Bar Exam FAQ
How many MBE questions should I do to get ready for the California Bar Exam?
NOTE: As of July 2017, the California bar exam will consist of two days. Day one will consist of five one hour essays and one 90 minute performance test. Day two will remain the same as past years and will consist of the MBE portion of the exam. However, the MBE portion used to only be worth 35% of a California bar examinee’s score. Now that the exam has gone from a three day exam to a two day exam, the MBE portion of the bar exam is worth 50%. As a result, your attention to the MBE portion of the California bar exam is more important than ever.
What score do I need on my practice MBEs to know that I'm ready for the bar?
Every one wants to know: “How many MBEs out of 200 do I need to get right?” In July 2004, the passing “raw” MBE score was a 136. However, on previous rounds the passing raw MBE score has been much higher (in the low 140s). The way to achieve a passing is through good, solid preparation. Practice is the most important aspect of the MBE section. The key to improving your MBE score and to succeeding on this portion of the exam is struggling through each missed MBE and studying the answer explanations until it makes sense to you and you can remember it. Bar None Review utilizes techniques that will help you to master the most difficult questions. One of the key things to always remember when studying for and practicing the MBE portion of the bar exam is that it is a standardized test. As a result, there are many techniques which students can learn to make even the most difficult questions do-able.
I have MBE books provided by my bar review course and I'm going to do all of the questions. Isn't that enough?
Taking the California Bar Exam is no different. In order to pass, you need to understand how they ask questions and what they are looking for in a correct answer choice. One of the best ways to do this is to practice their questions and answers. For the MBE portion of the California Bar Exam, you should study the NCBE’s released questions and answers. You will need to bear in mind that the NCBE does not release any explanations to their answers. They simply tell you which answer is the correct answer choice.
The NCBEs have released about 900 of their past MBE questions. You can purchase these released questions and actual past tests (200 set questions) directly from the NCBE. Note that NCBE does not provide explanatory answers. Any explanations you see in books were written by independent authors. There are books available that contain these past NCBE questions and include explanatory answers. However, students should be aware that the quality of these materials and the effectiveness of their explanatory answers varies greatly from one source to the next. However, we have selected a volume as part of our MBE review that we feel is the best book on the market. The explanatory answers are exceptionally good and provide excellent support for the reasoning that is behind a given answer choice.
How many practice essays should I write?
Why do I need to read and issue spot so many exams?
Where do the "released" answers come from?
The released answers are not always the “best” answers. Sometimes the Committee selects a particular answer to show that examinees do not need to be perfect to pass the bar. Often the two released answers display very different writing styles. If you look at enough released answers over a long enough period of time, however, you will notice that patterns emerge and you will understand what the graders are looking for.
How should I prepare for the new 90 minute performance test?
Do I need a separate course for the MBEs and/or Performance Test?
Is it going to be a problem that I have to work during bar review?
If you are a repeat taker you may be able to successfully prepare for the bar exam and work either full or part time. However, each student’s individual situation is different. If you do have to work full time we will provide you with a program that will help maximize your study time. Because our classroom schedule consists of nights and weekends, many of our students do work full time and manage the program. While many of our students work part time or even full time during bar review and pass the exam, these students succeed by having excellent time management skills and by following our program instructions carefully. Whatever your situation – first time taker, repeat taker, working full or part time – we will work with you to develop a plan that will best utilize your study time.
I'm a repeat taker. Is it worth my time to take a Simulated Bar Exam?
How early should I begin my review?
Is it better to attend a class with other students or to have a one-on-one tutor?
Tutoring allows students a chance to get personal feedback on their writing and MBE performance. It is also an opportunity to ask any questions that may not have occurred to you during the class. Your tutor can help you narrow your focus to your problem areas and thereby assist you to study more effectively.
How far should I be prepared to drive to take a course I think can really help me?
Are my chances of passing the bar exam better in July?
This is probably one of the most common questions asked by law students. If you were to look solely at the statistics, the answer would be yes. According to the California State Bar statistics, each year the pass rate for the July bar exam is higher than for the February bar exam. (Typically the July pass rate hovers around 50% while the February pass rate is about 40% – most recently 37%). However, this is not to say that your chances of passing the bar exam are lower if you sign up to take the February bar exam. When comparing the February bar pass rates to the July bar pass rates, it is important to understand what is behind the differing pass rates. So what accounts for the difference in pass rates between the July and February bar exams?
First of all, there are more students from ABA accredited law schools taking the July bar exam than there are taking the February bar exam. Second, bar takers from ABA law schools pass the California bar exam at a higher rate than those students graduating from unaccredited law schools. It makes sense then that the pass rate on the July bar exam is higher than the February bar exam since more of the students sitting for the bar exam in July come from ABA accredited law schools.
There is a third likely reason for the lower pass rate on the February bar exam. Regardless of what law school a bar examinee has attended, his or her chances of passing the bar exam are the highest on their first bar exam attempt. This is not to say that repeat attempts are futile. However, statistically first time takers pass at a much higher rate than those students who are repeating the bar exam. (This is often reflective of the fact that many bar takers who are retaking the bar exam do not take a review course and worse, are unable to take time off of work the second time around to study for the exam). Since there are more students taking the bar exam for the first time in July ( ABA law schools typically graduate their students in May and those students typically sit for the bar exam in July) than in February, the July bar exam statistics are most likely impacted by these students higher pass rate.
Regardless of when you take the bar exam you must be prepared. The bottom line is, February or July, you have fifteen subjects that you must know well. These subjects are tested in three different formats and you must be prepared to succeed on all three formats. It does not all just come down to the multi-states and it does not all just come down to the essays or the performance tests.
Can you fail the bar by failing essays? Yes. Can you fail the bar by not achieving a passing score on the multi-state section? Yes. Can you fail the bar by writing below average Performance Tests? Yes. Failing any one section can lead to failing the entire test.
Too often students place most of their emphasis on the multi-states and ignore practicing for the written portions. Or, students focus on the written portion and do not realize the significance of the multiple choice section. Two thirds of your test taking time is written. You must pass the written portions in order to pass the bar exam. While it is true that the higher your multi-state score the more you can “get away with” on the written portions, this is a very dangerous hypothesis. It is virtually impossible to pass the California bar exam without passing the written portions of the exam. This is not the case in other jurisdictions. In many jurisdictions the MBE portion of that state’s bar exam is weighted much more heavily than in California. In addition, most states require a lower score on the MBE for “passing”. However, in California, the bar examiners are looking for a level of performance on all three portions of the exam. These sections are weighted accordingly by the bar examiners so that passing bar takers are those students who have performed well enough on all three sections.