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Conquering the California Bar Exam: A 3-Month Study Plan for Success

If you're planning to take the July 2023 California Bar Exam, you're likely feeling a mix of excitement, anxiety, and overwhelm. After all, the California Bar Exam is notoriously challenging, with a low pass rate that can leave even the most prepared test-takers feeling unsure of themselves. But the good news is that with the right approach, you can conquer the California Bar Exam and come out on top. In this post, we'll walk you through a 3-month study plan that will help you prepare for the exam and give you the best chance of passing. MBE The number of practice MBE questions you should do before taking the California Bar Exam will vary depending on your individual needs and study habits. However, we recommend completing at least 2,000 to 2,500 MBE practice questions in total to prepare adequately for this portion of the exam. That’s equates to roughly 25 MBE questions daily on a three-month study plan.

It’s obviously important to adequately review missed questions, however it’s equally important to review questions you answered correctly, to ensure the answer was correct for the right reasons.

You should go through two full MBE diagnostic tests, which will help you build stamina and align your focus to sit through this portion of the California Bar Exam.

Month 1: Build a Strong Foundation

The first month of your study plan should focus on building a strong foundation of knowledge in each of the subjects covered on the exam. This means reviewing the substantive law, learning key terms and concepts, and getting comfortable with the format and structure of the exam. To do this, you'll want to start by creating a detailed study schedule that breaks down your study time by subject and topic. You need to treat this schedule like a full-time job, we call it the military method, adhering to strict time requirements with built in breaks. Your initial priority subjects should be MBE subjects that can also be tested on the essays: (1) Civil procedure; (2) Constitutional Law; (3) Contracts; (4) Criminal Law and Procedure; (5) Evidence; (6) Real Property; and (7) Torts. Some tips for effective studying during this first month include:

  • Read your legal outlines for each subject area to get a sense of the scope and depth of the material.

  • Watch video lectures or attend live lectures to help you understand the material more deeply.

  • Practice multiple-choice questions and essays to get familiar with the exam format.

  • Review sample answers to essays to see what a successful answer looks like.

  • Use flashcards to memorize key terms and concepts.

  • Memorize your skeletal checklist for each subject, especially for the MBE subjects. This will help you spot issues in your practice essays.

  • Prior to memorizing the legal rules, you MUST memorize the issue checklist. Your issue checklist will trigger issues, the issues will trigger the rules, the rules will then trigger sub issues/rules, which will lead to a robust and analytical analysis.

Month 2: Practice, Practice, Practice

Once you've built a solid foundation of knowledge, it's time to start practicing applying that knowledge to the exam format. During the second month of your study plan, focus on practice questions and essays to help you develop your test-taking skills and get more comfortable with the format and structure of the exam.

Start your morning off with 25-30 MBE questions. Leave time for adequate review and do not move on until you have analyzed and understood all of the MBE questions, whether you answered them correctly or not.

Read past essay answers on the state bar website and you will start to get a feel for how the examiners are testing certain issues. You will also learn how sub issues are analyzed based on a unique fact pattern.

Some tips for effective practicing during this second month include:

  • Complete as many practice multiple-choice questions and essays as possible.

  • Time yourself to simulate the actual exam conditions.

  • Review sample answers and compare them to your own answers to see where you need to improve.

  • Develop an honest assessment of your abilities. Notate whether you are having trouble with issue spotting, memorizing a particular rule statement, not having a strong enough analysis, not following IRAC, etc.

  • Work with a study group or tutor to get feedback on your performance.

  • Identify areas where you're struggling and focus your studying on those areas.

  • Take a look at sample Performance Tests and start to rotate at least 1 PT per week into your study schedule.

  • Continue to with your daily MBE questions.

Month 3: Fine-Tune Your Skills and Strategies

In the final month of your study plan, your focus should be on fine-tuning your skills and strategies to ensure you're fully prepared for the exam. This means continuing to practice multiple-choice questions and essays, but also focusing on strategies like time management, outlining, and memorization.

Some tips for effective fine-tuning during this third month include:

  • Practice time management strategies to ensure you can complete the exam within the allotted time.

  • Develop a strong outlining system to help you organize your thoughts and ideas.

  • Develop a shorthand issues checklist for each subject that can be tested on the exam.

  • Memorize key terms and concepts to ensure you can recall them on exam day.

  • Practice relaxation techniques to help manage exam anxiety and stress.

  • Take simulated practice exams to get a sense of what the actual exam will be like.

Bonus Tips for Success In addition to following this 3-month study plan, there are a few bonus tips that can help you succeed on the California Bar Exam:

  • Stay organized: Keep track of your study schedule, progress, and materials to stay on top of your preparation.

  • Take breaks: Don't burn yourself out by studying too much or too hard. Take regular breaks to rest and recharge.

  • Make sure to practice writing essays with the 1 hour time limit and hold yourself to it.

  • Make sure to complete at least 1 full MBE diagnostic – 200 MBE questions.

  • Stay positive: Believe in yourself and your ability to pass.

Study Resources

  1. CA State Bar Past Essays:

  2. California Bar Exams Essays:

  3. MBE Practice Questions:

  4. MBE Questions by the NCBE:

  5. CA Bar Essay Predictions:

California Bar Exam
Cal Bar Bible

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