Today, I want to share with you another great resource for you folks studying for the California bar exam: BarIssues.com. I have been using BarIssues.com as a tutor for a few years now, but it’s first and foremost a tool for students. BarIssues.com is a website and database that can help you identify commonly tested issues and then find which essays tested those issues in the past (so you can practice them). It is quite a handy tool and one that I think many bar studiers could benefit from!
When you purchase BarIssues.com, you get a login to their site where you can access their database of issues and exams going back to 2001.
Some students may wonder if that is going back far enough? In my opinion, that is a good length of time to review exams. The bar exam does change slightly over time and older essays may not be as representative of what you will see on exam day than more recent exams. We’ve also seen some trends in which kinds of essays have been chosen as sample answers in more recent years, and if you go too far back, the older essays won’t necessarily reflect these things.
Pricing starts at $99 dollars for six months of access. You can see more about the different pricing options below and on their website. In addition, Bar Exam Toolbox readers will receive a $20 discount on the purchase of the BarIssues premium plan. To access the discount, send us an email asking for the code and we’ll send it your way.
What is BarIssues.com?
BarIssues.com is essentially a database of essays, sorted by topic. Here’s what the different plans include:
How Does it Work?
When I work with bar studiers, they frequently ask questions like, “How often is the Duty of Loyalty tested on the bar exam?” Or, “If I wanted to practice the Best Evidence Rule, which evidence essay should I do first?”
BarIssues.com can answer these questions for you! For example, by clicking on the “Issues” icon under Professional Responsibility, you can find out how many times Duty of Loyalty has been tested. (See image below). According to their database, Duty of Loyalty has been tested 22 times since 2001. If you then click on the words “Duty of Loyalty” it will take you to a list of all of the essays testing that issue. That would allow you to do very targeted practice for the essay exam.
Another great feature in the BarIssues.com database is that you can tell from the fourth column over, “A or B” whether the issue you’re searching for was discussed in just sample answer A, just in sample B, or in both. For the best practice, you would want to focus on essays where both of the samples discussed the issue you’re practicing.
I am a firm believer that practice (and evaluating that practice) is one of the keys to passing the bar exam. This database allows you to streamline your practice and focus on both heavily-tested issues and the areas of law you are struggling with.
BarIssues.com can be helpful for anyone studying for the exam, whether it is your first time or not. If you are taking a commercial bar review course, BarIssues can supplement your studying and help you put in some additional time focusing on weak areas of substantive law and analysis.
If you are a repeat taker, one of your priorities should be studying weak areas of the law (since you are coming into your prep with a baseline knowledge of the law from your previous exam). BarIssues will help you streamline your studying. This is especially important if you are working and studying at the same time, you are likely going to be under extreme pressure to squeeze in effective study hours. BarIssues will help you keep your studies focused and allow you to get the most bang for your study-buck when it comes to practice.
Any words of caution?
Whenever you purchase a new tool to help you study for the bar exam, you want to make sure you are committed to using it in a way that makes you more productive or saves you time. When used correctly, I think BarIssues.com can help with your preparation—but it could also quickly become a huge waste of time if you’re not careful.
For example, studiers who find comfort in “busy work” could spend hours researching issues, ranking them and trying to figure out what will be on the exam. Sure, when an issue is tested frequently, you want to be prepared for it. But don’t let yourself go down the rabbit hole of wasting time doing something that will not help you get closer to your goal.
As with every bar study tool, you’re the one in charge of making sure you’re using the product wisely and efficiently. Smart studying and practice will help you get to your goal. Hours of playing in a database, will not.
Have you tried BarIssues? Please share your experiences in the comments.
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Did you find this post helpful? Check out some other great articles:
- So You Failed the California Bar Exam
- The Day I Failed the California Bar Exam
- Three Things to Do to Raise Your Performance Test Scores
- Four Reasons People Fail the California Bar Exam
Initially Reviewed October 2014, Updated April 2016