Most Common Reasons for Failing Your Bar Exam

Law school is a stressful three-year endeavor. And at the end of that experience, many students go right into studying for the bar exam to become bar-certified attorneys in their state. But even with all the bar prep classes, you can muster, this comprehensive exam is one of the most difficult you will ever encounter. Some of the most famous people have failed the bar exam on the first try, including Michelle Obama and John F. Kennedy. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, but there are some common mistakes that recent law graduates make when studying for and taking the bar exam. Let’s take a closer look.

Not Enough Practicing

The bar exam is intense by design, so it’s not a test you can get away with by winging it. You need to practice, practice, and practice some more. Some people practice for the bar exam for several months leading up to the test by reviewing processes, taking practice tests, and reading up on the categories of law typically on the exam.

Not Course Correcting

Another reason for failing is not course correcting when something isn’t working. Maybe you decided that you could learn everything on your own through online training, but a bar prep class may be a better fit for your learning style if you aren’t retaining the information. Don’t be afraid to mix it up and try something new if you’re feeling stuck.

Not Knowing the Law

The bar exam is about knowing specific laws without the resources to read and find things during the exam itself. You’ll learn the categories of law that are tested, but it’s your job to study those cases and understand the law itself enough to answer questions or write about it in the various sections of the exam.

Not Practicing Time Management

Time management skills can make or break your bar exam experience. Most states use the Uniform Bar Exam or UBE. This is split into three sections: the MBE or Multistate Bar Examination, The MEE or Multistate Essay Examination, and the MPT or Multistate Performance Test. Each one will have a time limit. Only the MBE is multiple choice, the other two sections are essays, and you could get so caught up in the details that you run out of time to write your answer. Practicing these sections within the time allowed will help you hone these skills.


Of course, one cause for failing the bar exam is not your preparation at all. You can know everything and be ready to rock, but anxiety can cause you to make mistakes or freeze when you know you need to pay attention to the time. Calming your anxiety before this test can be easier said than done, but it may be critical to your success.

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