So You Failed a Bar Practice Exam. What Next?


“Practice makes perfect.”  We’ve heard this saying countless times. But have you ever practiced over and over again only to see minimal improvement? Don’t feel discouraged! Practice is seldom just about repeating the same actions and techniques, it’s more often about evaluating our practice performance. So, if you’ve recently written a practice exam for the Ontario bar exams and your results weren’t perfect, don’t worry. You just need to adopt the right post-practice strategy.

After each practice exam, it’s important to critically evaluate your performance. Instead of simply reviewing how many questions you got wrong, focus on identifying how and why you answered those questions incorrectly. The goal of this exercise is to identify your strengths and weaknesses and adjust your study strategies accordingly. Here are a few questions to help kickstart your post-practice-exam review process:

1. Did I score better on seemingly straightforward informational questions, or on scenario-based questions?

When asking yourself this question, try and reflect on any trends you notice. For example, did you get scenario-based questions wrong in one particular section or in every section? Were informational questions more challenging because of the content or because of the time it took to locate information? These questions can help you pinpoint exactly where you should focus your energy.

Generally, however, if you find that informational questions are your weakness, you may benefit from spending more time reviewing your indices. These questions are likely testing your knowledge of the components of a particular legal rule or the relevant exceptions. Reviewing your indices might enable you to gain greater familiarity with the rules, procedures, and their exceptions. On the other hand, if you find that you are struggling with scenario-based questions, you may want to focus on the questions themselves. Did your mistake arise from details in the scenario? Did the scenario leave you confused about what section to refer to in your materials? Or was it a combination of both? Consider reviewing each question, linking it to the appropriate section in the materials, and brainstorming how changes to the given scenario might change the answer. Engaging with the material in this way could help you reduce any confusion you initially faced when reading the scenario.

Did you know? Emond’s Practice Exams provide an explanation for every question, which can help make your post-practice-exam review process much more thorough!


2. Did I struggle with questions involving calculations?

If you noticed that calculation-based questions presented a challenge for you, consider developing a ‘calculation cheat sheet’. As you work through practice exams and your bar materials, add every calculation you encounter to this sheet. With each calculation, you may want to include a brief description, exceptions, or other notes to help you remember when and how to use the calculation. Ideally, you will be left with a comprehensive quick reference guide for calculations on the bar exam.

3. Were there key words (“must”, “may”, “should”, “can”, “except”, and “unless”) that I missed, which could have indicated the right answer?

The correct answer to a question can depend entirely on whether the question uses one of the key words above. As such, it’s important to identify these words as soon as you see them. Consider highlighting or underlining them if they appear in a question. This can help you remember what exactly the question is asking and, in some situations, may allow you to quickly eliminate one of the four possible answer choices.

4. Was I tricked by details or exceptions that I didn’t notice when quickly scanning through the materials for the answer?

As with key words, sometimes details in your materials can have a large impact on which answer is correct. If you notice that these details or exceptions are an area of weakness for you, consider highlighting them clearly in your materials. You might find it useful to make notes in the margins or underline/highlight the details with a specific colour. Ensuring that these notes are visible and clear beforehand can help you reduce time spent reading through the material. During a time-sensitive exam, shaving those few seconds off can make a difference.

Overall, these questions should only serve as a starting point from which to begin analyzing your practice exam results. Ideally, you’ll ask yourself several additional questions that help you develop a clearer understanding of your strengths and weaknesses. Since everyone learns differently, reflecting on your own performance is the only way to identify exactly how you can improve.