Ask The Professor: The #1 Reason Why You Failed The Bar Exam

Should I have studied harder?
Maybe I am not cut out to be a lawyer?
Friends who spent less time studying than me passed.  How is that possible?
What’s wrong with me?

These are just a few of the questions we have heard over the last 70 years of preparing law students for the bar exam.

However, our most frequently asked question is: “Why did I fail the bar exam?

The answer is a fairly simple one. It is not about how much law you know, it is about knowing how to score points with the law you do know.

And it is why you failed the bar exam, too.

You did not need to study harder, you certainly are cut out to be a lawyer, and nothing is wrong with you (at least not when it comes to studying for the bar exam.)

How do we know this? We specialize in helping students retaking the bar exam to pass on their next attempt. We have created and teach the only bar course designed exclusively for those retaking the Uniform Bar Exam (which is now administered in 54% of jurisdictions and will likely expand to several more in the near future). While your first time bar review course simply “reviewed” the law, our course trains you on how to score points and answer questions when you do not know the law and what to do with your knowledge to maximize exam performance when you do know the law.

A first-time bar course teaches a lot of rules. It generically provides you with a review of the law and gives you a basic idea of what to do on the exam, but it does not train you on how to maximize your knowledge to earn points on the exam. You on your own have to decide what to memorize and how to apply the law you are learning to the questions. You do this alone — using the same skills and methods that worked for you in law school. And that is why bar results mimic law school standing; you pass in GPA order at the time of graduation and a bar course does not help you do better on the bar exam than you did in law school.

When students fail the bar exam, they are faced with the question of what to do on their next try. They often choose to independently study or just retake their first-time bar course for a discounted rate. And then they wonder why they failed again.

And the situation is getting worse. Repeat test takers comprised about 70% of the February 2018 bar exam candidates and had an average MBE score of 132.0, a 1.7-point decrease compared to February 2017 and a continuation of the trend of falling scores and passage rates for retakers.

When retaking the bar exam, you need to focus on memory and exam performance. If you studied hard the first time around, you know or at least have most of the rules you need. You do not need to take a first-time course to gather more rules. Your problem now is that you need to learn how to apply the rules you know to the test questions to increase your score.

Why did you fail?

Because you could not get enough points to pass. It is why both first-timers and retakers fail.

The question you should be asking is this: how do I pass the bar the next time around?

Here is some advice about restudying for the Uniform Bar Exam:

  1. Do not go it alone.Don’t just squirrel up in some room and study prior bar material. You need help. Consider a tutor or a specialized course like the Marino Retaker Course. You need structure and guidance. You need a plan that will work for you.
  2. Do not “surgically” study. Do not decide that you failed because of a certain subject or part of the test and concentrate on just bringing that portion up; your score on the other sections will likely drop. You need balanced preparation while also attempting to correct what did not work for you the last time.
  3. Don’t just do lots of questions without laying a substantive and skill foundation.Be strategic, reacquaint yourself with the law, learn a method, practice it, and then perfect it by doing lots of questions when you are ready — not right from the start.When it comes to doing questions, quality not quantity is key. Remember, the bar examiners wrote each question with a specific answer in mind. To find that answer, you need a method and you need to develop that method to work within the limited amount of time allotted. If you are having issues with the MBE consider learning the Marino MBE strategy. It is unique and teaches and trains you on a method that has been successful in raising thousands of students’ MBE scores.
  4. Don’t confuse familiarity with knowledge.Students go over the same notes they studied the first time and get less out of them because they are familiar and they thinkthey know them. Do not just read over your notes without considering whether you truly understand how to apply the rules.
  5. Study rules, not subject areas.Learn a rule and how to score points with it. Don’t worry about the big picture. You are not training to be a law school professor; you are training to pass this one exam. Concentrate just on the rules that are tested on the UBE and memorize them.

The #1 Reason why You failed the bar exam is that you did not score enough points. You already studied the law when you studied for the exam. This time, focus on how to apply that law to earn more points. Improve your methods and your strategy and your score will improve. You will see it happen!

Wishing you Good Luck!!!

P.S. If you failed, just send us your score report and we will go over it with you. There is no charge or commitment. We will tell you exactly what went wrong and what you need to do to pass. Just email your score report to and we will be in touch very soon.

If you were unsuccessful on the bar exam and would like a free evaluation of your score report from the bar exam experts at Marino, just email it to or submit it here.