California Bar Exam Tips: Free Score Review at Bar None Review

Hello All,

If you failed the July 2011 bar exam, you should know that you are not alone. The complete statistics will be available on the California bar website ( very soon. Pass rates for the February bar exams are usually between 39% and 45%. Pass rates for July bar administrations are often about 50%. So, if you did not pass, you know that you are among a significant number of people who are in the very same position.

So what do you do now? Do you take another bar review course? Do you hire a private tutor? Do you study on your own? The answers to those questions will be different for everyone. First, you need to properly evaluate why it is that you failed.

Because the scoring of the California Bar Exam is scaled, it is not easy to understand what a given score means nor is it clear where you will need to focus from numbers alone. For example, if an examinee scores consistently the same scores on their essays (i.e., all sixties or three fifty-fives and three sixties) it will indicate a different problem than an examinee whose scores have a greater range (i.e., one 45, one 75, two 65s and two 60s etc.)

Students whose scores are very consistent will likely mean that the student has a writing problem that is consistent and across the board. This type of writing problem is generally not subject specific and once it is fixed is fixed for all topics. For the student whose scores are more spread out and ranging, typically this student’s problems lie both in writing style as well as subject knowledge and ability to spot issues.

The first step is to review your bar exam score sheet. This can be a very confusing piece of paper. Partly because it is simply just painful to look at. Here you are, you have just received the terrible news that you have failed the bar exam and now you have to make sense of the scores. In my experience, examinees very often do not understand how the scaling works or what equals a passing “raw” score. So hopefully, what follows below will be of help to you.

First of all, the raw score that is passing for the essays, performance tests and the MBEs varies from bar exam to bar exam. Most examinees incorrectly believe that a 70 is always required to pass an essay. However, this is simply not the case. In the past several bar rounds, a passing raw score on the essay has been as low as a 61 point something and as high as a 63 point something – not a 70. Of course, a 70 is a much better score to receive and better yet, 80s are really what you should be shooting for – this is the score we do our best to teach our students to be able to achieve consistently.

The passing raw score for the MBE in the past few years has gone down dramatically. Several years ago, to pass the MBE portion of the exam you really needed to achieve at least 70% correct (a raw score of 140). However, in the past couple of years, the raw passing score has been between 62% – 66% (a raw score of 124 to 133).

However, your practice scores should be much, much higher to ensure that you will do well enough on the MBE portion on exam day. The test has changed. I personally took it the first time back in 1994 (I passed on the first time). The required raw number to pass the MBE portion was higher back then. But, the MBE test has changed. As a result, I retook the bar exam in February 2008 (I passed this exam also).

Here is what I learned (without violating any of the rules the NCBE requires of me and of anyone who has taken the exam – remember you are not to discuss questions, MBE fact patterns, etc.) about the MBE – it has changed from the earlier days of the test. But, it is not any more difficult than the exam I took in 1994 nor is it any easier. So what does this mean for you – well, read on.

The most obvious difference in the MBEs from the past to the present, is that the questions tend to be much shorter. But, the very same issues are tested now as were tested before. It is true that you are not going to find exact replicas of the actual test. Nor should you be able to – it simply would not be a fair exam if you were able to simply memorize a past set of MBEs and then go and pass the MBE portion. Don’t get me wrong, I am on your side. But, this is a test and it is designed (quite well) to test YOUR analytical skills. Is is so much more about that than it is about memorization (even though, of course memorization is very, very important).

At this point, if you have failed the bar exam, you should immediately get back to working on MBEs – not memorizing the law, but instead – just going right back to practicing the MBEs. We provide free handouts on how to approach the MBE portion of the exam. To receive your free copy, contact us at and we will send it to you.

By working on the MBEs right away, you will most likely see a return to your prior practice MBE scores (right before the bar exam) within a few weeks (without reading through a single outline or re-committing any of the law to memory – even though of course, you will also need to do that prior to the exam).

A book we highly recommend is “Strategies and Tactics for the MBE” by Walton and Emanuel, published by Aspen Publishing. Be aware that Aspen publishes two MBE books with very similar names, but each are quite different. Both are useful. However, the “Strategies and Tactics for the MBE” authored by Walton and Emanuel, is, in my opinion, is the best book you can get for the MBEs. The information on how to take the exam (strategies and tactics of the exam) as well as the explanations are excellent and far superior to any other MBE book on the market. I do not have any financial interest in this book.

Once the California bar releases the full statistics, some of these numbers will become more clear. However, what is most important is where you are – how far away from passing were you really? Most examinees that I speak with are quite off base when they call in to discuss their scores. There is a lot of misinformation out there. I have been following message boards and I am shocked at how little examinees know about how the test is scored. This is the fault of both law schools and bar preparation courses. It can be incredibly helpful to have someone who is knowledgeable about it to help you interpret your scores. This is really the first step in figuring out what you need or don’t need.

We provide, for a limited period of time (as our classes and private tutoring obligations begin and then we are just not available to provide this service) a free review of your past bar scores. In order to participate in this program, you will need to send your scores to We only accept scanned in score sheets at this time (we do not accept your typed in scores in an email). We have to be sure that we are dealing with you. In addition, provide a phone number where you can be reached (all score reviews and evaluations are conducted via phone).

Be sure to come back to this blog as we will provide more information and advice for those of you faced with repeating the California bar exam this July. Also, be sure to review past postings as these are quite relevant (for example, study plans, how to study etc.).

Also, be sure to visit our bar review course website for more information on what to do if you are repeating the California bar exam. Our website is:

Once there, select the “repeat bar examinee” button on the left side of our website. You may also want to take a look at samples of our exam writing templates (two topics are provided online for free).

Good luck to you and do not give up, this exam is do-able!

Thank you for reading and please feel free to leave a comment here on my blog or to email me directly at:

Good luck in your studies!


Lisa Duncanson
Program Director/Founder
Bar None Review
(949) 891-8831

California Bar Results July 2011: What Should I Do If I Just Failed The Bar Exam?

NOTE: This is a repeat of a former posting, but relevant now, if you have just received failing results. Therefore I have posted it again. Good luck to all of you who are either repeating the bar exam this February or taking the bar exam for the first time this February. Time is on your side, especially if you utilize it. Here is my earlier post about “What to do if I failed the bar exam” – Also, please visit our bar review website at: and check out our calendar of workshops – we will offer a variety of free workshops for students taking the Feburary 2012 bar exam (some will be specifically geared to those who are faced with repeating the exam this February).

If you have failed the bar exam, keep in mind that you are in good company. Also, realize that the bar exam is not an IQ test. Many very bright and hardworking examinees fail the exam. If you have failed, you will need to do the following:

1) Get past being devastated as quickly as possible – as harsh as this sounds, you really do just need to get back to work as soon as you can. Those that do, have the best chance of passing the next exam. Start by doing MBEs.

2) This is going to hurt, but – find out why you failed - this starts by getting your scores back from the bar. The bar will automatically mail score sheets to all examinees who failed the bar. This usually takes 1 – 3 days after bar results come out. When you get your scores, don’t panic and don’t make assumptions about any one section. You will receive both a raw score and a scaled score. Take the time to read the materials that come with your score sheet that explain the raw and scaled scores. See also, other posts on this blog about making it to re-read and interpreting bar scores. And, if you need help interpreting your scores, you can get it free through Bar None Review

3) Commit to taking and passing the next exam - in almost every case, I would recommend taking the very next bar exam. Obviously there are sometimes reasons to sit out a bar exam administration – but in most cases, the best advice is to take the very next exam. Think about it, the material seems like it has fallen out of your head right now – just think how hard it will be to put it all back together if you wait another six months – that would be a whole year since your last review – not a good plan.

4) Develop a plan of attack - Your plan might include taking another bar review course, hiring a tutor, or continuing your studies on your own. There are many courses available (assuming you already tried barbri) that cater to different needs – small classes, private tutorials. Do your research and due diligence before enrolling in a course. Ask for references, ask to see the course materials before enrolling, make sure the bar review provider is a good fit for your needs. And, don’t abandon your common sense – if it sounds too good to be true – it probably is.But, whatever you do (take a course or study on your own) make a plan – figure out how many hours you will study each day, where you will study, how long will you have to review each topic, how many essays you will write each week, how many MBEs you will do each day, how many PTs you will write – figure it out, map it out and develop a plan.

5) Work hard - no matter how hard you worked the first time, you are going to have to work just that hard again. And, if in your honest assessment of your prior bar studies you conclude that you did not work hard enough – well then you are going to have to work harder. There simply is no magic bullet.


Lisa Duncanson
Program Director/Founder
Bar None Review
(949) 891-8831

California Bar Exam: Good Luck to Everyone Who is Waiting for Results!

Hello All,

Good luck to everyone who is waiting for bar results! We will be posting the California Bar Exam statistics here once available. In addition, we will provide free bar exam workshops in November and December of 2011 as well as a break down of the last bar exam.

Good luck to those who are waiting for results!

All the best,

Lisa Duncanson
Program Director/Founder
Bar None Review
(949) 891-8831

Published in: on November 17, 2011 at 2:09 pm  Leave a Comment  

California Bar Exam Predictions: Back By Popular Demand

Hello All,

Our bar exam “predictions” are back by popular demand. First of all, I do not claim to be able to predict which subjects will be tested on a given bar exam round. That being said, I have had a pretty high rate of accuracy in my “predictions” over the years.

No good bar review provider would suggest that you direct your course of study based upon bar exam predictions. Instead, you must be prepared for all topics.

Still, each year, I provide my students with these projected scenarios. And, over the years, we have had a very high level of accuracy in these “predictions”.

It is my intent to make these “predictions” . . . or what I like to call projected essay scenarios . . . available here. If you subscribe to this blog you will receive updates on new predictions and bar exam tips.

For more information on bar exam predictions, see the post below.

Good luck to everyone who is waiting for bar results!


Lisa Duncanson
Bar None Review
(949) 891-8831

Published in: on November 14, 2011 at 10:09 pm  Leave a Comment  

California Bar Exam Tip: Essay Predictions

If you have read past postings, you will know that I believe it is not wise to base your studies on essay predictions. Instead, you should prepare for all subjects equally. However, this does not mean that it isn’t a good idea to know what has been tested in recent examinations or to develop a sense of which topics or combinations of topics might be likely scenarios on the upcoming exam. This just makes sense. You should know the test you are about to take extremely well.

Each bar round our students take a three-day, simulated bar exam. The exam is given under exam conditions. We use real bar exam questions for the exam. In preparing this mock bar exam, I review the past 6 bar administrations. I do this to determine which topics I will include in that bar round’s mock exam. I choose exam topics that I have not seen in recent administrations as I believe that these may have a greater likelihood of showing up on the next bar exam.

One of the certain things about the California bar exam essay section is this: each bar round the examiners repeat one or two (and sometimes even three) of the subjects that were tested on the prior bar exam. Usually it is at least two subjects that repeat. If you look at the past bar exam administrations you will see proof that the subjects repeat from one round to the next. As a result, it makes trying to predict the next set of essay subjects to be tested unrealistic. In addition, it means that you would be foolish to think that if a subject were just tested on the July 2008 bar exam, that this subject would not show up on the February 2009 bar exam.

Since the same subject will often be tested on the essay exam from one round to the next, it is important to review the past exams not in terms of which subject was tested (i.e., Torts, Criminal law, Criminal Procedure, Wills, Contracts etc.) but, instead in terms of which topic within a subject was most recently tested (i.e., Defamation? Negligence, Murder, 4th Amendment, 8th Amendment, Will formation, codicil, undue influence, Contract Formation, Common Law, UCC, Remedies, Conditions etc.).

This is what I look at when I am preparing our simulated bar exam for our students. And, this is also the same source that I go to in order to provide “predictions”. I try to be very careful with the word prediction in the bar exam context. First of all, it is misleading to even suggest that someone could predict the bar exam essay topics. But, if the bar examiners were going to test Property again on the February 2012 bar exam (it was tested on day three of the July 2011 bar exam) then perhaps the examiners would be more likely to test areas within landlord/tenant or easements.

Similarly, it would make sense that if the bar examiners have historically, over many years, tested certain areas, and one of those areas has been glaringly absent in recent years, then perhaps the examiners will test it soon. Just seems to make sense, doesn’t it? Well, I think it does. Still, this being said, I do not believe that you should place a great deal of stock or reliance on what anyone might predict for the exam. If it helps you think about possible scenarios, fine. But, if it is something that you use to direct your studies away from less predicted subjects or less likely expected subjects, then it is nothing short of dangerous. Be prepared for every subject and each topic within each subject.

Okay, I am not going to provide a list today of predictions. I will, however, pass along some of what I address in my lectures about areas that are probably worth a little extra attention simply because the bar examiners have not tested these areas in some time.

As I teach each subject in our bar review course, I let our students know which areas of that topic were tested recently and which areas have not been tested recently.

Then as the bar draws even closer, we spend time reviewing additional essays that have tested these very topics (the topics that have not shown up in a while). It is not that all will show up on the next administration, or that it would be wise to study only these areas. However, I know that our students reap a great deal of confidence from this exposure simply because when they do arrive at the exam and open their essay booklets, they will inevitably see some of these areas tested in exactly the same way on exam day. This is a great confidence builder.

Still, I constantly reinforce with my students that anything can be tested (for example, First Amendment speech and Murder essays have shown up back to back on not just two administrations, but three in a row in some years). Other topics have repeated in this same fashion. Therefore, while predictions are very tempting not only to make but to rely upon, it is not a good way to decide which subjects to review or study harder. Instead, study all of the subjects, of course.

I will do my best to provide postings about some of these subject areas that I believe the bar examiners might be more inclined to test on the upcoming February 2012 bar exam.

Incidentally, I do not intend to pass along every point that I make in my lectures regarding the essay predictions. I do not think that my students would think that was fair as they chose to enroll in Bar None Review and paid the associated fees. But, I will provide some information here when I can and to the extent that I think is both helpful and fair.

Thank you for reading and please feel free to leave a comment here on my blog or to email me directly at:

Good luck in your studies!


Lisa Duncanson
Program Director/Founder
Bar None Review
(949) 891-8831

California Bar Exam: 2012 February Bar Exam Workshops

Workshops for the February 2012 bar exam will be held after November 18, 2011

Our “How to Pass the California Bar Exam Workshop” will be held soon! Call (949) 891-8831 to pre-register. We will also post upcoming workshop dates here.

Bar None Review offers several different workshops throughout the year. Our workshops cover essay writing for the California bar exam as well as strategies and techniques for the MBE portion of the exam. Students receive free MBE handouts, free bar exam writing templates and have the opportunity to meet with our course founder. Space is limited. Workshops are held in Orange County and Los Angeles County. Workshop dates and times will be announced.

In addition to our free workshops we also offer courses to specifically address the needs of the repeat bar exam taker:

The Performance Maximizer Program: This two day course provides students with a proven system to tackle the performance test. We take our students, step-by-step, through each type of performance test. By the end of this course, students will be prepared for anything that comes their way. Our students learn how to approach the many different types of performance tests, how to set up their exam, how to effectively manage time, how to determine which issues should be discussed, how to organize and structure each performance test answer and how to format performance test answers. Students are taken, step-by-step through several performance tests. Course fees are $595.00 and include all course materials (including our Performance Test Maximizer Workbook), online access to our performance test library, grading of performance tests, class room instruction, study plans and our proprietary approach to the performance test. For more information on course dates contact us at: or (949) 891-8831.

Essay Exam Workshops: Bar None Review provides essay workshops for all bar tested subjects. We are now making these workshops available separately, outside of our comprehensive bar review program. Each essay workshop includes our proprietary bar exam templates and specific exam approach for each topic. In addition, students receive essays and model answers, issue analysis and coverage of each essay. Students are taught how to identify the relevant issues, how to set up their answers and write in the style of the California bar examiners.

Score Maximizer Program: Dates and times to be announced. The Score Maximizer Program is designed for repeat bar examinees. Students begin their studies with an evaluation of their scores from their past bar examination and an initial private consultation. After this bar exam score analysis and consultation, Bar None Review will prepare a study plan to address the student’s needs.  The study plan is designed to attack problem areas while maintaining and developing strengths.  Students attend weekly workshops and receive private mentoring and tutoring along with exam grading. This combination allows students to make quick progress. Available on site (live in Orange) and online via home study.

Exam Grading Options: Bar None Review provides exam grading. For more information regarding exam grading options, contact our office at: (949) 891-8831.

For additional course information, see our website or call (949) 891-8831.

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