Quite a few students have come to me with concern over the new format of the California bar exam scheduled to go into effect this summer. For starters, the new exam will be just two days instead of three. The first day will be comprised solely of writing (five essays and one PT) and the second day will include two three-hour sets of MBEs. One major component that has captured bar-takers’ attention is the new performance test, which has been cut down significantly. In this blog post, let’s explore some of these amendments to the exam, what they mean, and how to prepare:
The 90-Minute Performance Test
It may come as a relief that going forward, the exam will include just one PT, rather than two. On top of that, the new PT is just 90 minutes instead of 3 hours. This raises several concerns for bar takers in California: First, how different is this PT really going to be? Second, what’s the best way to prepare?
According to our review, the new PT will look a lot like the PT that is being used on the UBE (Uniform Bar Exam), which is administered in other states. The UBE uses a similar 90-minute format and involves fact and law packets and answer guides which look a lot like the one that California has released as an example. Suffice to say, the new PT will be different, but not that different from other examples that are available. You will still be tested on the same basic skill set:
- Following instructions well
- Strong factual analysis
- Coming up with a sensible plan and executing it in the time provided
The main concern for students should be practicing this new format and getting used to the time pressure that comes with cutting the PT in half. The new exam format also means that since there’s just one PT instead of two, these will count for fewer points (see below about ramping up MBE practice).
So, how do you prepare? Get UBE PTs (or MPTs as they’re called). You can find some for free here:
If you’re good at multiple choice, now is your chance to shine! The MBE portion of the exam will now make up 50% of your overall grade! If that thought makes you shudder, don’t worry, you have options.
First, if you’ve already taken and failed the exam, as of February 2017, you will now be provided with more specific MBE feedback about your percentile ranking in each MBE subject. Why is this important? Well, it can help you target your weakest areas. You can also use this data to determine whether you may need more MBE practice, better knowledge of the law, or maybe even an MBE-specific tutor.
We like Adaptibar as a self-study tool. You can read more about our thoughts on that here. If you’re really struggling with the multiple choice, perhaps even check out some of their substantive law lectures.
The good news is the essays likely won’t be much different from what we’re used to seeing on the California bar. There will now be five instead of six (three in the morning, two in the afternoon before the PT), but we’re expecting that they won’t look too different from those typical of California in recent years.
My recommendations for essay practice remain the same, namely:
- Do writing practice every day
- Carefully review your own work
- Plan your essays before writing them
- Use every fact from the fact pattern
- Memorize your rules and attack plans as early in the study process as possible
- Be your own strongest critic, if you’re weak in any area, don’t wait to fix it
If you’re wondering where to get practice essays, just use those provided by Cal. Bar. You can find those here.
Best of luck preparing for the new exam! If you’d like to hear our discussion of the new exam format and what to do about it, you can check out our recent podcast here.