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% on Amazon) if you decide to make a purchase.
Quick links to the most popular and effective supplements for…
- MBE on a budget? Strategies & Tactics for the MBE Volume I (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)
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, as well as my review here) and/or Essay Exam Writing for the California Bar Exam (by Mary Basick)
- 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 guide that you can get 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]
- Law in a Flash [MBE] [Essays]
- [CA only] BarEssays.com ($25 off) [CA Essays]
- Magicsheets [MBE] [Essays]
- Approsheets [Essays]
- [CA only] Past California essays (by subject) and performance tests [CA Essays] [CA PTs]
- Popular posts and techniques [MBE] [Essays] [PTs]
- [CA only] Essay Exam Writing for the California Bar Exam [CA Essays]
- [CA only] California Performance Test Workbook [CA PTs]
- [CA only] BarIssues.com ($20 off) [CA Essays]
- [UBE] Past MEE essays, MPTs, and model analyses [UBE/MEE]
- BarMax MBE app [MBE]
- AdaptiBar ($30 off) [MBE]
I have experience with + recommend the following. I have omitted resources that I don’t endorse even if I have used them (unless noted).
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 (along with 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 and is worth it).
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 no longer recommend the 5th edition (2012 version) for Vol. 1 given the picky, nuanced Civ Pro questions that have appeared on the MBE.
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. 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 an alternative to the above Emanuel’s books. It comes with the entire universe of questions released by the NCBE. A $30 coupon is available (“MTYLT”).
What about Civ Pro?
Civ Pro MBE questions are picky, testing specific nuances such as the number of days before a certain deadline. Note that I haven’t used these to study for Civ Pro. Thus, I can’t personally endorse them, and they’re simply options for you to consider.
- Strategies & Tactics (6th ed., 2016) Volume 1 contains author-written Civ Pro questions (which I hear are excellent)
- AdaptiBar (recommended) or BarMax MBE below provide a good number of Civ Pro questions but are a more expensive option
- For 30 official Civ Pro questions (and answer key, presumably no annotations), see the NCBE’s Study Aid (download option also available for $15 less)
- 7Sage’s MBE Question Bank – Premium version has the 30 official Civ Pro questions from the NCBE Study Aid (without answer explanations). But I don’t think it’s very helpful to have the answers but not the explanations
- The Starter version has 10 official Civ Pro questions and may be worth it ONLY if you were already planning on getting at least two of the official Online Practice Exams (with official annotations/explanations), which are included with 7Sage for less than what you’d pay the NCBE
- Esqyr’s RealResults MBE program, with 1,109 real questions by the NCBE, with answer explanations. Trial available. 98 Civ Pro questions from Fleming’s Fundamentals of Law + 10 from the NCBE (enter your email below to get a $30 coupon code)
For free Civ Pro MBE questions…
- BarPrepHero has a practice exam with 30 Civ Pro questions here, not written by the NCBE
- The NCBE has 10 sample questions with annotations here
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 a line at Starbucks to buy some scones and gift card 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 the various federal jurisdictions inside a noisy Verizon store.
I’m generally against flashcards, but I have to admit these helped explain the concepts through various scenarios.
Link: List of LIAF products
One of the most popular resources if you’re studying for the California Bar. Check out my ultimate BarEssays review: Why Practicing Is Not Enough.
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 selected 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 have a coupon 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…
Link: BarEssays.com ($149/124 or $199/174)
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 practice, practice, 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 structuring your essays and initial outlines in a sequential, systematic manner.
These sheets keep you on track to go from a blank page to a finished essay or outline. A pre-organized approach will make answering essays feel more manageable and perhaps even automatic.
Approsheets complement Magicsheets, and a bundle is available through either link.
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.
For similar practice, check out MPTs that you can find here:
- MPT assignments and sample answers since 2000
- Includes different sample answers to same MPTs from 2005
- You can also take a look at the sample PT
- Point Sheets from older administrations
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 below to get it)
Others have recommended the below, 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? Use code “BRIAN2742” at checkout to get $20 off.
Link: BarIssues.com ($99/79 or $149/129)
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
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)
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 ($250)
But the better-known MBE supplement is…
This program is web based and accessible via PC (desktop or laptop) and mobile site. It automatically adapts and adjusts to your individual strengths and weaknesses.
In total, there are 1,745 MBE questions (all 1,530 NCBE-released questions + 200 simulated Civil Procedure questions + 15 new Real Property 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.
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. Use coupon code “MTYLT” at checkout to save $30 (works on the Baby Bar option also).
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 authentic (licensed from the NCBE), they still have to write their own Civ Pro questions.
Use coupon code “MTYLT” at checkout to save $30 (works on the Baby Bar option also).
Link: AdaptiBar ($395/365)