How to Pass the California Bar Exam

Instructor: Shelby Golden
Check out this article for information on passing the California Bar Exam. Find out how to study effectively and to learn specific tips for completing the bar in the state of California.

Study Hard and Often

You're going to need to absorb a lot of information before you can pass the California Bar Exam. Some of your study time is going to be general, but a lot of it is going to deal specifically with the laws in California. You should give yourself around 6 months to go over everything you need to know. If you set aside about 20 hours a week to work on getting everything down, you should be on schedule for success.

This may seem like a lot of time, but remember that the California Bar Exam includes a written portion and 6 essay exams that will test your understanding of California law, 2 performance tests that focus on your skills and the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE) that deals with general legal knowledge regarding everything from contracts, criminal law and federal civil procedure.

You have lots of options available for studying, including your notes and textbooks from school. You can also access online study guides that can help you review the information that might appear on the bar exam. Check out these courses on Business Law, American Government and Criminal Justice as you prepare. These courses are full of video lessons that allow you to go over different concepts quickly. You'll find lots of quizzes that can help you gauge how well you understand these subjects as you get ready for the big day.

Prepare for the Essays

The essay questions on the California bar test your ability to analyze points of law and facts. To pass this portion of the exam, be careful about simply relaying legal principles. Instead, focus on demonstrating your ability to analyze the facts and the scope of the law(s), as well as their relationship to each other. For an idea of the kinds of essay questions you can expect, check out past exams and selected answers on the State Bar of California website.

Prepare for the Performance Tests

In order to complete the California Bar Exam, you're going to need to successfully finish two performance tests. These tests are worth 26% of your total grade and will focus on testing your practical skills. Each test is designed to last 3 hours. Prepare for this portion of the bar exam by practicing writing different legal information, such as memos, contracts or briefs. Be sure to keep your writing organized, to only include relevant information, and to rely on consistent and reliable facts. Work through practice questions as you prepare for the exam, which you can find on the California Bar's website (

Write on Your Laptop

You have the option to write your answers by hand, but this actually negatively affects your chance to pass the test. Those who type on a laptop create longer responses and are better able to edit their answers, which is a huge bonus for passing the exam.

Focus Before the Exam

Getting a good night's sleep is a big part of being ready to pass these grueling exams. Make sure you have enough to eat so you're not distracted in the middle of a test. Additionally, don't get drawn into stressing out with other test-takers on your big days. Try to keep to yourself before the exams each day, as well as afterwards. You don't want to unnerve yourself at the end of day 1 and choke on your tests on day 2.

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