What is the California Bar Exam Format?
What Is The California Bar Exam Format?: If you are taking the California Bar Exam, you may wonder exactly what the California Bar Exam format is like. Here, we tell you what to expect on the California Bar Exam!
What is the California Bar Exam Format?
Prior to July 2017, the California Bar Exam was a three-day exam. The California Bar Exam is now a two-day exam, administered twice per year. The 3-day exam consisted of six one-hour essays, two three-hour performance tests, and 200 multiple-choice questions. As explained below, the two-day exam now consists of five one-hour essays, one 90-minute performance test, and 200 multiple-choice questions.
California has not adopted the Uniform Bar Exam. California continues to administer a state-specific exam.
The California Bar Exam occurs twice each year: the last Tuesday and Wednesday of February and again the last Tuesday and Wednesday of July. The first day consists of the written portion of the exam and the second day consists of the multiple-choice portion.
Day One: Written Portion
The written portion of the exam consists of five essays that test California law and one performance test that asks lawyers to complete a “lawyerly task.” There are two sessions in day one: students write three of the California essays in the three-hour morning session and two essays plus a performance test in the three-and-a-half-hour afternoon session.
The length and scope of the essays on the California Bar Exam has not changed as a result of the change in the format of the exam. The only difference is that examinees now write five essays instead of six.
The subjects that continue to be tested on the essays are as follows: Business Associations, Civil Procedure, Community Property, Constitutional Law, Contracts, Criminal Law & Procedure, Evidence, Professional Responsibility, Real Property, Remedies, Torts, Trusts, and Wills & Succession.
Often, essays contain multiple subjects. Also, some subjects are tested more frequently than others. Here is a chart depicting the frequency with which each subject has been tested on the California Bar Exam essays. Also, check out our free California essay guide here and our California Bar Exam One-Sheets here.
California Performance Test
The performance test asks examinees to complete a lawyerly task such as drafting a memorandum or an argument section of a brief. The Performance Test is a closed-universe exam that does not require students to bring any substantive knowledge of the applicable laws to the table. The applicable authority is provided and the exam tests students writing, reasoning, and time-management skills, among others.
The biggest change to the California Bar Exam was to the structure of the Performance Test. Previously, examinees had two three-hour performance tests on each administration of the California Bar Exam. Currently, students write one 90-minute performance test. The 90-minute performance test aligns California with the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE), which utilizes 90-minute Multistate Performance Tests (MPTs) (although, the Uniform Bar Exam assigns two MPTs whereas California only assigns one performance test).
Day Two: Multistate Bar Exam (MBE)
Day Two of the California Bar Exam is the Multistate Bar Exam, or “MBE”. The MBE consists of 200 multiple-choice questions, administered in two 3 hour sessions (100 questions per session).
Twenty-five of the 200 questions are “test” questions. These do not count toward your overall score. So, that means that 175 of the 200 questions are scored. Raw scores are scaled based on an undisclosed formula that is applied nationwide.
Every bar exam applicant across the country takes the exact same MBE. The MBE tests “majority” law, not California law. Seven subjects are tested on the MBE:
- Civil Procedure,
- Constitutional Law,
- Contracts & Sales,
- Criminal Law & Procedure,
- Torts, and
- Real Property.
The NCBE divides the questions equally among these seven subjects. So, each subject gets 25 scored questions.
How is the California Bar Exam Scored?
The written portion (day one) and the multiple-choice portion (day two) are each worth 50% of the total score. The multiple-choice portion is scored out of 2000 possible points. The written portion is scored with a maximum raw score of 700 (100 points for each essay and 200 points for the performance test), It is then scaled so that the score is in equivalent proportion to the 2000-point multiple-choice portion. The entire score (now with a maximum possible score of 4000) is divided by two. A minimum score of 1440 is required to pass. UPDATE: As of the October 2020 California Bar Exam, the passing score has been lowered to 1390.
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