Investing in resources is an indicator of success, but you also shouldn’t just buy everything willy nilly. The more choices you have, the more confused you’re likely to be (and waste time on things that ultimately don’t help).
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 scrape all the meat off the bone.
So what are you supposed to buy? Well, I did the testing for you, as well as gather intel on what seems to be working for other bar takers. I’ve tried some that helped me pass the bar on my second attempt, and I’ve tried some that didn’t add any value. I won’t include the latter.
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 at least the MBE. Just add water and practice. In other words, all the information and materials are out there. All you need to do is USE them.
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% on Amazon) if you decide to make a purchase.
Quick notes to the most effective supplements for…
- MBE on a budget? Strategies & Tactics for the MBE Volume 1 (6th edition) (see description and an inside look below)
- MBE if you have $365 (after $30 discount)? AdaptiBar (see description below and my review here)
Which one should you get? You can improve your MBE with either or both of these excellent tools. S&T has a broad selection of questions as well as excellent explanations, which is where you learn after doing the questions. Get AdaptiBar if you have the budget. AdaptiBar has all the official questions but not the best explanations. If you want to pass on AdaptiBar, you could alternatively get the official MBE study aids (don’t get both since AdaptiBar should include these questions).
- Essays in CA? BarEssays.com (see info, samples, and $25 coupon below, as well as my review here)
- Essays in general? Look for previously administered essays and sample answers from your state bar (see, e.g., links below for UBE/MEE); see other states’ released answers if your state does not provide model answers.
- PTs/MPTs? I put together a PT guide (step-by-step approach to answering a PT, strategies (including how to not run out of time), templates, and more). You can can get it for free by signing up below. Unlike the MBE or essays, PTs may be better learned through exposure to a variety of them over trying to deeply understand each answer. The M/PT is (supposed to be) a practical skill that doesn’t require prior knowledge.
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]
- AdaptiBar ($30 off) [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] BarIssues.com ($20 off) [CA Essays]
- [CA only] Essay Exam Writing for the California Bar Exam [CA Essays]
- [CA only] California Performance Test Workbook [CA PTs]
- [UBE] Past MEE essays, MPTs, and model analyses [UBE/MEEs/MPTs]
Strategies & Tactics for the MBE (Emanuel 6th edition):
This is the MBE bible.
It’s great (and may be the only MBE supplement you need) because it comes with 600 or so representative MBE questions that are all genuine and were previously administered (with the exception of author-written Civ Pro questions). I encourage you to study with 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: 6th edition (2016) — includes excellent author-generated Civ Pro questions
Get it in very good condition at least so that you don’t see the previous owners’ markings.
I don’t recommend the 5th edition given the picky, nuanced Civ Pro MBE questions that have appeared lately on the MBE.
Strategies & Tactics for the MBE Vol. 2 (Emanuel):
This is the expansion pack 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, 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. 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: 2012 (latest) edition
AdaptiBar (below) is another great addition or alternative to the above Emanuel’s books. It comes with the entire universe of questions released by the NCBE.
What about Civ Pro? There aren’t a lot of questions to practice with.
You can get official Civ Pro questions from the official NCBE MBE study aids or AdaptiBar which includes all the official questions.
For free Civ Pro MBE questions…
- BarPrepHero has a practice exam with 30 Civ Pro questions here, not written by the NCBE
- The NCBE offers 10 sample questions here
- Check this post for an unnecessarily exhaustive list of Civ Pro questions sorted by free/paid and real/unofficial
You know what this is for.
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.
In total, there are at least 1,955 MBE questions (all 1,530 original NCBE-released questions + 200 simulated Civil Procedure questions + 15 new Real Property questions + 210 official 2017 Study Aid questions). 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.
It is indeed rather expensive, but it’s probably the single best comprehensive option to study for the MBE, assuming you have the budget.
To sweeten the deal, use offer code “MTYLT” to save $30 (works with the Baby Bar option also).
If you’re re-enrolling, there’s a substantial discount, no need for a coupon.
Link: Sign up for AdaptiBar here ($365 with coupon / $245 if re-enrolling)
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.
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.
Link: Sign up for BarEssays.com here ($124 standard / $174 premium with code)
For those in my Future Attorney Secret Club, I have an offer code that will save you $25 on a subscription. Not in on it yet? Oh look, there’s a convenient form here to join and get that code right away…
[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.
Note that there aren’t too many 90-minute CA PTs posted as of yet. I’d practice with MPTs, which are also 90 minutes long. Also check these links to find more MPTs than you’ll ever need:
- MPT assignments and sample answers since 2000
- Includes different sample answers to same MPTs from 2005
If you need to quickly find California essays organized by subject, check these out:
1. CA essays going back to the ’80s, in text format—focus on the most recent ones: https://sites.google.com/site/easybarpasser/subjects.
2. 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.
3. See here for another donated California essay tracker and issues, organized by subject and issues before 2017.
[CA only] BarIssues.com:
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? Use code “BRIAN2742” at checkout to get $20 off.
Link: BarIssues.com ($79 standard or $129 premium with code)
[CA only] Essay Exam Writing for the California Bar Exam (Mary Basick):
This was recommended to me by one of my readers, 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.
[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)
Also check these links to find more MPTs than you’ll ever need:
- MPT assignments and sample answers since 2000
- Includes different sample answers to same MPTs from 2005