You’ve spent months memorizing rules, practicing essays, and taking multiple-choice MBE questions. Now that it’s finally time to sit for the California Bar Examination, you need to pack your “go bag” full of items that are permitted in the exam room.
The rules about what you can (and can’t) bring into the California bar exam are very strict, and violating these can result in serious consequences. This post will help you make sure that you’re ready to go on exam day and don’t face any issues when you take your seat, but please be sure to check the State Bar of California website prior to exam day, as these rules are subject to change from time to time.
Permitted Items During the Essays and Performance Test
During the essay and performance test sessions, you can bring the following items with you. Be prepared to have your items inspected by proctors and other exam center personnel when you enter the exam room and once you’ve taken your assigned seat.
- Admittance Ticket: Be sure to print out your admittance ticket before you arrive at the testing center, but do not write anything on it. You will receive a notification from the State Bar of California when this ticket is available to print from your State Bar of California Profile.
- Photo ID: You’ll need to bring a government-issued photo ID with you to the exam.
- Cash and Keys: You can bring cash and/or your credit or debit card (to buy lunch during the lunch break). The cash must not have any writing on it, and you cannot bring a wallet with you. You can also bring your car keys or the key to your hotel room if you’re staying nearby.
- Laptop and Accessories: If you’re taking the exam on a laptop and have followed the laptop registration procedures, you can bring your laptop and a separate keyboard, mouse (wired or wireless), a laptop riser or stand, and a solid color mouse pad with no writing on it. The laptop riser or stand can be no higher than 4 inches and cannot have any writing on it. This applies for the essay and performance test sessions only.
- Writing Utensils.: You can bring only non-digital pens, non-mechanical pencils, and pen-style highlighters into the exam room. If you’re handwriting the exam, you must use blue or black ink, and cannot use highlighter on your essay and performance test answers.
- Timekeeping Device: Only analog watches, non-digital timers and clocks are allowed, and these must be silent and measure 4 inches by 4 inches or smaller. If you plan to use a timer or clock, a proctor may stop by your seat with a ruler to measure it, so be sure to double check the size of your device in advance!
- Miscellaneous Supplies: You are allowed to bring rulers, paper clips, and one book stand. During the performance test, paper clips can help you keep the materials from the library and file organized.
- Foam Ear Plugs: You can bring foam ear plugs, but they cannot be connected by a string or cord.
- Medical Supplies: You can bring prescription medication, your eyeglasses (but no sunglasses or cases), hearing aids, an inhaler, diabetes testing equipment (but not food or drinks), eye drops in single-use vials, splints and braces, crutches, wheelchairs, casts, TENS units, and feminine hygiene items.
- Items for Comfort and Support: In addition to the medical supplies above, you are allowed to bring a back support, an orthopedic cushion, a standard-size pillow without a case, and one foot rest.
- Disability-Related Items: If you applied for and were approved for testing accommodations through the State Bar of California’s testing accommodations petition process, you can bring any disability-related items that were pre-approved in connection with your accommodations petition.
Items Excluded for the MBE Sessions
During the MBE multiple-choice sessions, you can bring any of the items listed above except the following:
- Pens, rules, paper clips, and highlighters.
- Back supports, orthopedic pillows, bookstands, and foot rests.
California applicants are required to bring their own pencils. We recommend that you bring at least six Number 2 pencils that you sharpen before the exam with fresh erasers. Mechanical pencils, pencil sharpeners, and separate erasers are prohibited.
Your Bar Exam Wardrobe
In addition to your “go bag” full of the approved items above, it’s wise to plan your bar exam outfits in advance. Note that you cannot wear hats, caps, hoods, or any other type of headwear during the examination. If you apply in advance for an exemption based on religious beliefs, you may be permitted to wear religious headwear during the exam. You should wear comfortable clothing to the exam that will not distract you or your fellow applicants.
Who Makes These Rules and What Happens if You Break Them?
In California, the State Bar’s Committee of Bar Examiners sets the rules for the California bar exam. If you break these rules by bringing in prohibited items (either intentionally or by accident), you will receive a conduct rule violation and may be subject to additional sanctions by the Committee. Don’t jeopardize all of your hard work by breaking one of these rules, and be sure to show up to the exam with your approved items prepared to do your best!