While any bar exam is difficult, California’s tops them all. In our state, you must maneuver challenging California-specific laws—and face a higher cut score.
Under this intense pressure to pass, many test takers can falter under this pressure.
Only 40% of students passed the July 2019 bar exam and previous pass rates were even lower.
Don’t worry, you can remedy these issues and pass your second or third time with the right approach.
Here’s 5 proven tactics to help you pass based on our 10+ years of experience successfully training bar exam takers.
1. Write for the grader using properly formatted headings
Communication is all about keeping your audience “front of mind” when writing.
As an exam taker, you generally know what point you are trying to make, but you may fail to make that entirely clear for the bar grader.
As you proofread your essay or grade your own practice essays—you naturally reads between the lines and fill in gaps of reasoning that you don’t realize are there.
Bar graders do not give you the benefit of the doubt, trust us, we have a former bar grader on staff.
This is why you must always use formatted headers for every legal issue and sub-issue.
Make sure you differentiate your headers, to let the grader know that you know duty is a sub-element of negligence.
Our approach is for you to make a main legal issue header bolded, a sub-issue underlined, and a sub-sub-issue italicized. By following this formula it’s easier for the grader to give you the points you deserve.
Essays written with the most clarity, score the most points. Guaranteed.
2. Practice studying actively, don’t just rely on flashcards
Studying on your own can be great. You rock out on your headphones while studying MBE flashcards while sitting across a fellow J.D. who’s also reading outlines.
But did you know that simply reading information isn’t the best way to encode it in memory?
While reviewing flashcards and memorizing outlines you may be avoiding closed-book, timed essay writing which falls under the category of “active learning”.
Passive learning, like reading outlines and flashcards, is one of the least effective ways to learn.
Learn the law by using it. That means diving into those essays, practicing performance tests, and also getting detailed substantial feedback on your essays afterwards.
You’ll learn more from bombing a practice essay than you ever would from reading your outline for the millionth time. So study smarter, not harder.
3. Learn the fundamental components of MBE questions—don’t just “pick and pray.”
Did you know that every MBE answer choice has three components?
If you know these components, you can quickly eliminate wrong answers to reduce any unnecessary guesswork.
Each MBE answer choice has three parts:
- The result
- The connector
- The reasoning
The result is the answer to the question: what happens with these facts?
For example, the result might be that a law is unconstitutional. You can use this component to narrow answer choices by determining whether the result aligns with the category of the question being asked.
If the result has something to do with the constitution, but it’s clearly a torts question, cross that distractor answer off and move on.
The connector is the smallest part of the answer choice, but might be the most important.
It sets the condition for the result to be true, or not. Think of words like “if,” “because,” or “unless.”
Pay close attention to what connectors the examiners use, because if you read too quickly, you could get tripped up.
The reasoning is where your law knowledge and application skills really come in.
It’s also where the examiners try to trick you the most. If a reasoning component contains a rule that isn’t quite right—for example, if it says that all relevant evidence is admissible—then trust yourself when you flinch at it.
Often, examiners will include misstatements of the law in the reasoning section, making you second guess your own knowledge. Don’t fall for it.
There are so many red flags that show up in the reasoning component of an MBE question—too many for a single blog post, but you can learn them all in our bar review course or bar exam tutoring sessions.
4. Don’t let test-day logistics get in your way
Did you know that we know students that have failed the California bar because:
- they didn’t get a parking spot, so they had to circle block after block
- they forgot their laptop charger
- they didn’t download the exam software in time
. . . and the list goes on and on
One of our students enrolled in our course after failing a basic test-day mishap of checking her laptop’s compatibility with the testing software. As a result, her laptop wasn’t fully functional, which delayed her starting the written exam.
We provide all students with a test day prep list so you can be 100% mentally focused on the law and not deal with any logistical mishaps.
5. Follow a rigorous study formula
Based on our experience, we’ve seen that students who casually study don’t pass.
To increase your chance of passing the bar, here’s what you need to do:
- At least 5 practice essays in each subject (that’s 65 total essays)
- At least 8 practice performance tests
- Doing all of these under timed conditions
That’s a lot of hours—and dedication.
Students rarely complete this feat on their own. Our students have some of the highest pass rates in California because we assign this and even more in our BarMD Bar Exam Course.
- 90+ written assignments.
- 15 are graded line-by-line, word-by-word.
- Spot check grading on all 75+ remaining.
And we make sure that everyone completes those 90+ assignments.
If not, then they didn’t experience the BarMD Difference.
Our rigorous study formula, detailed grading, and proven MBE and Essay structures have shown 90% of our (mostly repeater) students have passed the California bar.
We also offer an online attendance option for students outside of CA and a special 1-day attorneys’ exam prep course.