Tips for foreign candidates taking a U.S. bar exam
U.S. bar exam tips for foreign lawyers, law graduates and LL.M. students
Congratulations on taking this step toward passing a U.S. bar exam and qualifying as a U.S. attorney
Whether you are considering taking the New York Bar Exam, the California Bar Exam or another U.S. state exam, sitting for a U.S. bar exam as a non-U.S. law graduate, lawyer or U.S. LL.M. student is a solid strategy for international career growth and marketability.
Successfully passing a U.S. bar exam will take effort and discipline, just as most important achievements in life do. But the added qualification of being a licensed American attorney will signify your understanding of U.S. law, and will serve to enhance what you can offer an employer and the broader legal field.
At BARBRI, we know what it takes to pass a U.S. state bar exam. BARBRI pioneered U.S. bar prep more than 50 years ago and has the longest history of pass rate success. More U.S. licensed attorneys have passed a U.S. state bar exam by trusting a BARBRI bar prep course than all other courses combined.
Here are a few tips as you prepare to sit for a U.S. bar exam and qualify as a U.S. attorney.
Confirm your U.S. state bar eligibility early
Each U.S. state and jurisdiction independently decides who may sit for their bar exam and who may be ultimately admitted. Your current credentials as a foreign law graduate, lawyer or U.S. LL.M. graduate may mean you already meet the requirements to sit for a U.S. bar exam. Or you may have some gaps to fill.
Be sure to confirm your eligibility with the board of law examiners in the state in which you plan to sit before enrolling in a U.S. bar exam preparation course.
Select a U.S. bar prep course that's best for foreign candidates
Because everyone is at a different stage in their legal journey, BARBRI has options. You decide.
BARBRI Extended U.S. Bar Prep courses are designed for non-U.S. nationals sitting for a bar exam. They focus on the frequently examined topics of the New York / Uniform Bar Exam (UBE) or the California Bar Exam that international candidates find most difficult. They are very flexible as they are extended over a 6- or 10-month duration.
BARBRI Extended U.S. Bar Prep courses also provide the greatest amount of support with a 1:1 personally assigned mentor throughout the course. Your mentor offers personalized guidance through unlimited check-ins and coaching sessions. You'll also receive guidance through the Foreign Evaluation of Credentials and bar exam application process as needed
Lastly, you'll be invited to attend various livestream workshops and events throughout your Extended U.S. Bar Prep course. These interactive sessions cover topics such as learning how to successfully navigate the course and developing effective study strategies. Additionally, the sessions provide an opportunity for you to engage with other candidates who are also studying for a U.S. bar exam with a BARBRI Extended U.S. Bar Prep course.
Factors for foreign candidates to consider
Some factors to consider when choosing between the BARBRI Extended U.S. Bar Prep and the traditional 8-week BARBRI Bar Review course include:
- How much time do you have to devote to your studies each week? How much flexibility do you need during your course?
- Have you ever studied the subjects tested on a U.S. bar exam?
- Do you feel that taking an intensive multiple-choice and essay exam all in English might be especially challenging for you?
- How much 1:1 support would you like or require during your course?
- Are you studying for California, or a U.S. state that administers the Uniform Bar Exam such as New York or Texas?
After considering these questions, if you find yourself thinking you might require more time, flexibility and support, then the BARBRI Extended U.S. Bar Prep course might be right for you. Time, flexibility and ongoing support are exactly what the BARBRI Extended U.S. Bar Prep offers.
Prepare early to build mastery in a manageable way
Time is an important aspect of taking on an exam of the bar's scope, and it is something that can be greatly underestimated. Be prepared to start studying as early as you can and plan to treat whatever course you choose like a job. Set designated study times and get a good routine going.
If you enroll in a BARBRI Extended U.S. Bar Prep courses, you get access to the on-demand Foundations in U.S. Law pre-course module. This allows you to extend the amount of time you have to learn the concepts and get familiarized with the structure of the bar exam.
Foundations in U.S. Law begins with an overview of the U.S. legal system and focuses on exam techniques that candidates who did not get a J.D. in the United States often find difficult to master. You can connect earlier with subjects that you may not otherwise encounter and start to work on the foundational skills you will need to master.
Learn to be average
The key to successfully studying for a U.S. bar exam is learning enough, about enough areas of the law, to pass. Think in terms of learning a broad base of topics rather than delving deep into a narrow field of topics.
If you are someone who focuses on excelling at everything you do, the idea of simply doing well enough in enough areas on the exam may not feel right. You will want to ace every section. In the case of studying for a U.S. bar exam, this will be a detrimental way to study. You'll spend too much time in those areas attempting to be perfect and won't have time to learn enough about the many areas of law that can be tested. There are lots of areas of the law that doing "well enough in to pass" may mean getting a 60% or a "D".
At the end of the day, all you really need to do is make it on the pass list. Learning to be average, or even below average, patting yourself on the back and making progress every day without burning yourself out will get you to your U.S. state bar pass list.
Work multiple-choice practice questions effectively
Working multiple-choice practice questions is a critically important part of any study strategy for the bar exam. As a foreign candidate, answering multiple-choice questions may be a completely new skill that you must develop.
Success on the bar exam is not about how many multiple-choice questions you answer each day or throughout your preparation, it's about how much you learn from each question you answer. Multiple-choice practice questions are an excellent learning tool to help you identify and strengthen any knowledge gaps and sharpen your bar exam test-taking skills. The way to get the most learning out of working multiple-choice practice questions is by carefully and thoroughly reviewing the explanatory answer that is provided for each question that you answer.
Of course you will want to know whether you got the question right or wrong, but it's just as important to know why you got that answer right or wrong. You'll want to know whether your analysis of the question was on-point, and whether you identified and understood the rule being tested in the question.
Rely on your personal bar prep coach
One reason many foreign candidates sitting a U.S. bar exam elect to study with a BARBRI Extended U.S. Bar Prep course is the 1:1 personal mentor. All students enrolled in a BARBRI Extended U.S. Bar Prep course are assigned an individual, personal mentor. Your mentor is a U.S. qualified attorney with bar exam coaching and teaching experience and is your personal coach throughout your U.S. bar preparation.
Your mentor schedules regular check-ins or meetings, at your convenience, to see how you are progressing with your studies. He/she will help you through any problem areas, including customizing your course to better fit your schedule if necessary. Your coach can also guide you through the Foreign Evaluation of Credentials and bar exam application process as needed.