The First-Year Law Student’s Examination (also known as the Baby Bar) is an exam given by the State Bar of California Committee of Bar Examiners. It is administered in the Los Angeles and San Francisco areas twice a year, in June and October (the next exam is October 28, 2014).
The examination is in two parts: essay questions and multiple-choice questions. There are only three subjects covered on the Baby Bar: contracts, criminal law, and torts. The rules tested are those of general applicability, not California-specific law. The grading is a lot like the full California bar exam. Each essay question gets a score from 40 to 100 and once raw scores are added up, they are converted to a scaled score to determine who passed. The raw multiple-choice scores will also be converted to a 400-point scaled score for grading purposes. The total score on the exam is the sum of the two scaled scores from the multiple-choice portion and the essay section. Applicants need a total scaled score of 560 or higher to pass.
Does Everyone Pass the Baby Bar?
Unfortunately, no. Though not many people sit for the Baby Bar each time the test is offered. Approximately 1,000 people sat for the two 2013 sessions. But I will warn you—the pass rates are not great on the Baby Bar. June 2013 had a 24.1 percent overall pass rate (26.7 percent for first-time takers) and October 2013 had a 19.2 percent overall pass rate (23.5 percent for first-time takers).
What does this mean if you are planning on taking the exam? You need to study for it. Clearly, this is not a test that can be taken lightly.
Who Takes the Baby Bar?
Regularly enrolled students at ABA and California accredited law schools who successfully pass their first year do not need to take the Baby Bar. If you attend an unaccredited law school, you may find yourself needing to sit for this exam (online law schools require it).
In addition, some law schools require the Baby Bar for students who have been academically disqualified from an ABA approved and California accredited law school. In order to gain re-admission, the school may require students to pass the Baby Bar to continue their law studies. So if you find yourself in some academic trouble after your first year, visit your dean’s office and find out whether sitting for the Baby Bar is required to continue your law studies.
What Sort of Resources Are Out There?
The Baby Bar examination is a lot like the regular bar exam, so the resources are going to be similar. There are commercial bar review companies as well as tutors to help you prepare.
How do you know what’s right for you? That depends on your weak areas. The people I’ve seen struggle with the Baby Bar have struggled not so much with learning the law, but instead how to apply the law to the facts and write out an essay answer. (Want to know what the questions look like? You can find out here.
Here are some commercial courses you can check out for help with the Baby Bar (please note we haven’t reviewed all of these products, but have noted the ones we are most familiar with). Commercial courses will likely provide you with substantive materials as well as lectures and/or essay reviews:
- AdaptiBar (multiple-choice preparation) (you can check out our review of AdaptiBar bar prep here)
- Bar Max
- Bar None
- Bar Review Solutions (some free materials as well as a study schedule for the Baby Bar and note the free calendar though out-of-date could still serve as the foundation for the study schedule you’ll need make up for yourself).
- Celebration Bar Review (you can check out our review of Celebration bar prep here)
Many private bar tutors will also provide help with the Baby Bar. If you have struggled with essay writing in law school, I would highly recommend you consider working with a tutor to elevate your writing before exam time. (We have helped Baby Bar takers study for the exam in the past.)
The moral of the story is that if you find yourself needing to take the Baby Bar, make sure you study for it (remember those low pass rates) and get the right help for you whether it be a commercial bar review provider or a one-on-one bar tutor.
Have you passed the Baby Bar? If so, share your experience in the comments.
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Did you find this post helpful? Check out some other great articles:
- Seven Reasons the Bar Exam is Hard
- Four Things You Can Do to Make Sure You are Ready for Bar Season
- The 7 Areas of Bar Exam Preparation
- Does it Make Sense to Skip This Bar Exam?
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