Predictions for the Bar Exam (What to Focus On)

Before every exam, a handful of people come out of the woodwork and shamelessly ask about subject predictions for the bar exam.

“What do you think will be tested?”
“I don’t think ____ will be tested.”
“Anyone think ____ will be tested?”
“Does anyone know the predictions?”
“What are ____’s predictions?”
“Here are MY predictions!”

If you’re like many bar takers, or if you’re a repeater, you say:

“Haha of course I’m not going to rely on the predictions. I shall adequately study all the subjects. You should too!”

And then you look at the predictions anyway.

BTW, I’m calling out California mostly because it’s almost entirely California bar takers who do this shit and (as a resident myself) Californians think the world revolves around them.

Did you expect me to tell you, “Aww poor baby, don’t worry. It’s normal and happens to the best of us 🥺”?

You SHOULD worry if you’re secretly tempted about relying on predictions… because this kind of thinking is entirely predictable and avoidable. Sweating about predictions is not a good place to be in and requires intervention.

Also, remember when subjects actually leaked for the CA exam in 2019 and people got mad over it? Maybe you’re too young to remember. Good times.

Make up your minds! Do you want to know the subjects ahead of time or not? Jesus

Here’s why you should only look toward subject predictions for entertainment value (and 3 things you can focus on instead):

Subject prediction fail
Narrator: His co-worker did not pass
JD Advising talks "a big talk with all their predictions but if you read carefully it’s really just that - a prediction. I know too many people who rely on those predictions for the tesr and then act shocked if they’re wrong."
What are we predicting for February
Some old California predictions. Hard to miss if you’re predicting TEN SUBJECTS AT A TIME.

And guess what? Civ Pro, Con Law, Torts, Wills, or Trusts did NOT show up as essays on the 2021 February California Bar Exam.

Meanwhile, Contracts and Real Property showed up as full essays.
What are we predicting for July
More 2021 CA predictions. They somehow managed to outdo February with a “prediction” of ELEVEN subjects. 

What is even the point of this?
"Can we get a refund from JD Advising predictions?"
regret relying on predictions and ignoring subjects
"Most predictions didn't show up"
"you nailed it when you said that all topics might be tested"
"Have to study each subject"
bar guru predictions
My predictions for the bar exam

ENOUGH! This is just making me mad now.

You already “know” you shouldn’t rely on predictions. Like a toxic relationship, some people will keep trying to force it to work anyway as you watch in horror.

I’m not saying you can’t take an extra look at the predicted subjects or review them more closely when you’re short on time. Honestly, I’d be doing this too in your position.

All I’m saying is that I’ve never heard of anyone being glad that they gambled on predictions (or worse, paid hundreds of dollars for them).

Sometimes they’re mostly spot on. Sometimes they are way off the mark. 

How will you know which it will be this time? 

There are other better ways, if all you want is simply to feel in control. I can at least give you these three ideas on what you might try focusing on instead:

1. The Tripod Approach for preparing for the bar exam

I initially proposed this with California takers in mind, but you can apply this to your particular exam based on your score split across essays, PT, and MBE, as well as any other known/predictable factors.

The Tripod Approach (in this example for the California bar) suggests focusing on these three areas that make up the bulk (70%+) of your score:

  • Professional Responsibility essay (practically guaranteed to appear)—focus on identifying issues over deep analysis
  • Performance test (~14% of overall score and often overlooked despite having a higher concentration of points per time allotted than an essay)
  • MBE (50% of overall score and accounts for 3-4 of the subjects tested across the 5 essays)

By stabilizing a few key areas that you know will be tested, you can coast a bit on the rest of the exam while letting everyone else cry about predictions.

More details in this article about this approach and how to prepare for each of the three “legs” of the tripod.

2. Focus more on your weaknesses over others’ predictions for the bar exam

Personally, I’d focus more on my weak subjects instead of “likely” subjects for the next exam. Gambling on predicted subjects or your strong suits makes you a glass cannon.

Don’t risk your bar license and another 6 months of your life based on hope. Hope is not a strategy.

How can you improve on your weaknesses?

It’s not putting in the time itself that makes you better. Improvement comes from constant feedback and learning every time you try to solve a difficult problem.

So stop ignoring and stop “reading up” on the subjects you don’t like. Techniques that are just shown to you are useless if you don’t get up and try them yourself. Lean into the discomfort so you don’t become a glass cannon.

Use Magicsheets and Approsheets for out-of-the-box rule statements and issue checklists and flowcharts to practice, memorize, and be able to see those extra points.

3. Focus more on MBE topics

Preparing for the MBE is not only easy to jump into since you’re at least familiar with the subject matter from law school, but the MBE also tests important subjects that also appear on essays.

Moreover, if you’re taking the California Bar Exam, at least 3-4 of the 5 essays will touch upon MBE subjects.  In other jurisdictions too, MBE subjects will absolutely be tested on some of the essays.

"Yesterday was manageable, even though Cal Bar Bible’s picks really missed the mark. The essays were Civ Pro, PR, Torts, Crim Pro/Evidence crossover, and a Community Property/Wills crossover-- even though some of these had just been tested in February."

So if you wanted to prioritize your attention in a Hail Mary or do some last-minute review, MBE subjects are where your effort would go (many of which may coincide with the predictions of your choosing).

Of course, make time in your study schedule to hit non-MBE subjects. I said to focus more—not only—on MBE subjects.

There are highly tested areas within the MBE itself you can focus further on, too. Again, don’t only study these areas. This is just to guide your prioritization.

If you want to supplement your MBE prep, you have some excellent options:

Emanuel’s Strategies & Tactics for the MBE (7th edition) is a great start. It has a short guide for each subject as well as excellent explanations for NCBE-licensed questions selected to cover a wide range of testable issues.

If you want something more robust and more analytical, you have two choices:

AdaptiBar if you want 1,958 licensed questions with add-on lectures available. More popular and known of the two.

UWorld MBE QBank if you’re a visual learner and want visual explanations that help you learn the concepts. There are fewer licensed questions (about 1,575) that focus on more recent questions using the current format. 2,200+ total number of questions.

Free trials are available for both, so you can try them out yourself. I review AdaptiBar here and UWorld here (including comparisons with AdaptiBar).

If you’d like discount codes for AdaptiBar or UWorld, let me know where to send them:

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