Retaking the Bar Exam? What You Should Know

While every law student is terrified at the prospect of having to take the bar exam once, let alone twice, retaking the bar exam is always a possibility. There are two circumstances where you may find yourself retaking the bar exam: you may fail the bar exam or you may move to a state that doesn’t have reciprocity with your current state.

This post will take a look at these two situations and how your approach to retaking the bar exam will be different for each. Let’s start with the more difficult one, retaking after failing.

Retaking the bar exam after failing

There’s no way to sugar coat this—retaking the bar exam after failing is incredibly difficult. The emotional strain will be be hard and your level of exhaustion will be immense.

So, first things first: Take a break. Hopefully you were able to take some sort of break after the bar exam. Regardless, you should take a couple of days or even a week off after getting your bar results before you jump back into studying.

It’s not all bad news—there is one silver lining to retaking the bar exam. You’ve already studied for the bar exam so you’ve got a leg up on the competition! Since the bar exam is scored on a curve, you should have a very good chance of beating out more students who are taking the bar exam for the very first time. While you may feel discouraged as you sit down to study for the bar exam a second time, keep this in mind to stay motivated and as upbeat as you can.

Since you’ve already learned most of the topics on the bar exam, the trick to studying the second time around is determining why you failed the first time. Do you need to better manage your stress during the bar exam? Or was there a particular subject area or section of the bar exam that brought your score below a passing score?

Once you’ve analyzed your bar exam results and identified your areas of focus, then, and only then, should you start studying. However, you shouldn’t plan to study in the exact same way as last time. Be sure to make some changes to ensure that your score is better next time.

Plan to follow a solid bar exam study schedule and consider enrolling in a class, or a different class if you enrolled in one previously.

By analyzing what didn’t work last time and changing your study habits, you’re sure to pass the bar on your next try!

Retaking the bar exam after moving

If you’re in the unfortunate situation of moving from a UBE jurisdiction to a non-UBE jurisdiction, or vice versa, then retaking the bar exam can be daunting. While this will in no way be a fun task, the good news is that you’ve successfully studied for the bar exam before, and you can do it again!

You should follow the same study plan that worked for you in the past. If you’re moving to a state that administers the UBE, be sure to understand the UBE structure and how it may differ from the last bar exam you took.

Two quick notes of caution:

  • First, do not rest on your laurels if you passed the bar exam in another state. Retaking the bar exam will require you to study with the same force and energy that it took to pass the first time. Don’t underestimate how much time you’ll have to study even though you’ve passed before.
  • Second, if you will be working full time while studying for the bar exam, your approach will need to be different. You should plan to start studying earlier than last time since you won’t be able to study as much each day. Instead of a three-month study plan you should follow a six-month plan.


Retaking the bar exam is a very challenging task. Long days of studying with little fun ahead of you—again. The good news? You should be used to that from three years of law school and studying for the bar exam last time. But the effort is worth it. Follow a study plan, review bar study tips and essay templates, and you’ll crush the bar exam the second time!

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