Here’s a collection of study tools that should give you the most bang for your buck. In fact, below is everything you need to practice for the bar exam or the MBE at least (given this page has a California focus). Just add water and practice.
You don’t need to go berserk and get your hands on everything out there. No need to overcomplicate things or go broke. Do your due diligence, pick a few resources that will work for you, and extract as much as you can.
Please note that some of the links below are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, I will earn a small commission (like 4-6% on Amazon) if you decide to make a purchase. Want to spite me out of 4%? Go find it yourself.
Shortnotes on the most popular and effective supplements for…
- MBE on a budget? Strategies & Tactics for the MBE Volume I (see description and an inside look below)
- MBE if you have $365 to shell out? AdaptiBar (see description below and my review here)
You can improve your MBE with either of these excellent tools. Get AdaptiBar if you have the budget, but you do not need both.
- Essays in CA? BarEssays.com (see info and samples below) and/or Essay Exam Writing for the California Bar Exam
- Essays in general? Look for previously administered essays and sample answers from your state bar; see other states’ released answers if your state does not provide model answers
- PTs/MPTs? I don’t know of a sure-kill commercial supplement, but I have put together a guide that you can get by signing up to your right; unlike the MBE or essays, PTs are better learned through exposure to a variety of them over trying to deeply understand the answer
Click to jump to the description of a featured resource, tagged by sections of interest:
Strategies & Tactics for the MBE I & II (Emanuel) + Civ Pro resources [MBE] Law in a Flash [MBE] [Essays] BarEssays.com ($25 off) [CA Essays] Magicsheets [MBE] [Essays] Approsheets [Essays] Past California essays (by subject) and performance tests [CA Essays] [CPTs] Popular posts and techniques [MBE] [Essays] [PTs]
I have experience with + recommend the following. I have omitted resources that I don’t endorse even if I have used them.
This is the MBE bible.
It’s great (and may be the only MBE supplement you need) because it comes with 500-600 representative MBE questions that are all genuine and were previously administered, and I urge you to study with the real deal (see why).
Read it all, do all the questions, and review all the answers. Each subject is prefaced with a discussion of the tricky areas and how to deal with them. Some subjects have an overview of the major topics. There will be tips that revolve around multiple choice in general. The 200-question practice test at the back can be done to gauge your progress sometime in the final month leading to the bar.
Link: 6th edition (2016) — includes excellent author-generated Civ Pro questions
I no longer recommend the 5th edition (2012) for Vol. 1 given the picky, nuanced Civ Pro MBE questions that have appeared lately.
Strategies & Tactics for the MBE II (Emanuel):
This is the expansion pack to the above book, containing new questions. It’s in a different format, where the answer appears right beneath the question. If you’re doing a question for practice, you’ll have to carefully cover the answer as you do each question.
The valuable feature in Vol. 2 is how the questions are categorized into labeled topics. For example, Q45 on page 166 is filed under Chapter 5 Formal Proceedings – I. Grand Jury Proceedings – A. Self-incrimination and immunity. For better or worse, some headings contain answer spoilers for the concepts, e.g., Q46 on page 167 is filed under B. No right to have attorney present in grand jury room, which gives away the answer. Nonetheless, great for supplementary real MBE questions, especially if you know or want to improve on specific issues.
Link: 2012 (latest) edition
What about Civ Pro? This doesn’t have licensed questions yet.
Civ Pro MBE questions nowadays are picky, testing specific nuances such as number of days before a certain deadline. Strategies & Tactics (6th ed., 2016) Volume 1 is likely your best bet to prepare for Civ Pro questions, given that the questions are similar to real MBE questions even if they are written by the author.
AdaptiBar (recommended) or BarMax MBE below provide a good number of Civ Pro questions but are a more expensive option.
To look at free Civ Pro MBE questions…
Additionally, I’ve heard (hearsay) that the Glannon Guide to Civil Procedure (2013) was more than sufficient. It’s cheaper than BarMax or AdaptiBar, but check out based on your own curiosity.
I bought 6 boxes of these to patch up my weak subjects. They were especially handy when I had to be out, like when I was trying to learn some tricky Evidence concepts and I could whip out a few cards from my wallet, or when I was trying to learn the various federal jurisdictions inside a noisy Verizon store.
Link: List of LIAF products
One of the most popular resources if you’re studying for the California Bar.
What does it look like inside?
– Check out this essay that scored an 85! Imagine if you studied this and produced the same results on the bar…
– Also fairly new to BarEssays are essay templates that you can literally copy and paste. Check out this Contracts template.
If you’re wondering what makes a passing essay vs. what doesn’t on the California Bar Exam, this is a large repository of actual graded essays and PTs submitted by those who didn’t pass.
But this doesn’t mean the essays are all sub-par! While there are essays scored 40 and 50 that show what is not passing material, there are essays that earned 75, 80, or even 85.
The advantage of this repository is the variety of real answers you can study.
Because the State Bar doesn’t disclose how well its model answers did, it’s hard to tell whether they are barely passing or top scoring. All they indicate are that they are “passing” essays and that essays don’t need to hit all the issues, which is implied by answers A and B covering different issues (although each usually hits all the key issues).
There are over 3,000 essays that you can search by subject, range of score, year/month, and even typed/handwritten/both (for anyone who wants to see handwritten answers). Some have grader commentary.
These essay examples are useful after you outline or write out an essay to check whether you discussed relevant issues and rules and used the facts properly. I’d look at least one below 65, at 65, and one above 65, with grader commentary if available.
High scorers tend to discuss all the issues and much of the nuances—but do not necessarily have excellent rule statements or analyses. While you want to look like the 70-75+ people, you’ll notice that they don’t always look like the impossible Barbri answers. These are real answers you can compare to see where you stand.
The owner has raised the price in recent months, and I don’t blame him. Fortunately, for those in my Future Attorney Secret Club, I’ve worked out a coupon code with the owner of BarEssays, which will let you save $25 on a subscription! Not in on it yet? Oh look, there’s a convenient form to the right.
What, you don’t want to listen to lectures? There’s no time to outline the ridiculous amounts of law, you say? You just want to practice, practice, practice? My friend, you are in luck. You found a gem right here.
These battle-tested condensed outlines are organized in logical groups and indentations such that issue checking and memorizing is half done for you. What are you waiting for?
“I love Magicsheets!“—almost everyone who has used them
You too? Well, the below may be the perfect companion tool for attacking the essays…
Don’t know how the devil to start your essay? Even if you know all the law, you still need to present all the relevant issues and rules.
Use these field-tested essay approach sheets (one page per checklist or flowchart) to make sure you are answering each essay completely. These roadmaps are intended to guide you through structuring your essays and initial outlines in a sequential, systematic manner.
A pre-organized approach will make answering essays feel more manageable and perhaps even automatic. Approsheets also complement Magicsheets.
Battle tested during the 2015 February administration after people DEMANDED that I take their money for early access. Non-CA bar takers find Approsheets helpful, too!
These might be the only free things you get from the CA State Bar. They release exam questions from each administration for the past 5 years.
If you need to quickly find California essays organized by subject, check these out:
1. Essays going back to the ’80s, in text format—focus on the most recent ones: https://sites.google.com/site/easybarpasser/subjects
2. If you’re looking for convenient access to individual questions organized by subject and issue, check out BarIssues.com (get $20 off with offer code BRIAN2742).
3. For a very budget version, here is a CA essay locator, a list of essays organized by subject (and partially by issues) before 2013—this is editable, so please feel free to add notes that may help yourself or others. Made available by a donor who wishes to remain anonymous.
Popular posts and techniques:
If you read anything here, read at least ONE of these:
- Posts tagged Featured (my favorite posts).
- Free guide to kicking ass on the performance tests (sign up to your right to get it).
Others have recommended these, but I didn’t use them in my own studies.
[CA only] Essay Exam Writing for the California Bar Exam (Mary Basick):
This was recommended to me by Deborah. See why in our convo here.
[CA only] California Performance Test Workbook:
This was recommended to me by Steph, who passed the bar on the second try after being in prison for 32 years.
This book “shows California Bar Exam applicants how to take the Performance Test from beginning to end, emphasizing the skills necessary to successfully write a passing exam answer. The text provides specific instruction on time management and offers numerous examples and tips on how to handle common pitfalls.” It also seems to include analyses of 6 PTs. Click below to take a peek inside.
Need to hone in on that mysterious issue you’ve never been able to tame ever since you laid eyes on it? Need to know which issues have been tested most frequently?
BarIssues is a directory of all the issues that have been tested on the California Bar Exam in the last 10 or so years. You can sort by frequency or the issue itself. A convenient link to the question and model answers is available whenever you explore a subject and its issues.
Price tag got you down? It’s not my intention to sound like a used-car salesman, but I have negotiated a whopping $20 discount for you! Use code BRIAN2742 at checkout.
For a very budget version, here is a CA essay locator, a list of essays organized by subject (and partially by issues) before 2013—this is editable, so please feel free to add notes that may help yourself or others. Made available by a donor who wishes to remain anonymous.
You can also find CA essays going back to the ’80s in text format—focus on the most recent ones: https://sites.google.com/site/easybarpasser/subjects
As with the rest of BarMax’s offerings, your materials are available online or via mobile iOS devices, which allows for great portability. A solid choice if you don’t mind reading questions on a tablet and being unable to write on a paper surface.
Link: BarMax MBE
But the better-known MBE supplement is…
(This description is based on the description an AdaptiBar rep gave me.)
This program is web based and accessible via PC (desktop or laptop) and mobile site. This is useful for those who are working and studying at the same time because you can prepare with AdaptiBar during lunch and breaks. Only AdaptiBar provides the database of licensed MBE questions from the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE), the organization that writes the MBE, with advanced patented adaptive technology that automatically adjusts to the bar examinee’s individual strengths and weaknesses. In total, there are 1,730 licensed MBE questions from the NCBE plus 200 simulated Civil Procedure questions that are written by two of the nation’s leading professors in the new subject. Detailed explanations are provided for each question as well as thorough subject performance and timing analysis feedback. In addition, the program allows users to create PDF reports of questions that were answered incorrectly. This makes it simple to print the questions and explanations out and review the rules you didn’t understand.
Additional information regarding the program can be found at http://www.adaptibar.com/pricing.aspx.
It is indeed rather expensive, but it’s probably the single best comprehensive option to study for the MBE, assuming you have the budget.
In sum, using the entire universe of available questions from the NCBE, AdaptiBar will adapt to your strengths and weaknesses (hence the name), analyze your timing, create printable reports of questions and answers you got wrong, and generate practice exams. Although most of the questions are real, licensed ones, they still have to write their own Civ Pro questions.
And what do you know, I vigorously negotiated over 8 months a promo code for you so you can save as much as you can on your bar prep: Use code “MTYLT” at checkout for $30 off the MBE Simulator (or the Baby Bar MBE Simulator)!
(Per AdaptiBar policy change, this was changed from $60 to $30 starting Sept. 1, 2016.)