Receiving your bar exam results is unquestionably one of the most nerve-wracking moments of your life, and wholly comprehending them, though crucial, can also be difficult.
Doing so will help you to identify the areas you excelled in, as well as those where improvements and further study are still necessary. This guide will help you break down and fully understand these all-important scores, while also providing critical advice about the next steps on your journey to becoming an attorney.
How To Understand Your Bar Exam Results
John Pieper, founder of Pieper Bar Review, explains the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE) scoresheet students receive from the New York State Board of Law Examiners in the following video. This presentation is especially important to watch if you’ve failed, since it also addresses what your future goals should be for each section when retaking the exam.
First and foremost, remember that passing scores vary between UBE jurisdictions. For the purposes of this review, New York is the applicable jurisdiction which requires a passing score of 266. A complete list of UBE passing scores by jurisdiction can be found here.
Anything less will weigh down your total grade. Evaluating each essay score will help pinpoint your strengths and weaknesses. Review the “Scaled Essays Scored.” If an answer was above 47, then it helped your overall grade; if not, it weighed your score down.
You should likewise be striving to achieve 133 or higher on the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE). A score lower than 133 on the MBE indicates that this section is negatively affecting your total. The “% Below Nationally” figures indicate how you ranked on the MBE relative to the rest of the country. The higher the number, the greater the percentage you outperformed.
If you received an 82 in “Contracts,” for example, it means you performed better than 82% of candidates throughout the country. Conversely, if you received a 5 in “Real Property,” it means 95% of the candidates did better than you. You want a “Total” number of about 30 or above to achieve an overall scaled MBE score of 133 or higher.
By knowing your essay scores and MBE percentile rankings for each topic, you'll get an idea of where you struggled and what subjects need the most attention. Without taking the time to dive into your score sheet, it’s likely you’ll make the same mistakes when you retake the exam. If you’ve learned that your writing needs improvement, for example, this should be your main focus—but don’t ignore other sections of the exam! You can still improve your score on every section, so ensure you employ a balanced approach when preparing to sit for the exam again.
The following video is Pieper’s discussion of the October 2020 Uniform Bar Exam and how to prepare to re-take the exam in February 2021:
What is a Passing Score?
Each jurisdiction has set its own minimum passing score for the Uniform Bar Exam, based on a 400-point scale. The MBE section counts as 50% of your total score, while the MEE and the MPT sections count as 30% and 20%, respectively.
Passing grades for each UBE jurisdiction, according to administrators the National Conference of Bar Examiners, are as follows:
- 260: Alabama, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, North Dakota
- 266: Connecticut, District of Columbia, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, New Jersey, New York, South Carolina, Virgin Islands
- 270: Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Utah, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, Wyoming
- 272: Idaho
- 273: Arizona
- 274: Oregon
- 276: Colorado, Maine
- 280: Alaska
Can I Transfer My Uniform Bar Exam Score?
You can transfer your passing UBE score from a specific jurisdiction to another as long as your score is passing in the other jurisdiction as well.
If you took the UBE in a specific jurisdiction but didn't pass, you can still transfer your score—as long as it meets the other jurisdiction’s passing standards.
You can also transfer your MBE totals to a non-UBE jurisdiction, as long as the non-UBE jurisdiction accepts these scores. This also works for transferring your MBE score from a non-UBE jurisdiction to a UBE jurisdiction.
Congratulations, You Passed
Well you deserve to celebrate, no question! Don’t forget, however, that there’s still one more very important task you must attend to before you begin practicing law: You must fill out your Admission Application and be granted admission to the bar by the State Board of Law. The sooner you’re admitted, the sooner you can begin your career as an attorney!
If you’re already working, be sure to keep your employer in the loop about your application status. Once you receive your license, you can finally begin your career.
If you’re still searching for a job, that’s okay, too. Be sure to update your resume to highlight that you’ve passed the bar exam and have been approved (or are awaiting admission) by the state board. This will make you a more marketable candidate on your law firm search.
I Failed the UBE. Now What?
If you failed the UBE, you’re not alone. In fact, there are plenty of extremely successful famous people who have failed the bar exam, so you’re in good company. Don’t let the fact that you didn’t pass the first time discourage you.
The key to retaking the UBE is to figure out where you went wrong. Maybe you didn’t spend as much time reviewing certain material as you should have, or perhaps you focused too much on memorizing your notes, for example, and not enough time practicing MBE and MBE-style bar exam questions.
Make sure to test your skills and retention with practice MEEs and MPTs, too. These will provide you with outlines, and even model answers, for each of the UBE essays the administrators use as benchmarks to grade your scores. These can help you identify what your essays are missing, and what you need to focus on, to get a higher score.
Most importantly, get ready to study, and register for the next bar exam as soon as possible!
When is the Next Bar Exam? When Should I Re-Take The Exam?
The Uniform Bar Exam is administered in February and July. If you failed the UBE, you should sign up to re-take the exam the next time it will be administered, since the information will still be (somewhat) fresh in your mind.
For example, if you failed the February UBE, signup to re-take it in July. If you failed the July UBE, try again in February. Skipping an exam will only increase the time between your last exam and the next, preventing you from consistently studying and thus decreasing your chances of passing the second time.
Top Reasons People Fail the Bar Exam
Although everyone is unique and therefore their reasons for failure may vary, many succumb to one of two general pitfalls on their quest: Either some personal travails of life got in the way, or they simply ran out of time.
We’ll dive into each to help you determine your best preparation strategy for retaking the all-important UBE.
Life Got In The Way
Whether dealing with family issues, an illness, or the loss of someone you love—even though you put in the proper time and effort, your focus was somewhere else. We understand. As long as you double-down on your study habits and get your head back in the game, so to say, with the proper preparation, you’ll be ready to tackle the exam the second time around.
You Ran Out Of Time
Maybe you began to study too late, or simply didn’t do enough practice questions. We hear both of these explanations far more often than not. Either way, at the end of the day, you ran out of time to study. We emphasize the importance of beginning your studying months in advance, exactly for these reasons—and time and time again, this proves to make a significant difference. Better time management will give you back these crucial seconds and minutes and enable you to fully absorb the rules you’ve been reviewing over and over again. Proper time management will also enable you to get more practice from your time. The goal during bar prep is not just to memorize the rules. The UBE is also a test of your skills in issue spotting and rule application, and these skills are only developed through practice. So make sure you leave enough time to complete as many MBE and MBE-style questions as you can, and to practice a number of prior MEEs and MPTs.
Pieper Bar Review offers a variety of courses tailored to your needs to ensure that you get all the practice you need to pass the UBE.
5 Steps to Dealing With Bar Exam Failure
Discovering you failed the exam can leave you anxious, perhaps a bit depressed, and unsure of what you should do next. We’ve laid out the following five steps to help you rebound, overcome this minor setback, and face the UBE once again—this time, refreshed, renewed, and regenerated.
- Be Disappointed
You’ve invested a lot of time, money, and effort into taking the Uniform Bar Exam, so it’s okay to take time to be upset with your results. Talk with friends and family members. Share your concerns. Vent.
- Take a Small Break
Take some personal time for yourself, before beginning to study again. It’s important to spend at least a week or two enjoying life and having some fun. This will leave you with a clear head to figure out how to prepare to retake the exam.
- Commit to Retaking the Bar
You’ve taken the bar exam once before, so you know the time and effort it will take. Recognize that you’ll likely have to devote even more time and energy this time around to ensure a passing grade, so clear your mind, focus, and fully commit yourself to the retaking the UBE.
- Make a Plan
Evaluate your initial preparation for the bar exam, and assess what worked and what didn’t. Create a new, more effective plan to help you study for the exam, so you don’t make the same mistakes this second time around. Consider taking a new bar review course, or even working one-on-one with a Pieper Bar Review tutor.
- Start Studying Again
This is probably the hardest part. Set up your study schedule, and dive back into hours at the library. (Don’t forget the extra caffeine!) Have faith that your hard work will pay off.
Can I Still Get A Job If I Failed The Bar Exam?
Many employers are interested in hiring candidates who have passed the bar exam, so you’ll likely have a much better chance securing a job once you do. Yet as they say, when you get knocked down, the best way to rebound is to brush the dust off and get right back up. Dedicate yourself to studying for the bar exam. Take extra time to do extra practice problems, attend a bar review course, and even find a private tutor. These efforts will increase your chances of passing the exam the second time around.
What If I Already Have A Job Offer And I Failed The UBE?
So, what should you do if you have a great employment opportunity lined up, but failed the bar exam? The most important thing to do is to make an appointment with the right person at the firm to inform them that you’ve failed the exam. It’s possible the firm has partners who have also failed on their first attempts, so they may give you a second chance. It’s likely they won’t be happy with this news, but hopefully they can empathize with you.
If they do permit you to take a second crack, make sure you give your absolute best effort. Express to your employer that you’re dedicated to putting in the required time and studies to ensure you pass and become a part of their firm. Emphasize your commitment to success. Since you’ll be balancing a job and studying for the exam, be prepared for long days at work, long nights in the library, and plenty of coffee.
If the firm unfortunately does decide to let you go, don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s likely that they need a courtroom-ready employee immediately. Be sure to leave on a good note, no matter what, in the prospect that another position will open up there in the future.
How to Retake the Bar Exam – and Pass!
The key to retaking the bar (and passing) is learning from your mistakes. The scoresheet you receive contains valuable information for you to review that can only help you improve your score. Identify those sections you aced, as well as those that require more studying to master, and create a concrete strategy to deploy.
If you’ve discovered it’s your MBE score you need to improve, then spend additional time focusing on answering related sample questions, and applying process-of-elimination skills. If you need to improve your MEE score, then you should spend additional time improving your essay-writing skills.
Although conquering your weaknesses is imperative, it’s also important to continue to hone your strengths. It won’t be very beneficial to improve your weak MBE performance while your MPT and MEE scores decline. Maintaining a balanced equilibrium is absolutely essential.
Enrolling in the best bar review courses will also give you a major advantage. If you initially studied with Barbri or Kaplan, it may be a good idea to switch to a different bar review course, perhaps one with a more customized focus that will help maximize your chances of passing.
Pieper Bar Review is the perfect solution.
How Pieper Bar Review Can Help You Pass The Bar Exam The Second Time Around
Whether you missed a passing score by just a few points, or need a more thorough understanding of an entire section of the UBE, Pieper can help.
Family owned and operated with more than four decades of experience preparing law students for this all-important exam, the expert team of instructors at Pieper Bar Review understands that no two people are exactly alike, and thus, require personalized approaches focusing on individual strengths and weaknesses to best ensure maximum comprehension and success.
Rather than simply providing a broad overview of the information that will be on the exam, Team Pieper takes the time to hone in on specific topics and questions students find especially difficult, customizing lessons and even meeting one-on-one to further explain important concepts if necessary.
Pieper Bar Review provides the most comprehensive preparation courses available, instilling an in-depth understanding of all the required material, but also a customized level of engagement other review programs simply do not offer.
Preparing students for the bar exam isn’t a one-size-fits-all prospect, which is why Pieper Bar Review offers three different tiers of courses tailored to students’ unique requirements, to help students pass the exam the second time around:
Pieper Classic, Pieper Plus, and Pieper Prime
At a minimum, each of our courses offers the quintessential basics:
- Live or Online Lectures with Unlimited, On-Demand Access to Video Lectures
- 150+ Lecture Hours
- Attorney Guidance
- Outline Books
- 1,500+ Practice MBE Questions
- Unlimited Personally Graded Essays from the Pieper MEE Book
- Early Access to Course Materials (When Paid in Full)
Upgrading to the next two tiers, the Pieper Plus or Pieper Prime, bring additional benefits.
The Pieper Plus package includes essay and MPT immersion, with one-on-one exam review from a personal grader. With a heavy focus on your essay skills, this makes it the perfect option for students who need to improve their score on the MEE or MPT.
The Piper Prime includes the aforementioned essay and MPT immersion, with one-on-one exam review from a personal grader—with an additional 10 hours of private tutoring! This special addition enables students to meet one-on-one with a bar exam expert, to ask questions or work on improving the skills imperative to passing the UBE when retaking it.
Regardless, those who enroll with Pieper Bar Review will feel confident on exam day knowing they’ve studied with the best.
But don’t just take Pieper’s word for it. Discover what past students are saying about Pieper and enroll today!