Your bar exam success strongly depends on how you approach and prepare.
Tens of thousands of law grads (JDs and LLMs) all over the world are now considering to prepare for the US bar exams coming in February 2021. They may take place remotely (online) again due to the coronavirus pandemic restrictions.
If you are one of those aspiring bar exam candidates, this post will inspire you to succeed even if you struggle with numerous difficulties.
The question that concerns a vast majority of bar test applicants is how to pass it. In other words, how not to fail?
To this end, how to manage your stress and boost your confidence?
With this in mind, I’ll tell you my story about how I prepared for and passed the New York bar exam. It should definitely cheer you up!
This post, in particular, describes my bar exam difficulties, results, and prep tool among various sound bar reviews.
Ultimately, you can get my guide — a five-step roadmap on how to choose your best bar exam prep course — finishing with the one that helped me pass the New York bar exam on the very first try.
Enjoy my bar exam prep course guide (infographic) for free here:
Here’s what you’ll now discover in detail:
Bar Exam Story
As a SLU LAW LLM of 2007, I decided to take the New York bar exam as late as in 2012. I then actually took the test in 2014.
I should, of course, have taken that exam much earlier. That would add me way more chances to pass. Also, I would avoid many obstacles down the road.
My bar exam preparation came along with the following difficulties:
- Cambridge LLM degree, rather than the NY bar admission, preoccupied my early career perspective (check out that battle of titans);
- Over 7 years passed between my LLM graduation and exam;
- The New York bar exam preparation concurred with full-time work;
- The study gradually stretched from minimal to intensive for up to 5 months;
- This exam was in 10-day proximity to the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE);
- The exam covered 16 subjects;
- Over 80% of the New York bar exam study materials (e.g., criminal law and procedure, evidence etc) were completely new for me;
- The study approach was extraordinary;
- I took the risk of trying a new bar prep course described below;
- I had no single live bar prep lecture in the US – all prep took place in Ukraine;
- English was still my foreign language;
- I arrived to the US a week before the exam day with a jet lag of 7 hours; and
- The exam auditorium was terribly freezing and distracting.
These were essentially the problems I had to solve. Shortly, everything appeared to be unfavorable. Ironically, my odds were minimal, whereas the examination stake maximal.
This is not to mention the test difficulty.
It goes without saying that the NY bar exam, especially its previous (i.e., pre-UBE) version, was among the toughest in the United States. The primary rival was the California bar exam. Regardless, around 80% of all LLM graduates sitting for the US bar exams do that in the New York State.
People often ask: How hard is the New York bar exam?
In a wild game comparison, it’s the worst beast in forest. Your task is not merely to tame but rather to conquer the monster. Along the way, you must quickly score life-saving points…
American bar exam is tough in all respects: mentally, emotionally, and physically. Half way through the first day of the exam, for instance, my eyes already burned due to extreme concentration and pressure. Focusing on assignments to the best of my abilities, my brain constantly revved around the red line.
This exam is probably the highest professional bar you can ever imagine. Without any doubt, the NY bar exam was the hardest examination I have ever taken. Nothing — no GMAT or GRE, which I personally took as well — got even close. Besides, the so-called “golden standard” bar test was even tougher than its current UBE format.
So, if you have any difficulties with your bar prep, refrain from panic. Rather, take a look at my list above, calm down, and prepare.
The main goal to pass a bar exam — like to study law in the first place — is to get an attorney license. This is because such a qualification allows you to practice law.
In my case, for instance, the purpose was to achieve the New York bar admission. This now permits me practicing the NY law.
With that aim in mind, I started my journey as a first-time bar test taker. I was strongly determined to avoid shifting that status to second-, third-, and counting time taker.
For me, it was important to pass on the first try. This goal, at the same time, seemed to be overoptimistic. As a matter of fact, some colleagues unfortunately tried 2-3 times. In my case, a second try could simply never happen. This is because work and other circumstances could easily interfere.
That said, passing the New York bar exam seemed to be a distant dream only. I basically committed to try.
After all, how was I supposed to manage those difficulties above?
Bar Exam Results
Not only did I not anticipate to pass the tough test but I also subconsciously prepared to sit it for another time…
First off, check out the general bar exam results below.
In July 2014, some 11,195 people took the NY bar exam, out of which 7,265 passed it. The pass rate was 65%. That pass rate of less than 2/3 was historically among the lowest.
Nationwide, 51,005 examinees who took that test showed the poorest results in a decade.
This data flows from the 2014 Statistics (see the bottom of page 10) of the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE).
Given those remarkable failure stats, how was I supposed to fare on my first NY bar exam?
Unexpectedly, once I received an email from the Board of Law Examiners, I was simply shocked. To my greatest surprise, I immediately spot the following magic phrase:
… congratulates you on passing the New York State bar examination…
That was unbelievable and unexplainable!
I sincerely wish you to experience such an excitement at least once in your life.
On top of all, I could hardly believe that I managed to pass both the New York bar exam and the MPRE on the very first attempt. That’s in spite of the obstacles outlined above. When I found out the result, I could not be happier. That was one of the best joys in a lifetime. Whether anything can ever beat that excitement is yet to see.
Likewise, once you pass your bar exam, you will sense the meaning of this statement: Nothing is impossible. The rewarding feeling is truly worthy. It will certainly be one of the happiest moments of your life.
After all, the main goal to pass a bar exam — like to study law in the first place — is to get an attorney license. This is because it allows to practice law.
Now, the best part: How did I manage to turn the above difficulties into success?
Bar Exam Prep
In view of the difficulties discussed above, I needed an effective and efficient way to prepare for the NY bar exam. I googled all the best bar prep courses available out there and stumbled upon one that appeared to be particularly appealing. It turned out to be most affordable and convenient.
What was so special about that bar exam prep course?
Bar Review Benefits
Hardly known at the time, that bar review provided the following benefits:
- Success rate higher than the state average by over 10 p.p.;
- Reasonable price of over 4-5 times cheaper than other sound bar reviews, such as BarBri or Kaplan;
- Pass guarantee allowing for refund;
- Lifetime access until you pass your exam;
- Clear bar exam study guide;
- Time-saving (concise and precise) prep materials;
- Pace-minded approach to test drills;
- All lectures, outlines, multiple-choice questions (MCQ), flashcards, and essays available on iPad and iPhone;
- Convenience of bar review program to study at own schedule and pace;
- Lectures on all tested areas of law given by professors of relevant subjects;
- Real Multistate Bar Examination (MBE) practice questions from previous exams;
- Explanations for all MBE MCQ answers;
- Search function to find necessary keywords; and
- Personal review of 2 practice essays by former bar exam graders.
What else would you need?
The online course helped me save several thousand dollars and made my study relatively enjoyable.
Thus, remember to check out my how-to course guide [infographic].
Best Bar Exam Prep Courses
Given the above advantages, that course was my only prep tool.
I have never tried such popular bar review courses as BarBri, Kaplan, or Themis. So, I cannot indicate the best bar review course objectively.
What I can tell for sure, however, is that the course I took sufficed to pass the NY bar exam.
That’s actually all I needed.
By the way, which bar prep course would you prefer?
Just vote and discover the poll results here:
How does your course preference compare to choices of your bar prep peers?
Can you see a clear trend?
Nowadays, we all hear a great deal about disruptive innovation. Technology drastically develops. Computer programs and apps replace physical things.
The bar review course I took is a vivid example of disruptive innovation in bar exam prep. The days of old-school book-pile prep courses have apparently been fading away.
Along these lines, I felt that the online course was a more progressive way to study in the modern day and age. I especially enjoyed learning on Apple devices, particularly iPad and iPhone. The same should hold true for Android devices as well.
Anyway, the online course exceeded my expectations by far. It was the best professional investment I have ever made. Thus, if you stand at the crossroads of which bar prep course to pick, consider to get an online bar review course.
If I managed to pass the New York bar exam under those perplexing conditions, you should have a much higher chance to succeed. That’s regardless of which bar review course you choose — even if you miss the best bar prep courses.
Like mine, your hardships may, in fact, be beneficial. Aware of them, you train to the maximum. The more you practice, in turn, the most likely you are to succeed.
My success story should inspire and motivate you to believe in your luck and score enough on your bar. My experience should remove your fears and hesitations. Hence, worry no more. Leave your stress behind your drive. Boost your confidence to the finish line.
To motivate yourself over the top, find out what the NY bar admission may ultimately result into.
Now, are you dreaming to pass a bar exam on your first attempt in February 2021 or or later?
As you can see, you can do it, too! Just be confident.
To to this end, simply answer the following question in the comments below:
What are you struggling with in your bar exam preparation?
For a bar review support, join our bar exam prep Facebook group.
Bar Exam Prep Course Guide
Most importantly, get my guide on how to choose your best bar exam prep course. It’s a five-step roadmap (infographic).
This one-page guide leads all the way to the course that helped me efficiently pass the New York bar exam on the first try.
Now, be sure to discover my how-to guide — followed by exam tips — right here: