The California State Bar Board of Trustees recently voted to scale back the state’s three-day exam to just two days. Starting in July 2017, the exam will include one day of essays and one day of the MBE (like most of the country). The essay day will likely include five one-hour essays and one 90-minute performance test. (Currently the California Bar Exam uses a 3-hour performance test, while the Multi-State Performance Test is 90-minutes). Each day will be weighed equally.
What is the Big Change?
Instead of six one-hour essay questions there will now be five. This might be a good thing for folks that struggle with the essays, but since I myself think the essays are easier to pull your scores up for than the multiple choice, this may be more challenging for some.
Instead of two 3-hour performance tests, there will be one 90-minute performance test. I am sad about this change! The performance test was always my favorite part because you didn’t need to know any law to be successful at it. I think this is going to make the bar a bit more challenging for some – those who were able to pad their scores with excellent performance test scores to make up for possible knowledge-of-the-law issues.
Lastly, the MBE is likely going to be given more weight. This is great if you are good at multiple choice, but if you aren’t, it may make this exam more difficult for you.
However, one group of attorneys, specifically foreign attorneys, may find the exam a bit more accessible because typically foreign trained attorneys struggled with the California bar because of the heavy weight given to the writing portion. (Not surprising, many foreign-trained attorneys find multiple choice exams easier than lengthily written exams when English is likely not their first language.)
Experts are saying it is unlikely the bar exam will be any “easier” since the state will still set the scoring to keep passage rates at a similar level. And really, do we think California is going to admit more lawyers than it needs do? We doubt it.
Hopefully, the exam will be cheaper to take (no three nights at a hotel, and possibly lower administrative fees) and cheaper to administrate. Who knows, the bar may even speed up the grading process so July takers don’t get results the Friday before Thanksgiving (which I find particularly cruel and unusual).
What Does This Mean For You?
Nothing much really. If you are sitting for the bar before 2017, you still need to live through three days of exam testing. I wouldn’t recommend anyone hold off on taking the exam until after 2017 unless you have an extreme and unique situation.
If you are in law school now, however, continue to better your essay writing and multiple-choice skills. Use all multiple-choice practice available to you for bar classes and through tools like CALI exercises (ask your law librarian if you have access to CALI exercises). If the bar is going to put more weight on the MBE, you definitely want to make sure you are working on your comfort level with legal multiple choice throughout your law school career.
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Did you find this post helpful? Check out some other great articles:
- What is the Uniform Bar Exam?
- What is the California Bar Exam, Anyway?
- Top 5 Ways to Prepare for the Florida Bar Exam Essays
- How to Get Twice The Amount of Time on Your Bar Prep
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