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Category: Bar Exam Tips

NCBE wags the Bar Exam Dog… in-person bar exams for February 2022


The NCBE is only going to provide in-person materials for the February 2022 exam.  That means hardcopy materials.  This is a strong leverage play.  “OK, state bar licensing entities, you can do what you want, so long as you do what I say.”  You want Uniform Bar Exam materials?  Enjoy our hardcopy exams, people:  you really didn’t want to think about having another remote exam, did you.

What does this mean for California?  You want those MBE materials for 50% of your test, don’t you?  Welcome back to in-person testing, people.  California has about 60 days to decide right after the July 2021 Cal Bar Exam that, hey, it really was our idea, it really was!  But we’re doing in-person testing for February 2022… and now you know.

NCBE’s press release from June 1 appears below.


NCBE Anticipates Return to In-Person Testing for February 2022 Bar Exam

MADISON, WISCONSIN, June 1, 2021—The National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) announced today that February 2022 bar exam materials will be made available to jurisdictions for in-person testing only, unless restrictions by a public health authority prohibit a jurisdiction from administering the February exam in person.

NCBE is the not-for-profit corporation that develops the licensing tests used by most US jurisdictions for attorney admissions. In the second half of 2020 and throughout 2021, NCBE made bar exam materials available to jurisdictions for both in-person and remote exam administrations. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the bar exam had been administered by each jurisdiction in person, in a secure, proctored testing environment. The July 2021 bar exam is expected to be the last that includes a remote testing option; 29 jurisdictions plan to administer that exam remotely, while 24 will administer it in person.

NCBE has advocated for in-person testing as the best mode of administration of the bar exam.  According to Beth Hill, NCBE Director of Test Development, Operations, and Security, “Remote exams have been a valuable stopgap for jurisdictions during this time, allowing examinees to take the test without having to gather in a larger group. However, remote exams create challenges for exam security and uniformity, and for this reason, we have consistently advocated for in-person testing as the best option whenever possible.”

Hill acknowledges, however, that both NCBE and jurisdictions must continue to monitor the public health landscape: “Throughout the pandemic, jurisdictions have worked closely with their state and local health authorities to ensure that examinees may take the bar exam consistent with each jurisdiction’s safety requirements. Although conditions appear to be improving, NCBE recognizes that any jurisdiction’s public health authority may establish that candidates cannot test in person. Should that occur, we are committed to working with that jurisdiction on a solution that will enable its candidates to take the bar exam.”

The National Conference of Bar Examiners serves bar admission authorities, courts, the legal education community, and candidates by providing high-quality assessment products, services, and research; character investigations; and informational and educational resources and programs. It promotes fairness, integrity, and best practices in bar admissions for the benefit and protection of the public in pursuit of its vision of a competent, ethical, and diverse legal profession. For more information, visit the NCBE website at

Last day to register for the July 2021 California Bar Examination!

Hello y’all!

You might have found the key to a products liability essay.  Or the cluster to use in a negligence exam.  Or a multiple permutations issue that is the difference to passing or failing a Civ Pro essay.

But none of that is going to matter if you aren’t registered to take the next exam!

That’s right, sports fans.  The first ability is availability.  If you’re not registered, you ain’t available.  And as the ancient philosopher Harris once noted, “You can’t pass that which you don’t attempt.”

So, please, I beseech you, go to the applicant portal.  Check your account.  Make sure one last time that you’ve registered to take the exam AND that you’ve completed the Acknowledgement and Acceptance of Testing Conditions form.

And… if you’re thinking about applying for accommodations, today is the deadline as well.  Make sure to submit all relevant paperwork.

Once you’ve done that, then get back to work.  When in doubt, do another set of MBEs, or go write an essay.  Don’t memorize!  Too early!

I Failed the California Bar Exam…Now What?

Don’t give up!

Failed the California bar exam? Here’s what to do next.


You’ve been nervous for weeks, but the day is finally here. It’s Results Day.

6 p.m. arrives. You enter your information on the screen, cross your fingers, and wait. Your heart sinks. You failed the California Bar Exam.

Where can you go from here?

It might not feel like it now, but it’s possible to come back from a failed bar exam and still have a successful legal career. Plenty of extremely smart people have failed the bar exam on their first (or second, or third…) try.

I should know. After I failed the notoriously difficult California bar exam, I poured my efforts into figuring out why. Then, I developed a method unlike any other to help students pass with flying colors.

If you just received the bad news that you failed the California bar exam, don’t feel bad. It’s one of the most difficult bar exams in the country with a high rate of failure. But it does mean you have some more work to do.

Follow these five steps and get ready to try again.


Failed the California bar exam? Don't mourn too long. Here's how to get back in business!1. Mourn the Exam Result

As with anything that involves years of hard work, there are bound to be some strong emotions around failing the bar exam.

Take 30 minutes (seriously, set a timer) to vent those feelings. You might feel anger, sadness, guilt, denial, or everything at once. It’s natural to want to beat yourself up…but not healthy, so that’s why I suggest a hard time limit.

The same goes if you had a major distraction that prevented you from putting forth your best effort on the exam. Maybe you went through a bad breakup or a close relative died shortly before the test. Perhaps you got sick. These things happen.

If that’s the case, comfort yourself with the knowledge that nobody could have passed the exam under those circumstances.

Once that 30 minutes have gone by, it’s time for the next step.


2. Contact Me

If you failed the California bar exam, chances are you don’t know why (much less how to fix it).

The good news? That’s where a bar exam tutor like me can help prepare you for your next attempt. The bad news? You have to act fast. (Which is why I have you set a 30-minute limit on your pity party.)

There are very few high-quality, 1-on-1 tutors that focus on all three phases of the California bar exam. And the ones that exist tend to book up extremely quickly.

The real tragedy is when a student failed the California bar exam and took a month to process their feelings. By the time they’re ready to look for help, I have to say, “I wish you called me three weeks ago. My program is full.”

So don’t waste any time. Contact me as soon as you can.


Love and support are crucial after a failed bar exam.

3. Seek Out Love and Support

As tempting as it is to drown your sorrows at the local pub, the love and support of your friends and family will serve you much better.

Contact a few trusted loved ones and let them know what happened. This is what friends and family are for: helping you through the tough times.

And if you did the right thing and called me first, you can let them know you’re already on a path to get yourself back in the game.


4. Tell Your Boss

If you have a job, let your boss know as soon as possible. As embarrassed as you are, this is a necessary step. First of all, they already know you failed the California bar exam (the pass list is public as of Sunday, 6 am). Second, honesty is the best policy.

But the most important reason to tell them is to get some time off so you can prepare for a second crack at the exam, if possible. How much time?

I strongly recommend asking for at least four weeks off before the exam. So for July 2021, for example, I’d suggest you are off of work no later than July 8. So that means 15 weekdays off (July 8-9, 12-16, 19-23, and 26-28) and of course you’ll have the relevant weekends off too.

Whatever time off you are taking, get it in writing. Bosses have a funny way of forgetting that they agreed to your time off request. I’ve had students fight with bosses for months about a date that was agreed to a long time ago.

Firms that do let you take time off also have a funny way of extracting as much as they can from you in the days before your final date, so remind everyone a few weeks in advance to keep your plate clear.

You have an obligation to clean up your files and make sure whoever takes over a case has a clear roadmap of next steps. Otherwise they’ll keep hounding you with questions during one of the most important months of your life.


Failing the Cali bar exam doesn't have to be the end of your legal career.5. Manage the Fact That You Failed

Failure is never an easy thing to manage. You did all of that work, and now you have to do it all over again. It’s enough to demoralize even the most upbeat people.

But you can’t afford to carry that baggage with you.

Your job is to generate points. And focusing on the consequences of failing the exam a second time and losing your job NEVER generates points. In fact, it will likely help you lose points, since you’re not focusing on the task at hand.

I’ve walked through the Valley of the Shadow of California Bar Exam Failure and come out the other side. I’ll show you how to manage it and thrive.



You’re not the first person who has failed the California bar exam, and you certainly won’t be the last. You can’t change that, but you can do something about the future.

Call me about my 1-on-1 tutoring program. If that’s not an option, buckle down and read my books, WINNIN’ TIME! and The Trigger List. Both my books and my program have been painstakingly crafted from years of experience as a law student and tutor.

For what it’s worth: I failed the bar exam once upon a time. In fact, I had so much fun doing it, I failed it twice. But on May 26, 2000, I passed.

The Status of Failure was gone. I met my glorious wife (recently celebrated our 17th wedding anniversary!), I have two wonderful kids, and my student loans are paid off. I have thrived professionally and found my passion in my work life.

Yes, failing the California Bar Exam sucks. But, while you’re in professional purgatory, enjoy the visit. You’ll learn more about yourself, find out who your real friends are, and you’ll learn how to conquer this test. You failed the exam (for now), but it won’t define you if you follow the correct path.

How to Study For the Bar Exam…In Only Two Weeks

For whatever reason, sometimes bar prep gets away from you.

Here’s how to study for the bar exam with only a week or two left.


It happens to the best of us.

Perhaps you celebrated a bit too long after graduation. Or maybe you were so stressed out during law school that you couldn’t seem to get back in gear once it was over. Then again, maybe life or work obligations just got in the way.

Whatever the reason, all of the time you set aside for bar prep has elapsed…and you’ve got almost nothing to show for it.

Now—with only two weeks left—you have no idea how to study for the bar exam and still pass. Is it even still possible?

Actually, yes!


You’re Not Alone

Before we talk about anything else, I want to make it clear you are not the first student (nor will you be the last) to fall behind on bar prep.

It’s very tempting to think that everyone else you know is organized, on point, and on top of their calendar from their cookie cutter program. But I’m here to tell you that it’s a sham! There’s a TON of busy work on those calendars and it tends to get ignored. And many will tell you that your chances of passing are highest if you do 80% or 90% of those calendars…which means everyone is behind.

Fell behind on bar prep? You're not alone. (And you CAN get caught up!)

I’ve been teaching and tutoring for more than 20 years and I can tell you that a high percentage of my clientele has found themselves in the same boat you’re in right now. They may show up to class with color coordinated binders and three different kinds of paper clips, but at the end of the day, they don’t know how to study for the bar exam either.

And, if it’s any consolation, it’s not (always) their fault. Or yours, for that matter.

We’ll go over some of the reasons your bar prep fell apart (and what to do about it), but for right now, you can rest assured that it is possible to crawl your way out of the hole you’re in—if you’re willing to do the work.


5 Reasons Your Bar Prep Fell Apart

In a perfect world, exam applicants would be able to set aside all obligations and distractions for two or three months to focus on studying, memorizing, and taking practice exams. They’d have an expert coaching them on how to study for the bar exam so they could approach exam day feeling completely prepared.

But we don’t live in a perfect world.

And when bar prep goes wrong, it tends to fall into one of five categories.

1. Your program moved too fast.

The biggest challenge that first-timers have with bar prep is the rhythm and speed that most courses follow.

They might be covering a subject you haven’t thought about in two years. You probably need 10 days to really come to grips with the subject, but after just three days, they’re on to a new topic. And just when you’re starting to get your head around that topic? That’s right, time for a new one.

The longer the program goes on, the more behind you get.

family in kitchen

2. You have limitations.

Do you have a job? A family? A disability (physical or otherwise)? Each of these things can affect the amount of time available for bar prep.

Your boss might say he’ll accommodate your study schedule but when that big project is due, you’ve got to step up to the plate. Then your kids need help with their homework. And Covid sure hasn’t done anyone any favors.

3. Things come up.

There are things you knew would be obstacles before you started…and then there’s everything else.

Your dog passes away. You get the flu. Your boyfriend cheats on you. You’ve been dumped. You find out you’re pregnant. I’ve had students who have gone through these things and more.

If you foresaw any of these situations ahead of time, you could have prepared for them. But these kinds of things have a tendency to sneak up on you.

4. You procrastinated.

I’ll just take the weekend to rest up. I’ll start again after the holidays. I can’t study tonight, it’s the Super Bowl.

One or two excuses probably isn’t going to hurt anything. But make it a habit, and before you know it, the exam is just a couple of weeks away and you haven’t written a single practice essay.

5. You didn’t take it seriously.

Then again, maybe you just didn’t bother to buckle down and study the way you should have. After all, you did great in law school, why would the bar exam be any different?

Then your classmates start telling you horror stories about how many times they had to take and retake the exam. Now you think you at least should have looked at more flash cards.

You know it was a bad decision, but what can you do about it now?


young woman studying on laptop

How to Study For the Bar Exam…In Just Two Weeks

At this point, you don’t really need to know why your studying plan fell through. You need to know how to study for the bar exam with the time you have left.

Luckily for you, I have a plan to save your exam.

I’ve spent the last 20+ years as a law professor and bar exam tutor and have single handedly developed a unique method to help you pass the bar. My 1-on-1 tutoring program covers all three phases of the exam and is based on painstaking study of every year’s bar exam.

In just two or three months, I’ll have you ready and confident.

But you don’t have two or three months.

For last-minute bar prep that gives you your best shot at success, I’ve written two books to help you spot issues, outline essays, generate points, and feel more confident walking into the exam.

  • WINNIN’ TIME! contains Bluebook-ready rules in bite-sized, memorizable pieces, with data compiled from every version of the exam from 1993-2019.
  • The Trigger List provides you with the issue spotting help you’ve always needed. If you’re a law student, you just need four hours with this book and you’ll be set for one subject. One week and you’re set for the exam.

You don’t have much time left. You can use that time to panic or you can get the shot in the arm you need and pull out that passing grade.


Time to Take the Bar Seriously

While it is possible to learn how to study for the bar exam in just a week or two, it won’t happen unless you put the work in.

If you’ve got time off, take it. If you don’t have time off, try to find a way to take it anyway.

Your future success depends on the results of this test. You’re not just passing the bar, you’re launching yourself into a lucrative career. Now’s the time to buckle down and make it happen.

July 2021 Bar Exam Announcement

Hello everyone!

The July 2021 Cal Bar Exam announcement is provided here:


Note that the first version of the FAQ Document for the July exam is here!   I’ve attached it.  Note it will change over time, so make sure to check the document online periodically.  Pro-tip:  Look at the LAST page of the document first because that’s where the tips are!


July-2021-Bar-Exam-FAQs 32521


Finally, the July 2021 Bar Exam Schedule (under traditional time) is available as well.  It’s attached.



Deadlines for October 2020 Cal Bar Exam takers taking the February 2021 exam

October Bar Exam Takers Deadlines

  • Application opens (immediate repeaters): January 2, 2021
  • Final Filing Deadline: January 25, 2021
  • Testing Accommodations Petition Final Filing Deadline: January 25, 2021 (Petitions must be complete and received in the San Francisco Office of Admissions.)
  • Acknowledgment and Acceptance of Testing Conditions: February 1, 2021
  • Final Deadline to Withdraw from Exam with 60% Refund: February 9, 2021

Second read score announced!

As usual there will be a score band within which some applicants will receive a second read. The Bar posted this within the last 24 hours. Here’s the info:

Phased Grading

All written answers submitted by applicants who completed the exam in its entirety are read at least once before pass/fail decisions are made. Based on the results of empirical studies relative to reliability, scores have been established for passing and failing after one reading of the exam. For applicants whose scores after the first read are near the required passing score, all answer books are read a second time, and scores of the first and second readings are averaged. The total averaged score after two readings is then used to make a second set of pass/fail decisions.

To pass the examination in the first phase of grading, an applicant must have a total scale score (after one reading) of at least 1390 out of 2000 possible points. Those with total scale scores after one reading below 1350 fail the exam. If the applicant’s total scale score is at least 1350 but less than 1390 after one reading, their answers are read a second time by a different set of graders. If the applicant’s averaged total scale score after two readings is 1390 or higher, the applicant passes the exam. Applicants with averaged total scale scores of less than 1390 fail the exam.