The One Thing You Need to Know / Do to Pass the Bar Exam

By Sam Farkas, Esq,
BARBRI Curriculum Architect and Instructor

As you approach the bar exam, you’re likely to hear all kinds of “quick fix” advice, which often sounds something like, “to pass, all you really need to do is ________.” You are a trained critical thinker, so hopefully, any bar success claim beginning with, “all you have to do is…” triggers suspicion.

As the old saying goes, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

At BARBRI, we’ve heard everything from “create your own study plan” to “you only need this book,” “you only need to work 1,000 multiple-choice questions,” or “you only need to study for 100 hours.” The list goes on and on. Assuming these claims are even true (dig in a bit and you often find that those making these claims actually worked harder than they suggest), why experiment and risk your one opportunity to be a first-time bar passer?  Sure, an applicant with a strong knowledge of the law, excellent study, reading, analytical and writing skills, who faces no real consequences if he/she fails, and who is committed to proving all the doubters wrong, might be able to eke out a passing score. But, like all dubious advertisement claims, such advice should come with that fine print disclaimer: “individual results may vary.”

For any significant achievement like passing the bar exam, there are no simple one-size-fits-all shortcuts to bypass the work required for success.

There is simply no amount of “good luck” that can overcome a deficit of knowledge on this exam. When you walk into the exam room, you want to know that you gave it your all. You want to know that you followed an effective bar prep plan, did the work and took ownership of your success. BARBRI provides you with a Personal Study Plan (PSP) that maximizes your study investment by focusing you on what is most important for you to pass the exam. It leverages science and technology to boost learning and progress, and it works in partnership with you, adjusting to your schedule, strengths and weaknesses, and performance. With the PSP, you will not stress about what law to focus on or what practice questions to work. You will not have to worry about whether you are on track for success. You will not have to wonder how you are doing in comparison to the vast majority of applicants taking the exam with you. When you allow the experts to guide you through your preparation, you get to focus on what matters most— learning what you need to pass the bar.

So, here’s one thing you really do need to know to pass the bar exam.

There is no such thing as luck. Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. Your opportunity is set. What are you doing to prepare for it?


By Steve Levin,
BARBRI Director of Essay Testing


When I ask students who scored lower on the bar exam or were just below the threshold of passing, whether they submitted practice essays during bar prep, often the answer is “no” or “not many.” I’ve heard from students, in the past, that they felt the need to know all the rules of the law before they could or should submit a practice essay during bar review.

The written portion of a U.S. Bar Exam is critical to your overall score in every state and in some states, there is greater weight on the written portion compared to the MBE. (Download the BARBRI Bar Exam Digest for details.) Essay writing for a U.S. Bar Exam is an acquired skill you must strengthen during bar prep.

You’ll need to know how to provide an answer to the call of the question in the format U.S. state bar examiners want to see. The best way to achieve proficiency is to tackle practice essays multiple times during bar preparation and submit them for personal feedback – even while you are still learning the substantive material.

You’ll experience optimum results with BARBRI’s Directed Essay Grading.

This consists of, first, working with the BARBRI Essay Architect online tool to enhance your high-level essay writing skills. And then writing answers to the practice essays assigned throughout the BARBRI International Bar Preparation program. You’ll be directed to submit some of those for feedback that will enable you to continue your essay writing skill development.

Note that I said, “skill development.” Do not hold back on submitting a practice essay just because you are still learning the black letter law. When reviewing your essays, we aren’t just looking at your substantive knowledge – we also focus on feedback that helps refine your essay writing skills.

With each submitted essay, you’ll benefit from personalized input from a trained bar exam writing expert. You’ll come away knowing where you will capture points and where you may lose points, as well as how to frame a better essay answer. Submitting essays as they are assigned during bar preparation, over time, will allow you to incorporate previous feedback into the next practice essay. You’ll move along an upward trajectory of continuous improvement and U.S. Bar Exam readiness.

I’m an LL.M.! Now what?

GUEST BLOG by Ambar Rossi, Esquire
Associate Attorney at Sobosik Law, Massachusetts

With graduation day around the corner, it’s now time to pursue our plans post-LL.M.

Some of us will return to our countries, others will try out luck in the U.S. labor market, and the most adventurous will sit for the Bar Exam in July. To all: good luck! To the latter: let’s chat…

I’m not going to sugar coat it for you all: the Bar Exam is no joke! Even for our fellow JDs the next two months will be full of stress, countless hours of study, no sleep and contact with the world whatsoever. They will breathe, drink and eat Bar Prep materials like there’s no tomorrow. Multiply all that by a million and you’ll get the full LL.M. experience. The good news (yes, there is such a thing!) is that the Bar exam is just a test and, just like you, this too shall pass!

Now to the million-dollar question: how to prepare for the Bar Exam?

There’s certainly not one correct answer to this question, but as a foreign-trained attorney trying to pass the Bar I know that the struggle is real! So, I will leave you with 4 things that worked for me:

  1. Do not try to read ALL your Bar prep materials: I am going to assume that all of you will take a Bar Prep Course. That’s a no brainer because you will need the training and technique to learn how to take (and pass) the exam. But getting those 25lbs of books can and will be very overwhelming. No matter what you do, learn when and how to use each book. Some of them will be our companions throughout the entire process but others are there only for reference or in case you need a better understanding of certain issues.  Trust me, you don’t want to become a master in one subject; you want a basic understanding of all of them (key word = basic).  Use your time wisely and read only what you need to pass the exam. No more no less!
  2. Grab your Dictionary: Seriously. This exam is also a cultural challenge. No matter how good your English is some words and sentence construction will make no sense! If, like in my case, English is not your first language it’s a good idea to have your dictionary handy. After all, you don’t want to risk getting a question wrong because you didn’t understand what was being asked.
  3. Practice, practice, practice: Imagine like your new full time job is to prep for this exam. Imagine that this exam is your favorite sport or whatever you want to accomplish the most. You will only achieve your goal by practicing every day. Time yourself, read the explanatory answers of your practice books, do as many assignments as possible. You will feel like you’re not getting anything out of it but, trust me, you are.
  4. Do your own thing: Everybody has his or her own learning methods. Preparing for the Bar exam is not the time to learn a new one. You are a successful attorney and LL.M. graduate. You made it using your own methods; it doesn’t have to be different now. Take the materials and do whatever works for you. It will work this time, too!

fotolia_109834265OK, OK, I’ll give you a bonus tip, perhaps the most important one: don’t be afraid to ask questions and talk to your instructors about your struggles. I remember when I took the BARBRI simulated MBE I was extremely nervous about my – less than ideal – results being a forecast of the inevitable. I shared my concerns with a professor at the review session. He not only gave me useful advice but he even offered additional materials to help me get through the most challenging subjects to me. That’s when I knew I had a true support system that was going to hold my hand throughout this experience. That, to me, made all the difference in the world.

I think you can! #ownthebar