California Bar Exam Tips


Good evening all,

As we learn of yet another tragic terrorist act in France, I can’t help but think of all the lives lost both in France and in our own country. My thoughts go out to all the victims, and to their family members and loved ones.

So how do you study for the bar exam with so much going on, especially when it is such sad news?

Focusing on the task at hand and recognizing that by doing well on the bar exam, you can do well for others too. It isn’t just your life that is affected by passing, it is everyone around you, and, in particular those that you will ultimately help once you become an attorney. Think about that now as a source of motivation (if you are struggling). And, if you are unaware of what I am talking about – then it means you have not been on social media, have not watched the news and have truly disconnected (as you should) for your bar studies.

If you have not disconnected, then now is a good time to do that (keep your cell phone off during the day when you are studying, stop checking email, stay off of twitter and Instagram and Facebook – these can be huge time wasters). Let family members and friends know that you are going into hibernation until the bar exam is over. It is critical that you hunker down right now and really focus. The bar exam is less than two weeks away. Do your best to put aside everything else in the next 11 days. If not now, when?

All the best in your studies!


Lisa Duncanson
The Bar Exam Guru
Bar None Review


Bar Exam: July 2016 Tips List!


Hello All,

It is that time of year again. The July bar exam is is drawing near and at the same time, most bar review courses start to wind down and you are on your own. It can be a time where many examinees feel lost. So to help you feel a little less lost, each year I send out tips to those who want to sign up for our tips list. And, of course I continue to write posts here on the blog.


We still have a few spaces left in our Bar Exam Cram Session on July 16th and 17th. For sample excerpts of our Bar Exam Cram Sheets click on the links below:

Criminal Procedure Cram Sheet EXCERPT

Constitutional Law Cram Sheet EXCERPT

Evidence Cram Sheet EXCERPT

Stay tuned for the Bar Exam Predictions – coming soon!

All the best to you in your studies in the coming weeks!

Lisa Duncanson
Program Director/Founder
Bar None Review and Bar Exam Cram Session
(213) 529-0990 and

There is still time to pass the California Bar Exam!

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Hello All,

Yes, there is still time to pass the California bar exam, because there is still time to reserve a spot in our next (and final July 2016) Bar Exam Cram Session! We still have a few spots left in our Bar Exam Cram Session this July 16 and 17 to be held in Los Angeles near LAX!

Not sure what to write? Not sure how to start your essay answer? One of the common problems bar examinees face is simply not knowing how to start an exam. Everyone knows how to start a Community Property exam answer, but do you know how to start (and set up) a dormant commerce clause exam? Or a Substantive due process exam? What about how to handle an Evidence Transcript Style essay (don’t dismiss Evidence just because it was tested in July – each bar round the bar examiners repeat on average three topics that were tested on the prior bar round on the next bar administration. It would be just like the California bar examiners to either test Evidence again as a whole essay or as a cross-over with one or even two topics).

Your focus in the coming weeks and days should be not only on memorizing the law, but also on seeing how the material is tested. To do well on the essays you will really need to know how to set up each essay, how to organize it properly and of course, how to start your essay answer. We teach you how to start each essay topic and how to organize your answers in such a way that you address the relevant issues, and that you know how much time to spend on a particular issue.

There is a method and approach for the essay topics. If you know the approach for each essay topic (Torts for example has four main essay approaches: Defamation, Products Liability, Negligence and Tort Remedies) you will have a much, much easier time on the exam. This isn’t just for the essays, it helps with your MBEs too.

It makes far more sense to have an approach for each, rather than to try to work only from a checklist for the entire subject and hope that you will figure out the correct issues on exam day. Instead, I recommend that you prepare for each type of essay and memorize approaches for each so that on exam day you are writing quickly and efficiently and addressing the correct issues. Every topic has an approach and if you know that ahead of time, it makes your job of issue spotting and writing an above passing answer, that much easier.

Take a look at Constitutional Law. You likely are memorizing a lot of material for this subject. It is tested on both the essays and the MBEs. It is really equivalent to several topics if you think about it. That is one of the reasons examinees often struggle with subjects like Property and Constitutional Law – because each subject is really several different topics wrapped up into one. You need to treat it that way. If you do, you will have a much easier time both memorizing and understanding and ultimately writing passing essay answers. There are approaches for virtually every subtopic of Property and Constitutional Law. Think about it this way – you would not write an easements essay the same way you would write a landlord tenant essay or a covenants/equitable servitude’s essay. NO, in fact each of these has its own distinct and separate approach. Constitutional Law also has many subtopics, each with a separate approach. Once you start thinking about these larger subjects in a more compartmentalized way, it will be much easier to memorize and to handle on exam day.

For example: First Amendment Speech issues should generally be handled this way:

  1. First Amendment Speech – “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech.” This is incorporated to the states via the 14th Amendment.
  2. Is the speech content based or content neutral?
    1. If it is content based, it will be subject to strict scrutiny (unless it is commercial speech – which will receive some protection under the Central Hudson test. If it is commercial speech, apply each prong of the Central Hudson test).
    2. If it is content neutral, then you must apply the Time Place and Manner test. But, your focus on the type of forum will typically be brief)
  3. Is the regulation on speech overly broad?
  4. Is the regulation on speech vague? (Here, if people of common intelligence must guess to its meaning, then the statute may be void for vagueness)
  5. Does the regulation create a prior restraint on speech (chilling effect on speech)

Many examinees fail to recognize that addressing over breadth, vagueness and prior restraint is required to pass a First Amendment Speech essay. If you miss prior restraint,  over breadth and vagueness on a First Amendment Speech essay, it will not likely pass. These are the kinds of things we address and cover in the Bar Exam Cram Session. Our students find it invaluable. If you know ahead of time that whenever you have a First Amendment Speech exam that you must always address Prior Restraint, Overbreadth and Vagueness, then you will simply do it and in doing so, you will be capturing points that are all too often missed by others. Every subject is like this. It is critical that when preparing for 15 subjects, that you have approaches memorized ahead of time.

Our students leave the Bar Exam Cram Session feeling confident. We take what seems unmanageable and make it do-able. If you are uncertain about how to make the most of the next few weeks, then consider attending The Bar Exam Cram Session. We not only provide a two day, live course, with a condensed review of the bar tested topic, a complete set of The Bar Exam Cram Sheets (proven to be an extremely effective tool, especially for essay approaches, memorization and organization). We also include past essays based upon my bar exam predictions for you to review in the final days leading up to the exam, tried and true approaches for the essay topics and MBEs, a study plan to follow for the critical last ten days leading up to the bar exam as well as email updates up through the bar exam.

For more information and to Sign up/Learn more here

Here is what some of our past students have had to say about our program:

“I would not have my career as a lawyer if it weren’t for Lisa Duncanson. Her review course was easy to understand and her study plan was very effective for me. I would highly recommend considering her course!”

Edward Dailo, Esq.

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Dear Professor Duncanson:

I wanted to let you know that I passed the California Bar Exam!!!  I was one of your Bar Exam Cram Session students.  I was meaning to send you this e-mail a lot earlier, but after I passed the bar, my boss threw me right in and I’ve been making court appearances ever since. 

I used the tools and techniques that you taught me in the cram session . . . and . . . I used the essays you provided like you taught us.  I think that really was the key to passing the bar, at least for me.

I’d like to thank you for all the support that you gave all your students throughout the bar exam. It was really great to know that we could reach out to you during the test.

Elizabeth Argueta, Successful July 2015 Bar Examinee

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We hope to see you at our final Bar Exam Cram Session for the July 2016 bar exam!


Lisa Duncanson

Bar Exam Guru/Founder Bar None Review


Bar Exam Prep: So Many Rules, So Little Time

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Hello All,

First, I want to thank you for following this blog. To date, we have had over 800,000 views! I take great pleasure in being able to offer assistance to those who are struggling through the grind of bar studies. It is truly humbling to have your readership.

The bar exam is now less than a month away. This weekend is often one of the most critical weekends in a July bar examinee’s review period. Many are starting to realize the sheer weight of what has to be done and fear starts to creep in and even take over. Anxiety starts to run high, and if allowed to go unchecked, can be any bar examinee’s demise.

It is normal to experience some anxiety and fear during this time – especially when you think about how much you might still need to learn, let alone memorize. However, it is important that you put things into perspective. The bar exam, while now less than a month away, is not tomorrow. You have time to improve and to work on memorization. One of the best ways to eliminate anxiety is to start memorizing the material.

One of the most common questions I field every bar round is:

“How the heck am I going to memorize all of this material? There is so much to memorize!”

One of the challenges of the bar exam is that students often suffer from information overload. Sometimes, the more diligent a student is, the more they read outlines and the more they try to memorize volumes and volumes of material.

While it may seem like the right thing to do, I caution students against getting into a rut of reading extensive and lengthy outlines to the exclusion of other things that should be done (like: reviewing and study past essay exams and answers, practicing and studying past MBEs, writing practice exams under non-timed conditions and writing timed exams).

Reading outlines that are 1oo to 150 pages for each subject and trying to commit these to memory for 15 subjects is not only very difficult, but it can become counter-productive. Instead, start carving out time to review past exams and answers. By reviewing and learning from the actual past exams, you will help bridge the gap between being able to recite an outline and being able to write an actual essay answer.


The only way to really know and understand the material, is to see it in the context of the exam. Will reading essays and completing MBEs alone be enough? Not likely, but without this kind of review, failure is almost certain. You need to not only put your knowledge to the test and practice the test, you need to learn from the test.

Here are some suggestions of what I think you should consider doing in the coming days leading up to the bar exam. If you do these things, it will make the job of memorizing the law much easier.

  1. It is imperative that you understand the law you are memorizing.

One of the biggest mistakes that examinees make is to fail to truly learn and understand the material. There is sometimes such a focus on memorization that examinees delay reviewing the actual test. This can prove to be disastrous. You do not want to wait until the bar exam to figure out if you actually understand how the issues arise. Rule statements are important, but being able to determine when something is at issue or not, will require that you understand the law and how it is tested. Being able to write rule statements from memory does not necessarily mean that you understand (when faced with a fact pattern) what the issues turn upon.

It is key that you are able to understand the material, and not just being able to recite the rules. So when you think about memorizing the material – think about first “understanding the law.”  This means: understanding what the terms mean, how the issues are generated and how the issues are tested. Once you understand the material, memorizing it will be much easier.

2. You need to see (and learn) the material in the context of the exam.

Again, being able to recite rule statements is something that most examinees strive to do and do so fairly effectively. The problem is that your job on exam day is not going to be to simply write out a Contracts outline or to write out a Torts outline. Yet, if you think about it, examinees often spend their time preparing for the exam as though the exam consists of simply reciting rules. While it is certainly a help, it is only part of what is needed to pass the exam. Successful examinees not only are able to recite rules, they know how the material is tested and understand the material in the context of the actual exam.

To do this, you should review past essays and answers. When reviewing essays, really study the answers and pay close attention to which issues were addressed in the answers and how these issues arose from the facts. Reading essays and studying the answers is critical to passing the California bar exam. There are simply ways that the material is tested that are not intuitive and will be lost on you unless you actually see it in the context of the actual exam.

For the MBEs it is critical that you learn how Torts is tested, how Constitutional Law is tested, Property, etc. This is key. The best way to accomplish this is to study past MBEs (I recommend that you work on NCBE drafted MBES ONLY). Three sources for NCBE released questions are: 1) The Strategies and Tactics for the MBE by Walton and Emanuel, 2) Adaptibar and 3) the National Conference of Bar Examiners.

The reason you want to focus your attention and energy on the NCBE released MBEs is because it will be important for you to align yourself with what the National Conference of Bar Examiners is testing, how they are testing, as this is will be the closest approximation to the actual test. Think of it this way: you need to know what the NCBE think amounts to a taking by force such that a robbery occurred rather than what you think factually amounts to a taking by force or what your law professor thought was a taking by force. Focus on completing NCBE MBEs (timed as well as non-timed review of MBEs is important – more on this in a future post).

3. Work on memorizing a condensed version of the subjects after you have spent time reviewing past exams.

It will be so much easier to memorize material that you actually understand. As I suggest above, one of the best ways to gain an understanding of the material is to see how it is tested. Once you have studied how products liability is tested, you will have a much easier time memorizing what you need to know for Products Liability. What you actually have to memorize becomes less as it represents what you fully understand.

Products liability is a big topic with a lot of detail. However, to be able to successfully navigate a products liability exam you will need to be able to have an approach for, and a condensed version of, products liability memorized (and, of course, understood). For example, the following would be a good approach for Products Liability:

  1. Introductory statement: The plaintiff may recover under products liability for the following torts: 1) intentional tort (usually battery), 2) negligence, 3) strict products liability (for defective product) and 4) under the warranty theories (implied warranty and express
  2. Intentional Tort (here plaintiff may be able to prove the tort of battery if they can show the defendant knew with substantial certainty that a harmful or offensive result would occur – look for facts that state percentage rates of failure – this suggests the defendant knew with substantial certainty that _% of the time the product would cause a harmful or offensive result. This is always a quick discussion, but worth points by addressing it quickly – this is generally addressed in every released answer for products liability essays, yet many examinees miss this point).
  3. Negligence – all in the commercial chain owe a duty to plaintiff – reasonable manufacturer, reasonable retailer etc. Write a normal negligence discussion, but focus on drawing attention to the breach as being a failure to warn or negligent design as these will be easily referred to once you are in your strict products liability discussion.
  4. Strict Liability for Defective Product (unreasonably dangerous) – strict liability attaches by placing an unreasonably dangerous product in the market place. Your focus will be to prove that the product is a defective product. There are three ways to prove this: 1) manufacturing defect (rarely tested on the essays), 2) design defect (often tested) and 3) warning defect (often tested). Prove up one or more ways the product is defective, then briefly discuss causation (which you can refer back to your discussion of under your Negligence call – if you have already discussed negligence) and then conclude (of course discuss any appropriate defenses – i.e., assumption of the risk, learned intermediary, etc.)
  5. Warranty Theories 
    1. Implied Warranty of Merchantability – implied into every sale that goods are of fair and average quality and fit for the ordinary purpose. This is something you will typically address on EVERY products liability essay as it is always present.
    2. Implied Warranty of Fitness for Particular purpose – you may or may not need to discuss this warranty – it must be generated by the facts.
    3. Express Warranty – you may or may not need to discuss this type of warranty – it must be generated by the facts.

Note that you can condense this even further and ultimately turn it into a checklist/shorthand approach for products liability.

Getting a handle on how the substantive material plays out on the essay exams (as well as how it is tested on the MBEs) is critical to your success. The above is an example of how you should be viewing the material. How much easier would it be to write a products liability exam if you actually knew, going into the exam, what areas to write on and for how long? Studying past bar exam essays and answers will help you not only with your understanding of the law, but also with your memorization. Memorizing a step-by-step approach for each area will enable you to get to writing your answer more quickly because you will know how to start your exam. Your answer will look more organized, your issue coverage will be better and it will look like you know what you are doing because . . . you do.

I will write more in the coming days about how to make the best use of the time you have remaining and techniques for memorizing.

Until then, happy studies!


California Bar Exam: Free Workshop, Predictions & More


Hello all,

Thank you for following the Bar Exam Guru blog! We have now had over 800,000 views. I am humbled and grateful for the followers.

Due to the high demand of our free “How to Pass the California Bar Exam” Workshop, I will be teaching a second workshop to be held this Wednesday, June 1st from 7:00 pm to 9:30 pm. This session will be held in Orange County.

As a bonus, I will be covering the Performance Test and will address some early predictions for the July 2016 bar exam.

Class fills up quickly, so be sure to reserve your space early!

Students will receive a free copy of our Guide to Passing the California Bar Exam as well as free bar exam writing templates. The workshop will provide substantive coverage on how to successfully write for the California bar examiners. Get answers to when and where you should include California distinctions, how long is a typical passing essay answer, learn the proper form and structure of a solidly passing essay and performance test. And, as time allows, we will discuss strategies for the MBE.

Come and learn how to develop a plan for succeeding on the July 2016 bar exam. Space is limited. Reserve your space today!

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California Bar Exam: Free How to Pass the California Bar Exam Workshop

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Wednesday, May 18, 2016 is our next free workshop! This session will be held from 7:00 pm to 9:30 pm. This session will be taught by Lisa Duncanson. Class fills up quickly, so be sure to reserve your space early!

Register now for our upcoming, free, How to Pass the California Bar Exam Workshop. Learn how to put together a successful study plan, learn strategies for successful essay and performance test writing and keep up to date on changes to the bar exam, get answers to when and where should you include California distinctions, how long is a typical passing essay answer, learn the proper form and structure of a solidly passing essay and performance test. And, as time allows, we will discuss strategies for the MBE..

Space is limited, so sign up early to secure your spot!

Sign up here!