AMWI Blog

Tired of retaking the bar exam? Regain focus and confidence using this practical guide to bar exam

Nov 12, 2018 3:41:35 AM / by Bijoux Ngwanda

Why should you read my article and what makes me an expert?

I have taken and failed the bar exam not once nor twice but four times before passing it fifth time.  I have always thought of myself as a person of above intelligence but after failing too many times I began to second guess myself. You go around caring a degree of shame. I literally mean a Law Degree of shame. Not that I couldn’t do something else of value with it but you can’t practice law without a license. After all that is why you went to Law school for: to practice law. Unless you wanted to accumulate debt just for the sake of it.  

I immigrated to the States 13 years ago, I have never let anything discourage me nor did I make the English language or culture barrier an excuse. I manage to make it to the Dean’s list in college but never in millions years could I have imagine becoming a lawyer was going to take that much endurance and persistence. I knew it was going to be challenging but I didn’t realize it was going to test my patience and determination to its core. I have been burned by the process of becoming a lawyer but I have never given up. Every time that I wanted to give up on retaking the next bar exam, I thought about the sacrifices I made the last past years, the amount of debt I have accumulated during my student life and the Law Degree of shame I was carrying around. I forced myself not to give. Here is practical guide for bar exam repeaters. My hope for you is to find inspiration, motivation and determination. There is always a light at the end of the tunnel, trust me I have been on the other side and now I am seeing the light.


  1. Skip the next bar exam.

Why is I important to skip the next administration test? Let me just tell you that if you have taken and failed more than twice, the true is you are exhausted both emotionally and mentally. You have used up all your financial resources in the process as well. After 2 or more disappointments in a row, your expectancy set point has becomes accustomed to failure. And it feels as if you are only expecting bad news even though you consciously want to pass. That is why taking a break will help you detach yourself from the process, allowing you sometimes to heal the wound, strategized and reprogrammed your sub conscience mind for success.

When I first failed the bar exam in the state of Florida, I had the urge to retake it right the way, little that I knew I was driven by the wound of failure and the desire to prove to myself that I was good enough. Then I failed the second time. A that point I still did not know that the wound of failure was just deepening and nothing I could have done was going to help me get a higher score unless I addressed the issue of disappointment and work on my mindset first.  I still didn’t learn my lesson. I went a retake it right away the third time. I failed. I was crashed. My sense of worth and self-esteem was diminished to its lowest value. I finally decided to take a break. I had to stop and think. Then I decided to find a full time job.

  1. Find a full time job if you have not done so yet   

Earlier in this article, I talked about detaching yourself from the process in order to heal the wound of failure. No better way of achievement it then focusing on something else. It is important to work full time when you skip the next test administration. Many law school graduate have refuted that idea of working full time while studying for the bar exam thinking that working full time will use up all their study time. Let me tell you this, if you failed already the first time when you came out of  school studying full time and not working at all, the reality is time was not an issue. Something else was the cause of your failure.

Work will help you stayed disciplined and allocate your time accordingly whereas not working will perpetuate the idea of procrastination. Some people will again fight the idea of working full time saying that they cannot find a decent paying job without a license to practice law. Although you might not get pay as an Attorney, you can still use your law degree and generate a decent income. Come-on! You have a law degree, you can certainly find a job. From my personal experience here are 2 areas that I find companies most likely hiring a law school graduate: Banks and Insurance Company?

You could work at a Bank as a dispute Analyst, you will maintain your skills while reading contracts, federal regulations and solving people problems. While working on those disputed charges and addressing customers concerns, you will acquire customer service skills, customer retention and business development skills. And all those skills are transferable as we all know that lawyers must have business development skills, client retention skills as you build your billable hours. You might also work as a claim adjuster for an insurance company.  One of those jobs description is to determine liability, interviewing witnesses and other agencies. As a law graduate, you will not only use your critical thinking, you will also be able to determine who is at fault. Again those skills are transferable when you become a lawyer. I cannot stress enough the importance of focusing on something else when you skip the next bar exam. Not just you get lighter in the process but you also generate income which will help you pay for your next bar course.

  1. Use a nontraditional course

You have heard this before. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting the same results. Most law school advertised highly on taking those traditional bar exam course which is not bad if you pass the first time. In the case of people like me who failed more than 3 times, it I important to reconsider your bar exam study materials. Don’t be cheap. Don’t be tempted to retake their material for free. So far it has not helped you. I would highly recommend that you change your study materials especially if you took those traditional bar exam course.  Tried an independent tutor. Go with a different company. Why? Familiarity is the danger. After using the same materials over and over, the tendency of the mind is to get familiar, after becoming familiar the tendency is to skip over details because you have seen it before and you might think you know. Whereas once you buy a different bar review course, your mind will be willing to learn everything because it will think it is new. The structure, the pages and the details or examples might still be the same however, you will take it with a fresh and open mind because you have invested in it and you will want to read it as if you were reading for the first time.  Trust me it works. The mind is tricky don’t let it trick you.

  1. Consider taking the exam in a different state

Some states have a lower turn out meaning lower bar exam takers. This could be to your advantage. The way it was to mine. Some states also have different scores requirements, this also could be to your advantage especially if you have failed by a small margin. Have you considered looking into neighborhoods states and see if you failed by a small margin? Have you looked into the numbers of applicants per states/ or the passage rate by states? Those questions could help you decide on whether you should consider taking it in a different state.

Focus on each part individually this could make a huge difference. Some states allow their applicants to take each part individually if the so choose. It used to be the case for Kentucky where I took the February and the July 2018 bar exam. But Kentucky has recently changed their rules of admission. Starting 2019, applicants must pass both parts of the exam in one setting/seating.

After failing the Florida bar exam 3 times in a row, I decided to move back to the Midwest to live closer to family. I then started looking into my most favorable options. I decided to take the Kentucky bar exam. Mostly because my MPRE score was valid for Kentucky and their score requirements were close to what I was able to achieve in Florida.  Believe it or not, I also had a weird dream back in Florida (when I was still a student) that I passed the Kentucky bar. I decided to follow it and literally follow my dream lol.

I took the Kentucky February 2018 bar exam and passed the ESSAY portion of the bar. Then retake I retook the MBE portion of the exam in July 2018, which I know without a doubt that I have passed.

For the first time in my life I feel accomplished and I hope the same for you

  1. Develop a spiritual practice  to help you cope with the wound of failure

I am not here to preach nor advance a particular religion or spiritual practice. But I have to say that some concepts are just universal. Say a man jump out of the 5th  floor building, that man will fall to the ground. He will not go high to the sky. This is the law of gravity and that is the true regardless of any particular religion.  My point is this: develop a certain practice that will help you maintain a sense of sanity during this process of retaking the exam. It is a very lonely process and people have given up. Don’t be that person. You went to school. You studied hard. You graduated. You should become a lawyer period. Meditate if you have to, pray if that what feels right, listen to motivational speakers if that your thing … whatever you develop as a spiritual practice, do it, be consistent never ever give up.

There is always a light at the end of a tunnel.

Topics: For Candidates

Bijoux Ngwanda

Written by Bijoux Ngwanda

Bijoux J Ngwanda was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, formerly referred to as Zaire. Although her country of birth is potentially rich in natural resources, the Democratic Republic of the Congo has been ripped by civil war and political instability for the last decades. That instability has led Bijoux J. Ngwanda to flee the country, consequently to immigrate in the United States of America not by choice but by destiny. Since then, Bijoux J Ngwanda has questioned her own existence and its purpose in a foreign land. Those questionings has drown me to the study of Law. At first, I thought that I was drown to the study of law following my father (a retired judge) footstep unconsciously but after several unsuccessful attempts of taking the bar, I have finally realized that this is my destiny. Becoming a lawyer has become the most challenging endeavor of my life. Regardless of culture and language barrier, I have demonstrated resilience and determination in the pursuit of my dream. Currently Bijoux J Ngwanda works for Barclays as a dispute Analyst. On my free time, I enjoy reading books on history, traveling, volunteering with Food Bank and practicing Yoga.

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