My Bar Prep Kickoff (and Pity) Party


As I spent a summer locked indoors studying for the New York Bar Exam, one thought sustained me – I would never have to do this again.

I didn’t know it at the time, but I was lying to myself.  My firm is sending me to their Bay area office.  And that means I’ll need to take the California Bar Exam in February.   

Sad Fact #1 – My life will suck for the next 3 months.

With a pass rate of 55%, 1 California is widely known as one of the hardest bar exams.  They unashamedly and actively work to keep folks from being admitted.  Unlike other states, which have the decency to limit the torment to 2 days, California insists on the following 3-day exam administration:




Day 1 (Tue.)

3 Essay Questions

1 Performance Test

Day 2 (Wed.)

100 MBE Questions

100 MBE Questions

Day 3 (Thu.)

3 Essay Questions

1 Performance Test

The MBE or Multistate Bar Exam is mainly a recap of the first year of law school – pure federal/common law.  Of the 200 questions, 190 are scored and 10 are evaluation questions (i.e., possible questions for future test takers).  The 190 scored questions cover 6 subjects: 

  • Constitutional Law – 31 questions
  • Contracts – 33 questions
  • Criminal Law and Procedure – 31 questions 
  • Evidence – 31 questions
  • Real Property – 31 questions
  • Torts – 33 questions

The MBE is used in many state bar examinations, and was part of my NY Bar Exam.  But do you think California will accept a transferred MBE score from my recent NY exam?  You guessed it – no.  Apparently, the Golden State only permits attorneys that are past their 4th year of practice to waive out of the MBE portion of the exam. 

The 2 performance tests are closed universe essay exams.  So, you won’t need to use outside knowledge.  The law and facts are provided to you (and to everyone else taking the exam).

The 6 essays are a crap shoot and akin to a closed book law school exam. You must apply the law you’ve memorized to the facts provided by the bar examiners.  Unlike the MBE, you’ll need to learn California law for the essays.  The California law topics tested include: 

  • Business Associations
  • Civil Procedure
  • Community Property
  • Constitutional Law
  • Contracts
  • Criminal Law and Procedure
  • Professional Responsibility
  • Real Property
  •  Remedies
  • Torts
  • Trusts
  • UCC 2
  • Wills and Succession


Bar examiners can and do combine subjects with abandon.  So, you could encounter an essay question that covers civil procedure, contracts and professional responsibility. 

Sad Fact #2 –  I’m back in a relationship with BarBri. 

For me, BarBri was that trifling ex you couldn’t wait to kick to the curb – expensive, boring and stress-inducing.  After the NY bar exam ended, I was more than ready to put everything BarBri-related in a box to the left (see included Beyoncé video for pop culture reference).  But, while I’m hopeful about passing the California bar exam, I know that hope is not a plan. So, like a veteran R&B singer, here I am crawling back and pleading “Baby I need you, please take me back.” 

Because misery loves company, I’ll be blogging about my bar prep experience in the weeks leading up to the February exam.  I’ll share my study schedule, outlines and other study aids as well as my foibles balancing my bar prep, law firm gig and personal life. 

Taking a February exam or want a sneak peek at what awaits after law school graduation? Subscribe to the Blueprint JD blog to get a frank, funny account of my descent into bar prep hell delivered right to your inbox.

Ok, I’m done with the pity party.  It’s time to get to work.


  2. Only Articles 1 and 2 as well as the provisions of Article 9 concerning fixtures are tested.
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Melinda Hightower

Melinda Hightower

Founder and Chair at Blueprint JD
Melinda Hightower is passionate about legal diversity, literature and community activism. When she’s not busy earning her keep as an attorney, she operates Blueprint JD, Inc., a nonprofit dedicated to building diversity in the legal profession.