough time to fulfill your dream.

So I’m going to tell you how to be good at passing the bar (not how to be a good lawyer).


“Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.” (Was this Mark Twain? Maybe, he takes credit for everything.)

By now, you’ve shed one or more tears, had your heart shrivel a size, or punched something or someone. Say goodbye to your manifestations of disappointment because we’re going to start again. The time for wallowing or feeling sorry for yourself is over.

If you have energy to waste, see if you can put it to good use over the next three months. How are you going to learn from your previous performance and adjust course? Easier said than done. So I’m going to make it as easy for you as possible.

Here’s the typical frazzled bar student:

Not you! You’re going to ditch the mindless approach (like checking off tasks on your bar prep course or staring at lectures). Now you’re going to be MAD: methodical and deliberate.

If we’re taking on the bar, it has to be premeditated first-degree murder, not randomly throwing a bunch of rocks off a building to see what hits. BTW, you’re also going to be ahead of first-time takers because now you have experience and know everything pretty much. You now have that thing that would have been helpful last time. Sweet!

Well, I’m not going to lie and glorify failure under the pretext of gaining experience. Failure still sucks, but you now at least have context to turn things around so you don’t end up like the perpetual repeaters who just do the same thing and expect to pass next time.

So what do I mean by methodical and deliberate?

1.    It means you have a targeted plan.

You need to know where you went wrong, then optimize your study.

Got cranked by the MBE? One common approach to studying the MBE is to track one’s correct % rate. And there’s nothing wrong with this per se. In fact, it’s good practice and preferable over not tracking anything (just doing problems for its own sake).

Even better is to track your win rate across subjects and subtopics. What’s the point of studying each subject equally if you’re already good at Evidence but can’t go under par for Crim Pro even if your life depended on it? This is where deliberate practice comes in.

In the foregoing example, more of your efforts should go toward doing Crim Pro questions (using real questions). Too obvious? Then every time you do a set of Crim Pro questions, track what % you get right and compare it with your performance for the other subjects until Crim Pro is no longer the lowest-performing subject.

The MBE seems to get harder every year too. Now it’s even more important to know where your minutes are going into studying for this section. Check this out for more on how to improve your MBE score.

What about essays? One common advice with essays is to “do essays.”

Yes, you do need to do essays—several per subject, probably more than once for some essays. You also should check that you include all the relevant issues and rules (there’s a systematic way to guarantee this but is outside the scope of this article), and then compare against model or real answers.

[CA only] You could get model answers for the CA bar for free here, or you could look at several high-scoring and low-scoring answers with grader annotation at (one of the most popular supplements). Protip: Sign up to the right to get a code for $25 off immediately.

Even better is to significantly improve your practice efficiency by “cooking essays.” This is one of my most popular techniques. Don’t ask how that name stuck with people, but use that technique to triple the number of essays you can go through in the same time.

Do you even PT, bro? Yeah, I just called you a bro even if you’re possibly female, like the straight-as-a-beam-of-light cismale scum that I am.

Even worse is the clown who tells people they don’t need to practice PTs. Iodize me cap’n because that shit makes me so salty.

Why would you not practice the section that’s worth a third of your grade? Go wing the PTs if you want, but don’t drag others into it.

Solve your worries by getting my free guide on killing the PTs (sign up to the right to get it) and doing one every week or so. It only takes 1.5 to 3 hours a week. Who said this was going to be easy? Soon, the living shall envy the dead.

But once you master this area, you’ll feel more confident about the bar overall and give yourself a large score buffer as well.

Pick your weakest link and work on it until it’s no longer the weakest link. You’ll notice this is a repeatable method! It’s also a never-ending process. Indeed, you’re never done studying for the bar. You’re pumped up now, but can you keep this up for three months?

If you sign up to get updates from me, you’ll soon hear about 3 systems to adopt to ensure you don’t fall off track. For now, whenever you feel like giving up, imagine me telling you: “Again.”

2.    Methodical and deliberate also means you invest in resources.

In this globally competitive world today, no one is an island. Even in early tribal days, you relied on others to do or build something great. A lone wolf probably died trying to take on the mammoth alone.

In fact, now’s a great time to build allies. Do you have friends who passed the bar? Ask them for their materials (they’ll want to get rid of anything that reminds them of the bar). Do you have friends who didn’t pass? Commiserate and share resources with them (they’ll want to huddle with another comrade).

Basically if you have friends, you’ll have someone you can go to. In case friendship isn’t one of your hobbies, here are 10 places to seek the hidden abundance all around you. In addition, this page has everything you need to pass the bar exam.

If you want to be a sore loser turned winner, strongly consider absorbing other people’s wisdom; it’s not the time to be bogged down by your pride. Everyone else is relying on external help to get ahead. (This includes BarEssays as mentioned above.)

Before you acquire a particular resource, make sure you have a reason for doing so. Going all in and buying a bunch of stuff may only be you buying the feeling of progress. Be discriminate about which resources you’ll allow to grant that feeling.

I used the word “invest” above: Will your decision return at least what you put in? Remember, be deliberate, not mindless. I’m sure you could conjure up the face of someone who’s mindless. Go to the comments section of any YouTube video and pick a commenter. Don’t be that person.

On the flip side, you might be hesitant to buy anything else after getting burned by the ineffectiveness of the prep course you were bopped into buying. Thankfully, most supplementary resources are free or cost less than $50-100.

If you really want the paid material but can’t afford them, do your due diligence to pick just a few (again, deliberately). More isn’t necessarily better since it dilutes your efforts. Elimination of strategies is one way to move forward and simplify your approach.

3.    In fact, methodical and deliberate means you figure out where to dedicate your attention to studying.

When I failed the bar the first time, it was a failure of myself—my arrogance, underestimation of the CA bar, and mindless shotgun tactical hell. It was also caused in part by a failure to focus on the right strategies.

My written score of 1338 (1440 to “pass”) made it painfully obvious that my study approach needed tweaking. If there’s one thing you click on today, look at my most popular article with 5 things I did differently to pass the second time. Of course, it is not “advice”—just what I found helpful the second time. Many readers have found them helpful, and they may work for you too if you decide to implement them.

You may think it’s a matter of trying harder and that you can handle it by doing more of the same old (“It’s just an essay! I’ve done plenty in school (and last time)!”), but then you’ll probably get your ass burned, like how I never seem to learn that my intestines can’t handle the Chipotle red salsa that my tongue is desensitized to.

Focus on the efforts that actually bring results. It is not money or time that is the true scarcity of the world; it is human attention. It’s your finite attention.

You don’t have to let the time you’ve already spent go to waste. But since you’re here, you might as well try (or combine your existing strategies with) one or more of my 5 strategies to see if they work for you. If not, and when in doubt, fall back to the repeatable weakest link method mentioned above.


“Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat.”—F. Scott Fitzgerald

To summarize:

  • Be MAD: methodical and deliberate.
  • Have a targeted plan. Always work on your weakest link. Intentionally avoid the easy path.
  • Invest in external resources. Let go of your pride. Select your resources wisely so that they are worth the return.
  • Allocate your finite attention to what works for you instead of a scattered shotgun approach. More work is not necessarily the answer.

Devour and absorb the experiences from your past and of others. Use them to stage a constant evolution of your study strategy. Be a sore loser who hates losing more than anything else.


PS. Next time, I’ll talk about 3 myths to get rid of to improve your bar exam study. If you sign up for my email list, you’ll be the first to see (the non-censored version).

In the meantime, leave a comment below and tell me how you plan to be MAD. I look forward to hearing what, if anything, you think is helping you.

And I hope my experimental Buzzfeed article makes you crack a smile.

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3 Replies to “How to Be the Ultimate Sore Loser (to Pass the Bar Exam Next Time)”

  1. Phenomenal advice from a clearly brilliant albeit fellow re-tester.
    Hitting on everything I was sure I did wrong (my shame is a bit less now) && even better validating my new method of attack–&& offering practical & world-wise methods, resources & guidance.

    I’m newly invigorated & I just can’t thank you enough.

    1. I’m glad you found it helpful, Colleen. Rereading this older article made me a bit embarrassed, though! Thanks for the blast to the past :)

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