Bar Exam Risk Factors

A number of factors may put you at risk for not passing the bar exam. According to Professors Riebe and Schwartz, in their book “Pass the Bar!”, these include:

  • Low LSAT score, low law school GPA or low class rank
  • Not taking a bar review course
  • Low grades in bar-tested courses, or not having taken them
  • Working or other time commitments like caregiving during the weeks before the bar
  • Nontraditional student status
  • Life crisis or major life event (good or bad) when you are preparing for the bar
  • Record of weak test skills, in essay and/or multiple-choice format
  • Lack of realistic, effective study and exam-taking strategies
  • Excessive fear or anxiety

However, every one of these risk factors can be addressed by taking specific remedial actions, which are listed and discussed in the book. And as the authors note:

Although each of the factors puts students at risk, none of them prevents students from passing. Many students have several of these risk factors yet still pass their bar exams. The factors merely reflect common characteristics of students who have failed in the past. By being aware of the risk factors and acting to minimize their effects, you can increase your likelihood of passing your bar exam.

If one or more of these risk factors applies to you, please make sure to take full advantage of ALL opportunities to do practice questions and attend workshops to learn more and better test-taking strategies for the bar!

A Bar Readiness Action Checklist To Use Now!

If you are planning to take a bar exam this summer, you should be doing a few things NOW, even before you start a bar review course. Here’s an action checklist for Emory Law students, including in part some of the action items from a book I highly recommend: “Pass the Bar!”, by Denise Riebe and Michael Hunter Schwartz:

  • Review the rules of the state where you plan to take the bar. For Georgia, go to the Office of Bar Admissions website, for other states go to their bar websites or start at www.ncbex.org.
  • Assess your own risk factors for not passing the bar exam on your first try. “Pass the Bar!” has a great list of risk factors, with suggested solutions for each of them.
  • Plan to attend all bar-related presentations and workshops offered at Emory Law this spring! They will include the visit of two bar examiners on February 29 (see last post), as well as “bar readiness” sessions with Emory Law faculty on each of the subjects tested on the MBE, and several full MBE workshops offered by major bar review companies, at no cost to students. Watch “On The Docket”, your email and the electronic boards for dates, times, details.
  • Plan your time: review and minimize or delegate as many time commitments as possible. Studying for the bar is a fulltime job.
  • Check your finances: plan ahead for living expenses while you study, or look into getting a bar loan.
  • Check your academics: compare the subjects tested in your state with your own law school record and decide if there are any subjects you should start studying before a formal bar review course.
  • Practice writing essay exam answers, using the practice questions posted on bar websites. They are actual bar exam essay questions and usually include sample answers.
  • Look at former MPT questions and answers to make sure you are familiar with the kinds of documents and practical skills you may have to use.
  • Get healthy and stay healthy! Wellness matters for success on the bar exam. Figure out now how you will keep stress and fatigue to a manageable level.
  • Research your options and register for a bar review course if you haven’t done so. Start using the materials they make available early.

Remember: a conservative estimate of the number of hours it takes to prepare to pass a bar exam on your first try is 600 hours. Use every opportunity this semester to put in some of those hours now.

Pass The Bar! Action Checklists and More

Two of the leading lights in law school academic assistance, Denise Riebe and Michael Hunter Schwartz, have a very helpful guidebook for law students called “Pass The Bar!“. It is a comprehensive guide to bar readiness, starting as early as 12 months before you start taking a bar review course after graduation. It includes action checklists, self-assessment tools, a decision grid to help you choose which commercial course to take, information about various aspects of bar exams, practice questions and sample answers, and appendices with all kinds of additional information and resources to help students get ready for this high-stakes test.

I highly recommend this book to all students who will graduate this spring, i.e. in six months. The very first action checklist covers the period 6-12 months before you start your post-graduation course, so now is a great time to get the book (available directly from Carolina Academic Press in hard copy or for Kindle, or from Amazon. com and other booksellers). Yes, you have exams coming up, but it’s important to start getting familiar with the skills you will need for success on the bar, while you still have one more semester in law school to address any deficits and strengthen them with help. Start working on that checklist now, and feel free to come ask anyone in the Office of Academic Engagement and Student Success if you have questions.