Preparing for the Bar Exam: What You Can Learn from Their Regrets

It’s that time of the year again. Results for the bar exam are yet again in for everyone.

You’ve endured the onslaught of “aww… you got this” and “I’m sure you passed!” for weeks and months.

Anxiety, excitement, uncertainty squirting into your heart every time you thought of the moment of truth. Waiting is often the hardest thing. Uncertainty is being locked in a padded room alone with delusions of hopes and worries.

Well, the insanity of the wait is over. And the results were humbling.


I’m sorry. All you wanted was anything but this devastation you’re feeling.

It’s only a failure if you label it that way and give up. It’s only a setback if you don’t make anything out of it.

But it’s OK to take a few minutes, hours, or days to gather yourself. If the reality stings you more than you can bear. If this exam has taken too much from your soul.

You have personal circumstances that need unique perspectives. Unlike the bar, there’s no “correct” answer to how you process this result.

How do you cope with failing the bar exam? I don’t know.

Like when I found out after my first time. I lied down on my bed. One or two tears came out. The reality of failure crumpled the air around me, and me along with it.

But it was time to change the variables. I got up from the bed with one goal in mind. The possibility was there.

You have to move on. There’s nothing you can do to change the result, but what you can do is move forward. Or you could tap out. Either choice is OK.

The good news is that your future self is going to be more skilled than your past self. It gets easier. Whether it’s your first date, your first year on the job, the first time you ride a bike or drive a car… it gets better once you get past the initial hurdle.

They say repeaters are more likely to stay repeaters. I think it’s the opposite—as long as you pay attention and apply what you learned. Now that you’ve taken a mock exam, you can correct course. You can pick up strategies from people like me and other ex-“failures.”

My sister told me that she’s bad at standardized tests. I told her that they become doable once you figure it out. She agreed. She wishes her exams had someone like me blowing open the chamber of secrets. Clarity gives you power.

But just because a test is standardized doesn’t mean there is only one standard way to solve the Rubik’s Cube. I don’t like calling this “advice”. Just suggestions based on what worked for me and others.

Although I’d like you to consider what I recommend, don’t blindly follow. Do what makes sense to you. If you want someone else to dictate your path, consider Barbri.

No, the experiment is done. It’s time to change the variables.

Look at these regrets from past students:

And what they’d do differently:

BTW, you can get $30 off AdaptiBar or $40 off UWorld by signing up for my weekly emails. Click here.

"I had to try several times [to pass the California bar], and practice was the difference this time (essays 1999 - 2018)"

What pattern do you see here?

  • “I focus too much on writing rules and not enough time on applying them.”
  • “Not doing MBE questions sooner.”
  • “More practice essays under timed conditions.”

And many more similar answers.

Most people will gloss over when they see a list like this. “OK, makes sense,” they’ll nod along before they go on with their day. Like a warm shower washing over their head.

I guarantee you, when February rolls around, many will panic and wonder what happened.

But you can’t blame them. Intellectually knowing what you “should” do doesn’t mean you’ll actually do it. (RIP my New Year resolution and yours too probably.)

Similarly, knowing the parts (issues and rules) doesn’t mean you can actually put them together.

The bar exam is a different beast from law school.

Fortunately, you have an edge now, just by taking 10 minutes to read this. I’ll continue to keep you focused and on pace with reminders. Sign up for my weekly emails here.


If there’s one thing you take away today, here’s what to keep in mind:

“Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe



Let’s IRAC this shit:

1.    “Knowing is not enough; we must apply.”

Mmm, yes…

It feels nice to be protected by outlines. It feels nice to memorize rules and regurgitate flashcards. It feels nice to consume an article and find it “helpful” (without doing anything with it).

You’ve got it now! You’ve familiarized yourself with what to know.

Yes, you’ll want to get some background knowledge first, but when will you test yourself with a problem? Will you try something (a new approach or resource) to see if it actually helps? Why not? What’s the risk? Bruising your ego?

If you’ve really got it, prove it.

“It is tempting to think that just because one understands certain principles one has learned. This is the familiar trap of confusing intellectual understanding with learning.”
—Peter Senge, MIT lecturer

It might not be a stretch to say that your competition isn’t other bar takers—but rather your ability to handle the high-stakes nature of the bar exam, the knowledge you neglect to learn, your ego, your procrastination, your lack of motivation, and the constant battle with your willpower.

(Do you agree?)

Guess what. You learn by making mistakes. They become caulking against the torrent of chaos that is the bar exam.

“In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, they are not.”

Mistakes are not just for rookies. In fact, rookies stay that way because they’re not willing to make mistakes. It’s safer to stay in the realm of theory after all.

But you don’t have to know everything before you do it.

2.      “Wishing is not enough; we must do.”

It’s easier to understand what’s already there. It’s harder to do what I refer to as “origination”—coming up with the correct rule (in the correct context), actually writing that essay/PT, generating answers.

That’s what you’ll be required to do on the bar. So it behooves you do it now. To practice as if it were the real thing and do the real thing as if it were practice.

You’ve wished enough. You’ve waited enough. You’ve thought about it enough. Tell me what you’re going to do. Show me what you’ve done.

You don’t have to get it right; you just have to get it going. We must DO.

The bar is never going to get easier, but you can always get better.

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

Next week (as you digest leftover turkey), we’ll go over some mistakes to watch out for. I’ll show you how to take control of your studies.

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4 Replies to “Preparing for the Bar Exam: What You Can Learn from Their Regrets”

  1. Okay everyone is telling me to write down the rules to all the questions I get wrong when I do practice MBEs, I just would like to know your thoughts on that. I didn’t do that in July 2018 and ended up being 9 points away from passing.

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