Language Barriers and then U.S. Bar Exam: How to Best Prepare for Complex English on the Bar Exam by Celia Lerman

Oct 05, 2021

It is no secret for foreign trained attorneys that their preparation for the U.S. The Bar Exam is going to be different from the typical law student in the United States. Foreign trained attorneys face a set of challenges that many basic exam preparation services do not address, such as English grammar in reading and writing, comprehension of American Legal terminology, as well as many other barriers that foreign attorneys who are ESL face. While these challenges can be worked through, it is critical that any foreign lawyer who plans to take the Bar Exam in the United States evaluates their English reading and writing proficiency prior to their exam preparation. 

Confidence in your English grammatical skills are essential to scoring well on the Bar Exam. While minor grammatical errors will not count against you when it comes to bar exam grading, patterns of grammatical issues can make your analysis hard to follow, which can result in a critical loss of points. Thus for foreign attorneys, focusing on English grammar will need to be a part of your bar exam study process

In addition to grammatical skills, the Bar Exam also tests on American Legal English, which differs significantly from other forms of Legal English, such as in England and India. Because of this, it is critical that in addition to sharpening reading and writing skills that foreign attorneys take time to master their comprehension of American Legal English.

Thankfully, there are a plethora of courses, podcasts, review books, and other resources to begin to tackle the language barrier on the Bar Exam. One strong resource that is highly rated is Study Legal English, an online podcast/course that aims to help ESL attorneys sharpen their American Legal English skills through review and practice options. Further, many foreign lawyers that have passed the Bar Exam who are also ESL have stated the importance of practicing the multiple choice sections during your exam preparation. When preparing, practice should not be put off even if you are not confident in your ability to respond yet. By doing more multiple choice, you will be able to quickly improve your American Legal vocabulary, while at the same time sharpen your reading and comprehension skills. 

Passing the U.S. Bar Exam as a foreign trained attorney presents challenges that other non native attorneys do not have to consider, which can make foreign attorneys feel less confident in their ability to pass the exam. It is important to remember that by beginning your preparation early and tackling challenges presented to ESL exam takers, you can and will be successful. Practice is essential, so utilize your test preparation practice materials, and take advantage of other resources available online to guide you through your Bar Exam preparation. 

For more information on Study Legal English, visit

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