Predictions for the Bar Exam (What to Focus On for Efficient Study)

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

“Does anyone know the essay predictions?”
“What do you think will be tested?”
“I don’t think ____ will appear on the exam.”
“Anyone think ____ will be tested?”
“I know we’re not supposed to listen to predictions, but…”
“What are ____’s predictions?”
“Here are my MEE predictions!”

Whose speculations are you going to listen to?

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 panic and look at the predictions anyway.

Did you want 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 to rely on predictions… because this kind of thinking is entirely predictable and avoidable. Sweating about predictions is not a good place to be and requires intervention.

Also, remember when subjects actually leaked for the California exam in 2019 and people got mad over it? Do you want to know the subjects ahead of time or not? Make up your minds!

Maybe you’re too young to remember ancient history. I’ve been dealing with you people for too long.

Here’s why you should look toward essay/MEE predictions for entertainment value and morbid curiosity only (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."
Some say bar examiners intentionally write exams around predictions. As tempting as it is to spin conspiracy theories like this, this is probably not true because exams are drafted years in advance. See NCBE statements about the MBE and MEEs. Likely a similar story for essays on the California Bar Exam.
What are we predicting for February
Some older California predictions for February 2021. Hard to miss if you’re predicting 10 SUBJECTS AT A TIME.

And guess what? Civ Pro, Con Law, Torts, Wills, or Trusts did NOT show up as essays on this exam.

Meanwhile, Contracts and Real Property showed up as full essays.
What are we predicting for July
More predictions, this time for the July 2021 exam in California. They somehow managed to outdo February with a “prediction” of ELEVEN (11) subjects. 

What is even the point of this?
bar guru predictions
I said this so long ago that I had a different profile photo.
"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"
My predictions for the bar exam

ENOUGH! This is just making me mad now.

You already “know” you shouldn’t blindly rely on predictions.

You already “know” this isn’t the right way that will help you pass the bar exam.

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 to people who prey on the desperation of bar exam takers).

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

How will you know which it will be this time?

Bottom line, you can’t rely solely on predictions. Hope is not a strategy.

Stop playing defense hiding behind predictions and huffing hopium. Play OFFENSE from a position of strength and confidence.

There are other better ways to strategize your approach if all you want is to take control of your bar prep. I can give you these three ideas on what you might try focusing on instead for a better experience.

These are useful hints to make your studies more informed and predictable.

1. The Tripod Approach for studying 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 since the call of the question is usually broad. For example, “What ethical violations, if any, has L committed? Discuss under ABA and CA rules.”
  • Performance test (~14% of overall score and often neglected 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.

If you were taking the UBE, what would you identify as most impactful to your score?

2. Identify YOUR strengths and weaknesses over others’ bar exam predictions

Personally, I’d focus more on my weak subjects than subjects that are “likely to appear” in the next exam. Gambling on predicted subjects or only 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 or simply “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. Pay extra attention to MBE subjects (including highly tested 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 in essays.

Moreover, MBE subjects do double duty. 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 further focus on, too. Again, don’t only study solely 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 (8th 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 main choices: AdaptiBar and UWorld MBE QBank.

Free trials are available for both, so you can try them out yourself. I review AdaptiBar here and UWorld here. Here’s a comparison of both.

If you’d like a discount code for AdaptiBar, let me know where to send it:

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