As the July 2015 bar exam results continue to be released, we are seeing a very troubling trend: bar pass rates are dropping across the country. The average score on the MBE portion of the July test fell 1.6 points from the previous year, reaching its lowest level since Ronald Reagan was President.

This number was even worse for those who had previously taken the bar exam and failed, with pass rates in some states as low as 20%. Unlike many other tests where performance gets better when you take the test over, it is not true of the bar exam.

In a first time bar review, the course simply reviews the law. You take notes, gather information and then, when formal classes end, you memorize the rules and do lots of practice. Bar exam repeaters who go back to the same or a different first time course just repeat the process. They accumulate lots of notes for a second time in a row, however, their problem was not a lack of knowledge, but their inability to score points with what they did know.

Most bar exams have 5 or 6 essays. With 3 to 4 major rules per essay, it means the entire essay section is testing less than 25 rules of law. Think about that for a second. You only get 1 to 4 rules per subject. You already have the rules from your first time bar course. What you need to do now is work on memory and practice, not regathering more rules. You need to take a bar course designed specifically for the retaker, or use your old notes and take supplemental programs or tutoring that work on skills.

You have the law from your first course; now you need to be trained to pass. With only 3 or 4 rules per subject on an essay, it is likely you will not remember one or more of the rules tested. Training is learning how to maximize points when you know the rule and being able to write an essay even when you do not. Retakers fail because they continue to approach the bar exam as if it were a law school final, which it is not. Unlike your finals in law school, bar exam essays have a predetermined answer. You can be trained to recognize what the examiners want you to write.

With the MBE, one major problem you faced the first time around was narrowing your answer choices to two possibilities, but not being able to correctly choose between them. This time, get trained on how to select between two MBE answer alternatives based on how the question is written.

As a retaker, you can improve your results from last time, but only if your preparation is building upon what you did – not repeating it.

If you have any questions or would like me to review your bar exam score report with you free of charge, just email me at info@marinolegal.com.

I am here to help students succeed on the bar exam.