The California Bar Exam

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The California Bar Exam

General information
Exam TypeNon-UBE
Jurisdiction-specific component
Upcoming Registration DatesNovember 1, 2018 (February 2019 exam); April 1, 2019 (July 2019 exam)
Recent Pass Rates35% (February 2017); 50% (July 2017)

What is the California bar exam?

The California bar exam assesses whether an examinee is competent to practice law in the State of California. Passing the bar exam is an essential step in becoming a lawyer in California. Examinees are tested on a variety of legal subjects. Bar exam scores are scaled, meaning that scores are adjusted to reflect the relative difficulty of a particular exam. These adjustments ensure that no examinee is unfairly penalized or rewarded for taking a more or less difficult exam.

Studying for the California bar exam is a full-time job that requires discipline, determination, and—for most people—a formal course structure. Quimbee’s Multistate Bar Examination (MBE) review course is expertly designed to help you prepare for the California bar examination in the most efficient and effective way possible. Our MBE review course includes 7,000+ smart flashcards, real practice questions and answers with detailed explanations, full-length practice tests, and comprehensive outlines of MBE subjects. 

Read on to learn more about the California bar exam.

What is the California Bar Exam format?

The California bar examination consists of three sections: the MBE, five one-hour essay questions, and one 90-minute performance test.

Multistate Bar Examination (MBE)

The MBE is a six-hour, 200-question multiple-choice examination developed by the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) and administered by participating jurisdictions, including California, on the last Wednesday in February and July of each year.

According to the NCBE, the purpose of the MBE is to assess the extent to which an examinee can apply fundamental legal principles and legal reasoning to analyze given fact patterns.

The MBE is divided into morning and afternoon testing sessions of three hours each, with 100 questions in each session. There are no scheduled breaks during either the morning or afternoon session, though test taskers typically may be excused from the exam room during the test. Be sure to check with your jurisdiction, however, as the rules regarding leaving the exam room may vary.

Of the 200 questions on the MBE, 175 questions are scored. The remaining unscored 25 questions are used by the NCBE to test potential future questions. The scored questions are distributed evenly, with 25 questions from each tested subject area. The California bar exam subjects include civil procedure, constitutional law, contracts, criminal law and procedure, evidence, real property, and torts. The MBE counts for 50 percent of the total California bar exam score.

Jurisdiction-Specific Component

In addition to the MBE, the California bar exam includes five one-hour essay questions and one 90-minute performance test. Examinees may be required to answer questions involving issues from all of the following subjects:

  • business associations

  • civil procedure

  • community property

  • constitutional law

  • contracts

  • criminal law and procedure

  • evidence

  • professional responsibility

  • real property

  • remedies

  • torts

  • trusts

  • wills and succession

The performance test question is designed to test an applicant's ability to understand and apply legal authorities in the context of a factual problem involving a client. The State Bar of California provides a sample performance test on its website. The performance test and the essays count for a combined 50 percent of the total California bar exam score.

For more information on these components of the California bar exam, please see the State Bar of California's website.

California Baby Bar

Additionally, law students completing their first year of law study in a juris doctor degree program at an unaccredited law school must take the First-Year Law Students' Examination, or “baby bar,” after completing their first year of law study. For more information on the California baby bar, please see the State Bar of California’s website.

Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE)

A passing score on the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE) is also required to become a licensed California attorney. The MPRE tests an examinee’s knowledge of the ethics rules related to the practice of law. According to the NCBE, the purpose of the MPRE is to “measure examinees' knowledge and understanding of established standards related to the professional conduct of lawyers.”

The MPRE’s questions are largely based on the American Bar Association (ABA) Model Rules of Professional Conduct and the ABA Model Code of Judicial Conduct, but the MPRE also covers relevant court decisions as well as procedural and evidentiary rules.

The MPRE consists of 60 multiple-choice questions—50 scored questions and 10 unscored questions. As with the MBE, each question on the MPRE is followed by four possible answer options. You’ll have two hours to complete the exam.

The MPRE is offered three times per year, typically in March, August, and November. Be sure to register early—the regular registration fee is $95, but the late registration fee is $190.

The MPRE is scored on a scale that ranges from 50 to 100. California requires a minimum-passing MPRE score of 86, the highest requirement in the country.

California Bar Exam Information

Below is a list of useful information for California bar examinees:

What are the California Bar Exam Dates?

The California bar exam is a two-day exam and is offered twice a year on the last Tuesday and Wednesday in February and July. The California bar exam is typically administered at several locations in the Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco/Oakland Bay, and Sacramento areas. For more information on dates and locations, please see the State Bar of California's website.

When Do I Need to Register for the California Bar Exam?

The regular deadline for registering for the February 2019 bar exam in California is November 1, 2018. The regular deadline for the July 2019 exam is April 1, 2019. For more details on these deadlines, please see the State Bar of California's website.

What are the Fees for the California Bar Exam?

The regular application fee for the California bar exam is $677. For more details on fees, visit the State Bar of California's website.

When Will I Receive My California Bar Exam Results?

California bar examination results are available approximately 12 to 15 weeks after administration of the exam. Results are posted publicly on the State Bar of California's website.

What Is the California Bar Exam Contact Information?

The State Bar of California's Committee of Bar Examiners is the organization responsible for overseeing admission to the bar in California. It is through this board that you will register for the bar exam, receive exam information, and obtain your score.

180 Howard St.
San Francisco, CA 94105

Phone: 415-538-2000


How Do I Get California Bar Exam News?

News and information about the California bar exam can be found on the State Bar of California's website.

What is the Best California Bar Exam Prep Course?

Quimbee does not provide state-specific coverage for the California bar exam, but you can use Quimbee MBE Review to supplement your prep. Heavy and cumbersome coursebooks are a thing of the past. All of the course material for Quimbee MBE Review is available from your computer.

California Bar Practice Tests

Quimbee’s course offers several full-length practice MBEs and thousands of MBE practice questions—many licensed directly from the NCBE.

California Bar Study Guide

With Quimbee, you’ll watch Quimbee's beautifully designed video lessons, practice multiple-choice questions to test what you've learned, and read through Quimbee's expert-written outlines. And true understanding isn’t just answering a question correctly. You need to know why you got a question right or why you got a question wrong. That’s why Quimbee provides you with detailed explanations for every practice question, so you can understand the difference between the correct and incorrect answers.

Quimbee’s outlines provide comprehensive coverage of all MBE subjects. Quimbee Outlines are written by experts and are perfectly tailored to the NCBE’s subject-matter outlines, so you can be confident you’re studying only the material that’s tested on the bar exam.

California Bar Flashcards

You’ll also have access to Quimbee’s 7,000+ MBE flashcards, which utilize the latest developments in learning science to ensure you’re learning as efficiently as possible by assessing your proficiency as you go. Quimbee harnesses the magic of spaced repetition to maximize your learning outcomes. Quimbee’s flashcards cover every topic that appears on the MBE.

So, if you’re wondering how to pass the California bar exam, check out Quimbee MBE Review, and you’ll see why Quimbee is the best MBE review tool available.