If there’s one thing we’ve learned from all these bar taker success stories, it’s that there’s a wide spectrum of methods for passing the bar exam.
Your bar exam is yours!
Corina “broke the rules” and went ALL OUT on her second successful attempt at passing the bar. She was the embodiment of creating your own curriculum as the dean of her own studies.
💬 “The first round of prep made me feel like I must be crazy because I wasn’t getting it. Even though breaking the rules and doing my own thing the second time was scary, I am glad I did.”
In her full story linked below, she literally spares no details about how she did it.
First, here’s a summary of her heroine’s journey — from failing her first exam to her strategies for passing on her second attempt.
- Attempts: California Bar Exam 2 times
- Weakness: Weak subjects and the MBE
- Unique challenge: Time constraints, higher stakes than most, financial stress, family duties
Resources Corina used to crush the bar exam on her second attempt
▶▶ Magicsheets + Approsheets (the only condensed rule outlines and issue roadmaps you need)
▶▶ Passer’s Playbook (tools and techniques for effective bar prep)
▶▶ MTYLT coaching emails and MBE Q&A (sign up here)
💬 “He provides so much free advice that I remember thinking, why isn’t he charging more? I was also grateful that his products were so affordable. . . . I remember doubting whether Brian’s advice works, but now I can say it does if you take the parts that work for you and actually implement them.”
▶▶ [CA only] BarEssays premium subscription
- Use code here for $25 off
▶▶ UWorld MBE
▶▶ Quimbee MBE
▶▶ More listed under #15 below
She used a LOT of resources!
But this doesn’t mean YOU need to overload yourself with a ton of supplements—just what you need. Simply doing “retail therapy” with these supplements becomes like enrolling in a big bar prep program if you don’t actually use them.
Some passers have done it with a very slim loadout (as you may have seen in past case studies), while people like Corina had a lot in their arsenal. This is why I share diverse success stories because everyone has a unique story, to prove that you can DO IT too.
Isn’t that interesting? If you’re wondering what you “need,” there is no one right answer. They all work. It all depends on you, not the tools themselves.
Remember that you are the dean of your own studies. You design your own curriculum.
Let’s move on to how Corina DID IT.
- Quick stats
- Resources Corina used to crush the bar exam on her second attempt
- Corina’s first attempt at the bar exam
- Challenges faced
- Failing her first exam
- How Corina (finally) passed the bar exam
- 1) SWALLOW YOUR PRIDE AND SEEK ADVICE.
- 2) THE MENTAL GAME IS EVERYTHING, AND YOUR PHYSICAL HEALTH IS EQUALLY IMPORTANT.
- 3) She returned to the learning methods that have worked for me my whole life. She worked smarter, not harder, and listened to her body and brain.
- 4) She refused to multitask.
- 5) She found a coach, a mentor, someone who would tell me like it is and push me.
- 6) She found mental health support, specific to the emotion of bar prep, exams, failing, and trying again.
- 7) She is a visual learner, and law school and bar prep materials were not designed for her, so she had to go find her own materials that spoke to her learning style.
- 8) She used humor to memorize boring things.
- 9) She made her own schedule in Google Calendars.
- 10) BE ORGANIZED BUT TAKE SMALL BITES.
- 11) DO ONLY LICENSED MBE PRACTICE QUESTIONS AND REALLY READ AND UNDERSTAND THE EXPLANATIONS. DO ALL OF THEM!
- 12) HANDWRITE YOUR OWN EXPLANATIONS/RULES.
- 13) ONLY STUDY MODEL ANSWERS ARE WRITTEN BY ATTORNEYS, NOT EXAM TAKERS.
- 14) ALWAYS SEEK SUPPLEMENTS FOR YOUR GAPS.
- 15) She used other supplements that helped her.
- Corina’s full story
Corina’s first attempt at the bar exam
I’m still scratching my head at how these huge bar review courses are still stuck in their ways.
Barbri/Themis, look at all these students who get disillusioned by your archaic approach 6 weeks into your program.
No diss — I love your materials — but please hire me as a consultant because this town deserves a better class of bar takers. I know you’re reading this! My resume is at MakeThisYourLastTime.com (2014 – Present) thx
That said, it’s about HOW you use materials. Here’s where she faltered the first time:
Unfocused hard work
You’re working hard, aren’t you? But hard work is just part of the equation.
💬 “I was plunged into depression. I could not stop crying. I cried every day for about ten days. Then I was just angry – how did this happen when I had been so dedicated and worked so hard?”
💬 “I had completed about 80% of Themis and studied 10-12 hours daily, 6-7 days a week, for 14 weeks!”
💬 “But that ‘dedication’ and ‘hard work’ also tanked me, I think, because I was spending enormous amounts of time focused on trying to learn everything instead of only learning what I needed to pass the exam.”
In this article about the two biggest fears of a bar taker, I mention how backward this is:
2) You treated everything the same. You tried to juggle everything in your memory without considering whether a rule (or issue) is even important enough to focus on. This dilutes your attention.
You can’t throw everything at the wall to see what sticks. It’s too heavy.
“Trusting the system”
A familiar pattern:
💬 “For the first exam, I followed the expensive prep program. For the second exam, I took a non-traditional path.”
DOING is less exhausting than THINKING about doing.
💬 “I felt like I wasn’t learning anything in the lectures because I was so tired, and I remember hating changing topics every few days because I felt like I wasn’t ready to move on. But I trusted the program’s statistics and hoped and prayed I had done enough.”
Above all, trust yourself.
💬 “Do what works for you. Seek advice but have the confidence to know when to ignore it.”
This goes for whatever I write too! YOU are in charge—not Barbri, not your law school, not your tutor, not me.
Corina had some personal challenges too, not just the overwhelm of her expensive prep program:
💬 “I don’t have the same amount of time that many of my classmates who are unmarried with no kids have.”
Higher stakes than most
💬 “I wanted this more than most, and the cost of failing the first time was greater for my family than most without the same responsibilities to family.”
💬 “My 3L year was the most challenging financial year yet, with me driving 500 miles weekly to school and internships, gas prices between $5-6 a gallon, two kids in college, and my husband getting flexed off work often. So not passing the bar exam the first time added a financially stressful year onto that journey, much to my dismay.”
💬 “For me, bar prep and failure or success have substantial financial consequences for my whole family as we tried to climb out of poverty through education.”
Failing her first exam
Failing the bar exam is never a pleasant experience. For Corina, it was a PIVOTAL moment.
💬 “I was predicting my own future but did not know that yet. I was SHOCKED and ASHAMED when I did not pass. I entered a complete grief cycle. I felt I had disappointed my professors, mentors, family, and friends. I could not bear to see the pictures of my friends celebrating their passage and the beginning of their careers.”
Some people go through this experience and repeat the SAME thing they did, hoping doing more of the same will change things.
Maybe, maybe not!
Say you’re spinning your wheels. Say your performance isn’t changing. It’s like singing off key. You can’t fix it by singing louder. In fact, singing louder actually makes it worse!
Better to face the unvarnished truth and stare at it in its eyes. Don’t avert your eyes. Where there’s truth, there’s hope. Once you know the truth, you can fix it.
💬 “I need the truth so I can face it and make a plan.”
She noticed what went wrong the first time and decided to do something about it:
💬 “I HAD TO FIGURE OUT WHAT WENT WRONG AND FIX IT! … GO BACK TO WHAT YOU KNOW WORKS FOR YOU. I had completed high school, two Associate’s degrees, and a Bachelor’s degree before law school. I know how to learn, but I stupidly ignored what I know works for me and let a computer tell me how to learn. That was a mistake.”
💬 “DON’T BE AFRAID TO THROW OUT THE ONE-SIZE FITS ALL PROGRAM AND DESIGN YOUR OWN PROGRAM.”
At this point, it’s almost a recommendation to throw out the default program. Not just not being afraid to do so. You can go off the beaten path if you want.
Wait, you can do that?
Yes, friend. Who (besides the bar prep companies) said you NEED to follow The Plan?
💬 “Even though breaking the rules and doing my own thing the second time was scary, I am glad I did.”
How Corina (finally) passed the bar exam
Here are 15 strategies that Corina attributes her success to.
Yes, it’s a lot. But remember that you’re going to be a lawyer whose job is to read and understand new things all day.
“I don’t have time to read all this.” Don’t read it then.
I’m not interested in giving you shortcuts, though I’ll make it easier for you by summarizing a preview and including my commentary. What a nice guy.
If passing the bar exam is important to you, you’ll want to at least skim this summary, if not her full writeup (linked below).
She writes some in caps, not because she’s yelling at you but because they’re more important according to her.
1) SWALLOW YOUR PRIDE AND SEEK ADVICE.
💬 “Admit your failure, and reach out to other attorneys, professors, and successful students for advice and help, then copy their methods. Admitting defeat was so painful, but it was the best thing I did.”
I actually did the same thing after I failed the first time. My motivation was at its peak. I talked to classmates who passed, a professor, and even my bar review rep.
There are resources hidden all around you.
The problem these days is that there’s too much noise. Curate the advice you get.
2) THE MENTAL GAME IS EVERYTHING, AND YOUR PHYSICAL HEALTH IS EQUALLY IMPORTANT.
💬 “The stressed brain and body cannot learn well.”
Corina goes into more detail in her full write-up, but here’s a quick list of her suggestions:
- Keep calm.
- Leave the house to study and maximize concentration.
- Be dedicated and disciplined to achieve max health.
- Avoid burnout like the plague.
- Diagnose your learning style(s) and only choose resources that support them.
Multiple other bar takers have told me: The mind is 50% of the exam!
That’s why I offer a mini course (Mental Engines) for managing your mental condition and organizing your emotions. I share my best mental models and shifts in thinking. I even refer back to it myself sometimes.
3) She returned to the learning methods that have worked for me my whole life. She worked smarter, not harder, and listened to her body and brain.
💬 “I chose not to waste time on any activity that felt like it did not help me.”
💬 “And if that choice meant I needed to re-adjust my topic schedule, I did that WITH NO GUILT.”
Having a structured schedule is good, but I advocate for using a flexible, living document. Circumstances change. I talk about this in my scheduling materials in Passer’s Playbook (which has various example schedules including a 4-week schedule).
Everyone has different things going on. It doesn’t make sense that everyone gets the exact same cookie-cutter schedule.
4) She refused to multitask.
💬 “Studies show you can’t do it well.”
This is true.
So do one task at one time. Don’t walk the line between different activities, as that creates friction and resistance and at least one of the activities will suffer.
5) She found a coach, a mentor, someone who would tell me like it is and push me.
In Corina’s case, I was one of the guides she found.
💬 “A simple Google search (how to pass the California bar after failing) helped me find Brian at Make This Your Last Time, though I had been aware of him during law school. . . . I remember doubting whether Brian’s advice works, but now I can say it does if you take the parts that work for you and actually implement them.”
💬 “He talks straight, with no sugar coating, and keeps it real. I love this! I need the truth so I can face it and make a plan. His weekly emails kept me from feeling alone because I read stories of others’ pain and ultimate success. He encouraged us to do what works for us. He encouraged us to find our own path but hold ourselves accountable to that plan. He allowed us to change the plan as needed, and I did (multiple times).”
I like practical insights that require some work (and sometimes less work) but actually bring results. I still sugarcoat some things, so I’m not sure what she means by that 👀
6) She found mental health support, specific to the emotion of bar prep, exams, failing, and trying again.
💬 “That’s when I found Jennifer at Mindset Mentor. Her help and materials are either free or very affordable. . . . I told my husband I felt near the edge of a breakdown and knew I needed to get my mind right if I was going to test again. So I did. . . . I can’t say enough about how important it is to heal your mind and heart before tackling the bar exam.”
7) She is a visual learner, and law school and bar prep materials were not designed for her, so she had to go find her own materials that spoke to her learning style.
In her case, she used Quimbee:
💬 “After my miserable first semester grades, I was excited to hear about Quimbee from a 2L. I used it throughout law school, and it worked for me. Because I loved this platform, I purchased the Quimbee MBE prep for the first test but never used it. MISTAKE!”
8) She used humor to memorize boring things.
What’s stimulating, weird, cringey, funny, interesting is what sticks in your mind! That’s one of my strategies for memorization.
💬 “That is why I searched until I found Crushendo. . . . I listened to or watched these videos everywhere!”
9) She made her own schedule in Google Calendars.
Yes! Consider crafting your own study plan. This is YOUR bar exam, not anyone else’s. You have your own weaknesses, needs, and strengths.
Your study plan should fit you like a handmade glove.
And again, it should be a living document. Corina implemented this approach perfectly:
💬 “Jennifer at Mindset Mentor and Brian at Make This Your Last Time have great examples and advice on how to do this. I divided the number of days by the number of topics I had to study. I KEPT ADJUSTING AS NEEDED. When I fell behind sometimes due to life, illness, holidays, and family, I did the math again. It increased the load slightly, but since I always divided the number of days left to study by the number of topics left to learn, it spread it out and made it bearable.”
Passer’s Playbook has tons of scheduling resources.
10) BE ORGANIZED BUT TAKE SMALL BITES.
Corina used a TON of resources but still managed to use them by dividing the materials into subjects.
💬 “The first time I was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of materials from the prep program and the supplements I bought but did not use (insert shame here). This time I vowed to use all the supplements but break them down into manageable sections. So I made small accordion files for each of the 14-16 California topics. I was only working on one or two of them daily.”
One of the lessons in Mental Engines to beat overwhelm is, “Slow down to go fast.”
What does this mean? You may be able to get things done just as well and just as fast with what feels like less effort. When you’re late to an appointment, speeding and risking your life only gets you there 2 minutes faster.
11) DO ONLY LICENSED MBE PRACTICE QUESTIONS AND REALLY READ AND UNDERSTAND THE EXPLANATIONS. DO ALL OF THEM!
Understanding the explanations helps you “get” what the question is testing you on.
💬 “Yes, that is about 1800 questions, but if you do them all, you will not be surprised on exam day. I did them in small bites (34 per hour) and only 1 hour at a time to avoid burnout. I often only did 17 in 30 minutes because I only had 30 minutes to give.”
12) HANDWRITE YOUR OWN EXPLANATIONS/RULES.
Handwriting hammered the rules into her:
💬 “ONLY write the ones you miss on your MBE practice. I must have gone through a dozen pens and 750 sheets of paper in spiral notebooks. . . . Some scientific studies show that handwriting your notes will put the info deeper into your brain, and those who handwrite notes get higher test scores.”
You know what, I would never try to generate 750 sheets of missed rules, but bar prep is personal! Corina’s bar prep is probably different from yours, but you can still take ideas.
13) ONLY STUDY MODEL ANSWERS ARE WRITTEN BY ATTORNEYS, NOT EXAM TAKERS.
💬 “Pay for the premium baressays.com membership. I only allowed myself to read their model answers written by attorneys. Why? Because student answers are at best 15-25% incorrect. I wanted to use my brain power wisely on correct answers.”
This applies to the California Bar Exam only, but the point Corina wants to make is that student answers are not always accurate.
Your state bar likely releases past exams and answers. The NCBE releases official analyses of MEEs with model “correct” answers.
14) ALWAYS SEEK SUPPLEMENTS FOR YOUR GAPS.
💬 “I decided to find for free or buy and read/watch any and all other supplemental prep materials that looked like they spoke my language. . . . I even purchased some only two weeks to 10 days before the exam.”
Again, you may not need to do all these things that Corina did. I’m not advocating spending money you don’t have.
But you can tell she truly invested in her future and used her time well despite the time and financial stress. She did what she felt she needed to do. It paid off for her.
15) She used other supplements that helped her.
She lists and links to 9 additional resources in her full write-up below.
Corina’s full story
This is a lot to take in! I know you’re under pressure. Pulling off power moves like Corina can feel out of reach.
But don’t be like “ugh, that’s so much.” Have fun with the process.
Here’s how you can adopt her approach: Pick and implement ONE strategy.
Each one contributed to her success, so it stands to reason that any one of them could contribute to yours too.
Which one did you choose? Let me know.