The Performance Test (PT) is a three-hour "closed universe" practical exam. The PT is designed to test your ability to apply the law to a real legal problem. There are two PTs on each bar exam. It is administered during the afternoon session of the first and third days of the California bar exam.
The performance exam has three components:
(1) the task memo;
(2) a case file; and
(3) a library.
What is a task memo?
The task memo is a set of instructions and is usually in the form of a memo from a mock senior partner. This memo will tell you what kind of legal problem you are faced with and will give you the basic instructions for your assignment. For example, the senior partner may ask you to write a motion for summary judgment on behalf of your client. Or, you may be asked to prepare a discovery memorandum or to write an appellate brief. It is then your job to review the case file and library so that you can prepare the document or documents requested.
What is a case file?
A case file provides you with information on your client and provides you with many of the facts of your case. It may consist of correspondence to and from your client, reports, criminal records, contracts between parties, other applicable documents, deeds of title, prior litigation transcripts, deposition transcripts, declarations, copies of a will etc., and notes entered into the file. It will be your job to determine what significance to place on any of these documents and how to utilize them in your exam answer.
What will be in the library?
The library usually contains three to five cases along with applicable statutes and codes. The library is designed to replicate the legal research that would have been undertaken to resolve the problem. It is then your job to analyze the case law and statutes and to then apply this law to your client's situation. How the cases and statutes are incorporated into your exam answer will depend largely upon the type of document that you are asked to prepare.
The Performance Exam is challenging. It requires excellent time management skills; the ability to make reasoned decisions; write analytically and to follow instructions. The PT gives the Bar Examiners the opportunity to test your ability to resolve and analyze a legal problem, evaluate the strength and weakness of a case, and to prepare legal documents.