Which bar exam supplements and study aids are you supposed to buy? Which ones are worth it?
You want extra help with bar prep, but the choices out there are overwhelming.
The more choices you have, the more confused you’ll be (and waste time on things that ultimately don’t help). No need to overcomplicate things. It’s better to pick a FEW resources that will work for you—and USE them.
“Less is more when it comes to the amount of material to really master.“—Mercedes (Colorado Bar Exam passer)
After all, it’s not about which tennis racquet will let you beat Serena Williams. It’s about how you train your technique rather than obsessing over which racquet is the “best.” That said, I will recommend the below based on my own experiences and feedback from bar takers.
Here are simplified “supplement stacks” I put together to make it easier on you. Which exam are you taking?
California Bar Exam Supplement Stack
UBE Supplement Stack
MBE Supplement Stack
Descriptions of featured bar prep supplements
- Strategies & Tactics for the MBE (Emanuel) Vols. 1 and 2 + Civ Pro resources [MBE]
- AdaptiBar ($40 off) [MBE]
- UWorld MBE QBank [MBE]
- Law in a Flash [MBE] [Essays]
- Magicsheets [MBE] [Essays]
- Approsheets [Essays]
- [CA only] BarEssays.com ($25 off) [CA Essays]
- [CA only] Past California essays (by subject) and performance tests [CA Essays] [CA PTs]
- [CA only] Essay Exam Writing for the California Bar Exam (Basick) [CA Essays]
- [CA only] California Performance Test Workbook (Basick) [CA PTs]
- [UBE] Past MEE essays, MPTs, and model analyses [UBE/MEEs/MPTs]
Books for additional guidance
- California Bar Exam Rules by Edmond Aruffo
- Fck the Bar book preview
- Until I Pass book for California retakers
Emanuel’s Strategies & Tactics for the MBE Vol. 1
This is the MBE bible.
It’s great (and may be the only MBE supplement you need if you’re on a budget) because it comes with 635 representative MBE questions that are all genuine and were previously administered (now including 30 real Civ Pro questions and the author’s explanations starting in the 7th edition). 670+ questions total. I encourage you to study the real deal (see why).
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.
How to use: Read the primer for each subject, answer every question on a separate sheet, and analyze their explanation in their entirety, including (A) through (D) for each question, including questions you get correctly.
So essentially, go through the book cover to cover (which is what I did). It’s worth it. Hey, I never said you wouldn’t have to put in the work.
Link: 8th edition (2023)
Get it in very good condition at least so that you don’t see the previous owners’ markings.
If you have the 7th edition, you can still keep it. The major difference is having 120 more questions, most of which are real licensed questions, with 35 of them being simulated questions.
If you happen to have the 6th edition, you can still make good use of it as well, but I don’t recommend that you choose it over the 7th or 8th edition. The 6th edition adds:
- 30 actual Civ Pro questions (with explanations by the author). Civ Pro questions were author-written in the 6th edition
- New questions that have been tested more recently in other subjects
If you don’t have either of these, get the latest 8th edition. If you’re using AdaptiBar, then you can supplement with any of the 6th through 8th editions.
I do not recommend the 5th edition because it does not recognize Civ Pro as an MBE subject, which became an MBE subject in 2015.
Emanuel’s Strategies & Tactics for the MBE Vol. 2
This is the expansion to Volume 1, containing different questions. It’s in a 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, a question might be 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. For example, Q46 on page 167 is filed under B. No right to have attorney present in grand jury room, which gives away the answer.
Nonetheless, if you liked Volume 1, this is great for additional authentic MBE questions, especially if you know or want to improve on specific issues.
How to use: Get it as an optional add-on to Volume 1. Don’t get it without Volume 1. Use as a supplement for specific issues.
Link: 4th edition (2023) (comes with 445 more NCBE questions not found in Volume 1)
AdaptiBar is another excellent addition or alternative to the above Emanuel’s books. UWorld is another online MBE question bank. Both use past exam questions from the NCBE. Comparison here.
What about Civ Pro? There aren’t a lot of questions to practice with.
The 8th edition of Strategies &Tactics for the MBE and the 4th edition of Strategies & Tactics for the MBE Volume 2 include authentic Civ Pro questions.
For free Civ Pro MBE questions…
- BarPrepHero has a free practice exam with 5 Civ Pro questions here
- The NCBE offers sample questions here
- Check this post for an unnecessarily exhaustive list of Civ Pro questions sorted by free/paid and real/unofficial
This is an online platform for MBE practice. If you’re on the fence, take a look at my detailed review.
This program is web-based and accessible via PC (desktop or laptop) and mobile devices. It automatically adapts and adjusts to your individual strengths and weaknesses.
It comes with all of the NCBE-released questions. In total, there are over 1,600 MBE questions (NCBE-released questions + 200 simulated Civil Procedure questions + simulated Real Property questions + new NCBE questions from 2021). Subject performance and timing analysis feedback are provided. In addition, the program allows users to create printable PDF reports of questions that were answered incorrectly.
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.
In addition to robust analytics, many students find the optional add-on lectures by Prof. Jonathan Grossman helpful.
To sweeten the deal, grab a promo code for a 10% discount on ALL of their products (NEW!), including the MBE Simulator and video lectures.
If you’re re-enrolling, there’s a substantial discount, no need for a coupon.
BarMax’s MBE Question Bank is an alternative to AdaptiBar, including over 1,750 real MBE questions and software analytics. ($399)
UWorld MBE QBank
UWorld offers an online MBE question bank with visual explanations and charts. Feedback is where the learning happens, and the explanations are where UWorld shines.
The QBank comes with 1,575+ most recent licensed questions (including 200 of the newest questions released in 2021) and a total of 2,200+ questions, with new questions regularly developed by their legal team. Older NCBE questions are not used because they may be less representative of current exam questions.
Should you get AdaptiBar or UWorld?
Get AdaptiBar if you want more robust analytics and almost all of the 1,942 available NCBE-licensed questions. You’ll also have the option to buy video lectures.
Get UWorld if you prefer to learn from simplified, visual explanations. UWorld offers 1,575+ of the most recent licensed questions and has hundreds of simulated questions.
Law in a Flash cards
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 waiting in line at Starbucks to buy some scones to bribe a friend to give me used Barbri books, and I could whip out a few cards from my wallet to learn some tricky Evidence concepts. Or when I was trying to learn about federal jurisdiction while waiting inside a noisy store.
I’m generally against flashcards, but I have to admit that working through the various hypothetical scenarios helped explain the concepts.
Link: List of LIAF products
You don’t want to listen to lectures anymore? There’s no time to outline the ridiculous amounts of law, you say? You just want to get to the point and memorize and practice?
These battle-tested condensed outlines are organized in logical groups and indentations such that issue identification and memorizing are half done for you.
I also have the perfect companion tool for attacking the essays below…
Even if you know all the law, you still need to present all the relevant issues and rules. You get ZERO points for an issue that you never raise, even if you know the rule for it. An IRAC can’t sprout from a seed that’s never planted.
Use these field-tested essay approach sheets (one page per checklist or flowchart) to make sure you’re answering each essay completely. If you don’t know how to begin or finish your essay, these roadmaps are intended to guide you through your essays in a sequential, systematic manner.
Approsheets complement Magicsheets, and a bundle is available through either link.
[CA only] BarEssays.com
One of the most popular resources if you’re studying for the California Bar Exam.
What does it look like inside?
- Check out my ultimate BarEssays review: Why Practicing Is Not Enough
- Here’s a sample: Check out this essay that scored an 85! Imagine if you studied this and produced the same results on the bar…
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.
The State Bar’s selected answers are top of the top answers. It’s unrealistic that your essay answers will look like them, although you could study these ideal answers to learn how to apply any rules you’re confused about. One answer taught me Rule 12(b)(6) because some nerd had written a treatise on it.
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.
I secured a $25 discount for my readers. Use the coupon code here.
[CA only] Past California essays and performance tests
These might be the only free things you get from the CA State Bar. They release exam questions from each administration of the past 5 years.
Where to find more CA essays and PTs:
Going back to the 1980s to 2016, in text format: https://sites.google.com/site/easybarpasser/subjects. Focus on the most recent ones.
If you need to quickly find California essays organized by subject, check this out:
Here is a community-managed CA essay locator, a list of essays organized by subject (and partially by issues). This is editable, so please feel free to add notes that may help yourself or others.
[CA only] Essay Exam Writing for the California Bar Exam (Mary Basick)
Also known as the “Basick blue book.” This was recommended to me by one of my readers, Deborah. See why in our convo here.
This is continued to be recommended by CA bar takers in the private Facebook group.
Link: Amazon (2nd edition covering 2018 Prof. Resp. rules)
[CA only] California Performance Test Workbook (Mary Basick)
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.
[UBE] Past MEE essays, MPTs, and model analyses
Past essays and PTs/MPTs and answers/analyses are available for download from the NCBE (some free, some paid):
- MEE study aids ($15 per Q&A for one recent exam within 5 years)
- MPT study aids ($25 per MPT and Point Sheet for one recent exam within 5 years)
California Bar Exam Rules by Edmond Aruffo
Simplified rule statements for the California Bar Exam. Get the book here.
Fck the Bar: Take Your Place at Counsel Table
Jessica Klein made the first five chapters of her book free, available as a preview here.
Get the whole book here.
Until I Pass
The academic dean at UC Davis Law co-authored a book with a repeating California bar taker. This book is a letter from someone who understands the repeater experience, to someone who just had this experience.
Get the book here.