Eight Tips for the California Bar Exam Performance Test
The California Bar Exam is three days long. The written portion, which consists of six subject essays and two California Bar Exam Performance Tests, is worth 65 percent of the overall score. During the afternoon of the first and third days, you will have 3 hours to do the Performance Test (PT). Because the PT score comprises 26 percent of the written score, a strong score on the PTs can help you if you do not score as high as you would like on an essay or on the MBE section. Here are eight tips to help you study for the California Bar Exam Performance Test.
Eight Tips for the California Bar Exam Performance Test:
1. Read the Task Memo Carefully
The task memo will tell you the structure of your answer, e.g., whether you must write an objective or persuasive memorandum, a letter to a client, or a closing argument. The memo will also let you know whether to include a separate statement of facts or whether to start with your legal argument. You will not get additional points for discussing issues that the memo explicitly tells you not to discuss. Usually the task memo for one of the PTS will also provide you with the general structure of your answer (e.g., see the task memo from In re Virta and Burnsen from the February 2015 Exam).
2. Manage your Time
You have 3 hours to read the file and library and to write your answer. It is a good idea to practice PTs under timed conditions to see whether you are able to read and analyze all the documents provided within 90 minutes. Some students find it easier to read through the library before reading the file or vice versa. When you practice at home try both approaches to see what works best for you. You want to feel comfortable with your approach to the PT before you walk into the exam.
3. Outline Your Answer During the First 90 Minutes
As you read the task memo, file and library, make sure to create your outline. Not only will this help you organize your answer, it will help you with your time management. For example, if you find that you have 10 issues that you need to discuss and you write out each issue as you go along (e.g., Does the present sense hearsay exception apply to X’s statement?), you are less likely to spend too much time on the first few issues and hurry through your analysis for the remainder of the issues.
4. Do Citations During the First 90 Minutes
The library and file for the PT are long! When you are reading the library and file during the first 90 minutes, determine which rules you are going to use from each case or which statements you are going to use from an interview, and include the necessary citation. This way you will save yourself time from looking up which case or document to cite when you are writing your response.
5. Use All the Cases
Use all the cases in your answer, but make sure to check which jurisdiction and year each case is from. Note that some of the cases may provide binding authority while others may only be persuasive.
6. Uses Cases to Help you Tackle Statutes
If a PT library includes a statute, first see which parts of the statute the cases refer to (these are the parts of the statute you should pay more attention to in your analysis!).
7. Do Not Use Information that is not Provided in the Library
Sometimes students read a task memo and get excited because they are familiar with the subject being tested. Maybe they took a class on immigration law and the PT includes a part of the Immigration and Nationality Act. Even if you feel comfortable with the subject being tested, do not assume anything. The bar examiners provide a closed universe of information and that is all the law you need to write a high scoring answer.
8. Take a Deep Breath
While the PT can seem daunting, this is the only section of the exam for which you do not need to include any of the law that you have memorized. Do your best not to dwell on your performance from the morning session. If you find yourself panicking, take a moment to reread the task memo.
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