Demystifying The California Performance Test - JD Advising
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Demystifying The California Performance Test

The performance test is the one part of the California Bar exam where all the rules you’ve memorized won’t necessarily save you. So what exactly is it, and how can you pass? This post will give you an overview of what a California Performance Test looks like, explain the reasoning behind this part of the exam, and give you some important things to remember as you prepare for the California Bar Exam. Hopefully, we can demystify the California Performance Test.

Demystifying The California Performance Test

What is the California Performance Test?

The performance test is a 90-minute written assignment that requires you to complete a “real-world” lawyer task. The performance test packet will contain a task memo, a file, and a library. The task memo will describe in detail the assignment you need to complete along with some background information related to the hypothetical you’ll be working with. The file contains important documents that lay out the facts of your case.  Witness statements, contracts, or other documents that may have relevant information can all be found in the file. Finally, the library contains the legal authorities that you will use to complete the assignment.

What’s On the Performance Test?

Since California adopted the 90-minute performance test in 2017, they have asked students to write objective memos, persuasive briefs, a demand letter, and, most recently, a closing oral argument. Check out this California PT Frequency Chart to see what tasks typically appear. Keep in mind, it’s possible that other tasks may appear on future California Performance Tests!

What’s The Point of the Performance Test?

This part of the bar exam is designed to test your ability to apply legal authorities to factual scenario, identify key legal issues in a case, and sometimes make an argument for one side or the other just like you would as a practicing attorney. The California Performance Test tests your ability to apply the skills you have been learning throughout law school and the skills you will need to be a competent lawyer.

So How Do I Pass?

The most important thing to remember when facing a California Performance Test is to follow the instructions in the task memo carefully and precisely. If it says to focus on certain issues or to not discuss others, do so. If it says not to write a statement of facts, do NOT spend time writing a statement of facts. We previously include our tips on how to prepare for the California Performance Test in another blog post.

Be sure not to let the nature of the task cause you to panic. While it may boost your confidence if you’ve written a demand letter or a persuasive brief before, that is not the point of this test. As long as you can identify the correct rule from a given legal authority and apply it to the facts, you have everything you need to succeed on the performance test!

Finally, practice is the best way to study for the California performance test, so be sure to incorporate performance tests in your bar exam study schedule!

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