Beyond a Reasonable Doubt – Everything You Need to Know About Passing the Bar Exam

By Jordan Fabel •  Updated: November 26, 2022  •  8 min read  •  Legal
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Are you a law school student looking ahead to taking the bar exam in your state?

After three years of work and study in law school, taking the bar exam can be intimidating for even the most successful law student. The passage rate for bar exam takers varies from state to state.

In July 2018, the overall passage rate for the California Bar Exam was 40.7 percent. First-time test takers fared slightly better at a 55 percent success rate.

But despite these statistics, you can study hard to prepare for (and pass) the bar exam. Read on to learn everything you need to know about passing the bar exam!

Beyond a Reasonable Doubt - Everything You Need to Know About Passing the Bar Exam

Identify a Reputable Bar Exam Prep Course

Passing the bar exam is a daunting task to tackle on your own. That’s why many law students choose to use a reputable bar exam course to help prepare them for the test.

The two most widely known programs in the United States are Barbri and Kaplan. That’s because they have a proven track record of preparing students to take and pass this challenging exam.

Bar Prep Hero is so confident in their service that they guarantee you’ll pass the bar exam. They use real MBE questions licensed from the writers of the REAL BAR EXAM! Our research also found they are more affordable than most of the big education providers.

These courses offer a live course or a pure internet, on-demand option. The biggest difference between the two is that the live course gives attendees real-time lessons from course instructors.

Since the on-demand version can be taken from anywhere, you have to determine whether it makes sense for your lifestyle. Taking the prep course from your home or in a library means you must be more disciplined than when you attend a classroom.

For a course like Kaplan’s California Bar Exam Prep, the on-demand version costs $1,699, while the live course costs $2,399.

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Learn About the Bar Exam and How It Works

Even the best law students may feel anxious about the bar exam because it can be a big unknown for that person. You can help address some of your anxiety by learning about the structure of the bar exam in your jurisdiction.

The Structure

One of the first things to determine is whether or not your state is one of those that offer the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE). The UBE is now approved in 33 different states with each consisting of several unique sections that make it different from the bar exam you would find in other neighboring jurisdictions. These include the Multistate Essay Examination (MEE), two Multistate Performance Tests (MPT) and the Multistate Bar Exam (MBE).

The MBE is a 200-question, multiple choice exam that tests takers in the following seven subject areas.

  1. Civil Procedure
  2. Constitutional Law
  3. Contracts
  4. Criminal Law and Procedure
  5. Evidence
  6. Real Property
  7. Torts

It’s important to understand that the MBE does not test state-specific law. Instead, it is based on the common law, so you must keep that in mind while you are preparing for that exam.

Other state bar exams contain a state component and a multi-state component, the MBE, only.

The Length of Time

You may be asking, ‘How long is the bar exam?’

The answer is that it depends on the state where you are taking the exam. Some state bar exams are two days long, while jurisdictions like the states of California and New York test over three days.

In Florida, for example, the state portion of the exam takes place on the first of two days. In the morning, there is a three-hour essay portion, while in the afternoon is a three-hour multiple choice test. The second day of the exam is composed of two, three-hour sessions of the MBE.

One challenging part about taking the bar exam is the sheer amount of time that you will be sitting to take the exam. In Florida for example, you test for 12 hours while in California, you will take an 18-hour exam spread out over three days.

Besides the length of the exam, you will also have to mentally prepare yourself for approaching questions on the state portion based on the law in your given jurisdiction and the MBE based on common law.

Sometimes, the same question will have a very different answer based on the law that applies when it is being asked.

Find a Mentor

One good way to pass the bar is to find a mentor who can help you through the process.

Studying for the bar exam can be a soul-crushing experience at times. That’s because you will have days where you feel good about your position and others where you are concerned about where you stand.

A good mentor is someone that you know and trust, and ideally, has been through the bar exam studying process in your jurisdiction.

You may choose to have a non-lawyer friend as your mentor because you feel more comfortable confiding in that person. But it’s best to pick a friend or family member who has taken and passed the bar exam.

That’s because there is nothing quite like preparing for and taking the bar exam. Your mentor should be someone that you feel comfortable speaking openly and honestly to about your experience.

Treat Studying Like a Full-Time Job

Lawyers often tell people sitting for the bar exam that they should treat studying like a full-time job.

In Florida, law school graduates often begin studying for the exam days after they walk across the stage to receive their Juris Doctor degree.

It can be hard for a recent law school graduate to move past the celebrating law school graduation to begin the bar exam study process.

But the reality of this complex process is that you must complete each step to get your study program started off on the right foot.

In order to stay disciplined as you study, you should develop a routine that you repeat each day. For example, you could decide to begin your study program at 8:00 am and end it at 6:00 pm each day.

When you factor in time for lunch and other short breaks, that means you are planning to study a minimum of 10 hours each day.

You may choose to take weekends off, but people studying for the bar often use some of that time to take extra practice test questions or to study the test material once more.

Do Not Make Major Life Changes

A key aspect of the entire bar exam study process that is often overlooked is the need to stay focused on the task at hand.

This means that you should avoid making major life changes while you are studying for the bar.

Are you trying to decide if it’s time for you to quit smoking? Break up with your significant other? Start a new job?

These questions will likely all need to be addressed at some point in the future, but staying focused while you are studying for the bar exam will pay off in the end. You need to focus all of your energy and efforts on learning and retaining the vast amount of knowledge required to pass.

When you spend time worrying about lots of important things outside of the test, you are at risk of distracting yourself from receiving the maximum benefit from your study time.

It’s also important not to become distracted by these outside issues because you put yourself at risk of falling behind in your study plan or review course. Feeling like you are behind the pack can induce unnecessary stress and anxiety in you.

Trust the Process and Work Hard

There is no disputing that the bar exam in any state is a challenging endeavor. But it’s also essential for you to remember that there are 1.34 million lawyers in the United States. This means that each year, tens of thousands of people in your position are sitting for (and passing) the bar exam in their jurisdiction.

You must trust the process and work hard to achieve your goal of passing the bar exam.

Besides the studying portion of this, you also cannot lose sight of the bigger picture. You need to give yourself some time to unwind and step away from your study material.

When you plan your routine, you should also take time to consider some of the things that are most important to your daily life. This may be activities like spending social time with family or friends, taking a walk, or working out.

Incorporating these activities into your study routine serves to benefit your study habits as you prepare to take the bar exam.

Wrapping Up: Passing The Bar Exam

The bar exam is often viewed as the final stepping stone between a law school graduate and being a licensed lawyer.

The significance of the exam on your life can make you nervous about preparing for and passing this test. But using these tips will help you feel more confident about what lies ahead and how passing the bar exam can be accomplished.

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Are you interested in learning more about other courses that can benefit your life outside of taking the bar exam? Check out the real estate, health or legal sections of our blog to learn more about the courses and other resources we provide.

Jordan Fabel

Jordan Fabel

Covering different 'paths' that people's lives can take. Creative, foster parent, ticket dismissal, you get the idea. Exploring the requirements, certifications, exams, and obviously, approved courses along each path.