Free California Bar Exam Workshop!


Hello All,

Thank you for following the Bar Exam Guru blog! For those of you waiting on results for the February 2017 bar exam, our staff at Bar None Review is working hard to provide issue analysis for the February 2017 essays. To receive issue analysis and free tips, sign up here: Sign me up for tips! Check our “Free Stuff” page for free downloads and issue analysis.

If you are getting ready to take the July 2017 bar exam, you will not want to miss out on our free “How to Pass the California Bar Exam” Workshop.

In this free workshop, I will address the upcoming changes to the California bar exam, how to best prepare for these changes and how to prepare for the new 90 minute performance test as well as give a preview of bar exam predictions for the July 2017 exam. The test is changing, the scoring is changing and the weighting of each section is changing. Are you ready for these changes? Don’t worry, because we are! Space is limited. Click the link below to reserve your seat!

YES, I want to PASS, sign me up!


Reserve your spot today!

California Bar Exam Essay & PTs Released


Hello all,

The California bar examiners have released the essays and performance tests from the February 2017 bar exam. You can find all six essays, as well as performance test A and B, here: February 2017 Bar Exam Essays and PTs

Bar results for the February 2017 bar exam will come out on May 12, 2017 – just one month from today!

As of July 2017, the California bar exam will cease to be a three day bar exam. Will it become easier? Will pass rates go up? How should examinees prepare differently for a two day bar exam? My thoughts on this soon in a future post. In the meantime, we will be providing issue analysis for the essays from this last three day bar exam. Stay tuned as I will be posting these soon!

All the best of luck to those who are waiting on results!


Lisa Duncanson
Bar Exam Guru
Founder/Program Director Bar None Review and Bar Exam Cram Session

California Bar Exam: Performance Test Tips!


Hello All,

By now you have finished Day Two of the California Bar Exam and have hopefully settled into your room to rest and hopefully study (at least a little – I do not recommend pulling all nighters at this point, but some review is a good idea. Equally acceptable is resting and flipping channels. Still, I was never a rest and flip channels kind of bar taker and that has served me pretty well up to this point – your choice, of course).

Given that tomorrow is another Performance Test and that you want to finish this exam strong, I have decided to provide some last minute Performance Test tips.

See below:

1. Follow the instructions carefully! Exam pressure can lead to missing things and to misreading instructions – so slow it down enough to make sure you are not missing something in the instructions. You are going to base your whole answer on your interpretation of the senior partner memo (the letter to you from your would be boss) – so make certain you read it very carefully and more than once! (See more on following instructions, and evidencing that you have followed instructions, in # 2 below).

With respect to following instructions, do so to a T. If the senior partner memo tells you not to write a statement of facts, then do not write a statement of facts. Pay close attention to the instructions you are provided. Failure to adhere closely to these instructions will cost you dearly – so be careful!  Examinees are often in a rush to get through the materials quickly and end up missing something in the instructions, failing to pick up some of the easier points. So make sure you read through the senior partner memo a few times and be certain about what you are being asked to do.

2. Make your answer look like it is an answer to that particular performance test. Whatever you are asked to do on the performance test, make sure that you create a document that looks like what you were asked to produce. There will typically be two places from which to obtain your format and instructions for the document you are asked to prepare. The first source is the from the senior partner memo (the letter to you from your would be boss). The second source is also in the case file portion of your performance test and it is a firm wide memo (usually with the title: “To all associates . . .”) that provides instructions on how to write an appellate brief or a memorandum (or whatever it is that you are being asked to write). It is critical that you refer to both of these sources to make certain that you include all sections that you are supposed to include (assuming there are sections, i.e., statement of facts, or point headings, etc.) in your document.

These two sources will also help you to format and organize your document – for example, if you are asked to write a memorandum about the the Constitutionality of a proposed ordinance, then a) you need to make sure that your document is identified as a “memorandum” and b) you need to make certain that your document visually makes it clear that you are in fact addressing the constitutionality of a proposed ordinance. This may seem obvious and it may seem less important than figuring out what the cases mean, but the reality is that many examinees simply fail to do some of these very basic things and end up losing points. So, make certain that you do not forget to make your performance test answer look like it is the very document that you have been asked to produce.

3. How do I know which cases to use? Use them all. Seriously. Really. Do not be afraid. Try to find a use for each case. That is it.

4. What part of the statutes should I include? Assuming you have statutes (not all performance tests do) then look to see which parts of the statutes are referred to in the cases. It is a pretty safe bet that you should also use the sections that the cases refer to as well.

5. Use headings – this is SO important! (First, make sure you follow any format that you are instructed to follow). Always err on the side of following instructions. Some of your formatting will likely come from the instructions (either from the senior partner memo and/or potentially from a firm wide, memo to “all associates” in the case file). Remember that your performance test answer (whether it is a memorandum, a points and authorities, an appellate brief, a letter to a client, a closing or opening argument) it is still an exam answer. It will be graded by a human being and you need to be cognizant of that – make it easy to read and easy to follow. Use headings.

6. What if I don’t finish my answer? This is not an option. You need to make certain that you do finish your answer. Just do it. I take my job very seriously and I work hard, I go the distance, I do whatever it takes to get whatever I need done. Why am I telling you this? Because you should too – you should work your butt off and I don’t just mean in your preparation for the bar exam – but I mean right now, right now on this test, today. Suck it up and get through it. I know that sounds a bit harsh, but if you want to pass this thing then go after it, especially in these last hours. Insist on finishing today’s performance test – because you can and because you need to.

7. Okay, but what if I don’t finish my answer? Sigh. Okay, if you see that you are not going to finish what you had planned on writing, then adapt and do so quickly. The clock may not be your friend, but it does not have to be your enemy either. Watch it, keep track of your time. Don’t wait for the proctor to provide a time warning for you to know how much time you have left to finish. Keep track of your time and speed things up as you need to in order to finish your answer. And, if you are really up against the wall, then make it look like you have finished. If it is appropriate for the document that you are writing, then add a heading for “conclusion” and have a few sentences or a paragraph summarizing as best you can what you have written. And, you can even pre-write a conclusion if you think it will help (this is really only helpful to laptop examinees).

8. Be POSITIVE! (I know, how nice of me to yell at you to be positive :)) Seriously though, please do not be miserable – it will only hurt your performance. No one forced you to go to law school (well, I hope not). You presumedly wanted to do this, you want to be a lawyer. Therefore, today is about doing what you want to be doing – taking and passing the bar exam. Be proud of all the hard work you put in to get to where you are right now. So many people say things like: “I was going to go to law school” or “I always wanted to go to law school” . . . well you did go to law school. Be proud of that and don’t let the struggle of the bar exam take any of that away from you. Now go kick the bar exam’s butt!

All the best of luck this afternoon!

Please feel free to comment on this blog – I would love to hear from you and would love to know if you find it helpful, or if you have suggestions.


Lisa Duncanson

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

Bar Exam Tips List & Murder Approach


Hello All,

Just a reminder that you can still sign up for our February bar exam tips list for the February 2017 bar exam. The first set of tips provided sample Evidence Essays as well as predicting Evidence and providing sample Criminal Law Murder and Criminal Procedure essays. If you sign up for the tips list, you will receive this email along with all future tips emails. I will be sending out additional tips, predictions and handouts based upon what I think may be more likely to be tested on Thursday’s essays. Also, see below for an easy approach for Criminal Law Murder Essays.

To sign up for the February 2017 Bar Exam Tips email list, click on the link below:


Here is a quick, basic essay approach for murder. Note that you should use a lot of headings and have a physical structure that evidences your approach. Using the right headings will give the graders a sense that you actually know what you are talking about and it will make your essay far more appealing to read. In addition, your essay will appear organized and it will make it easier for you to write your answer because you have an approach.

Approach for handling a murder question:

First of all, should you begin with homicide or common law murder? Well, that depends upon the fact pattern and the call of the question. If the fact pattern poses the cause of death as an issue (for example, defendant shoots Victim in the arm. Victim was not expected to die from her gun shot wound. However, while being treated in the hospital, Victim gets an infection, goes into a coma and is later determined to be “brain dead”). Under these facts you will now have a causation issue (albeit, an easy one to deal with and prove that defendant is the cause of the Victim’s death). In this situation, you should address homicide. However, if your fact pattern does not pose causation as an issue, then you may want to start with Common Law Murder. But, always pay attention to the call or calls of the question to help you decide whether you start with homicide or common law murder. If there is no causation issue on the fact pattern, then starting with common law murder is generally fine.

Address: Common Law Murder – Common Law Murder is the unlawful killing of a human being with malice aforethought. Malice aforethought is proven four ways: 1) intent to kill, 2) intent to inflict great bodily injury, 3) depraved heart killings, and 4) felony murder.

Address the above and then if you have a felony murder issue, prove up the underlying felony (BARRKS – Burglary, Arson, Robbery, Rape, Kidnapping or Sodomy).  Incidentally, if this area is tested, the examiners may not test one of the above common law inherently dangerous felonies. Watch out for a dangerous felony like drug trafficking or another dangerous (but not enumerated as a FMR) felony. This forces you to reach a bit and explain that the prosecutor could charge the defendant for felony murder on the basis that it was an inherently dangerous felony, but not a common law enumerated (BARRKS) felony.

Then move onto:

Statutory Degrees of Murder

First Degree Murder: First degree murder is the intentional killing with malice aforethought, premeditation and deliberation. Here do not spend all day on defining or explaining premeditation or deliberation. Instead, address premeditation and deliberation briefly and then move onto Second Degree Murder.

Second Degree Murder: (here is the quick way: “all murders that are not first degree are second degree unless mitigated down to some form of manslaughter”).


There are two types of manslaughter (Voluntary and Involuntary). If you know right away that the facts support a heat of passion killing, then address that first under Manslaughter as: Voluntary Manslaughter. (By the way, anytime there is a fight that results in a death – you should address heat of passion/voluntary manslaughter).

Voluntary Manslaughter: is a killing that would be murder but for the existence of adequate provocation and insufficient cooling time. (there are other elements here that you could develop, but, the reality is that if you have a cross over exam and it involves a full murder discussion – from common law murder to manslaughter – then you simply do not have a lot of time. So spend your time focusing on whether what happened would arouse the passions of reasonable person to kill AND whether or not the person did not have time to cool).

Involuntary Manslaughter: A killing is involuntary manslaughter if it was committed with criminal negligence or during the commission of an unlawful act.

There is also the concept of Misdemeanor Manslaughter Rule – it is simply an accidental killing that occurs while the defendant is engaged in a non-dangerous felony or misdemeanor.

Obviously there are defenses like: Intoxication, Insanity (know the four tests as best you can), self defense, defense of others etc. that can all word to either relieve the defendant of liability for common law murder and reduce the crime down to some form of manslaughter. Keep in mind the above is a basic approach. But, sometimes that is really the best thing to have in your head on the day of the exam. You should have a framework or basic approach and then allow yourself the freedom to write your answer based on the particular fact pattern you face.

If you were to get a murder essay, I am thinking it could be Criminal Law alone (which would mean discussions of issues like conspiracy and perhaps other inchoate crimes and would likely be heavier on the defenses when it is not a cross-over essay. However, it could easily be tested in the context of Criminal Procedure (possibly in the long overdue context of the 8th Amendment and/or 6th Amendment). A bit more on this via the tips list!

Stay tuned for more (Last Minute Performance Test Writing Tips will post between 5:00 and 5:30 pm) and be sure to sign up for the free February 2017 Bar Exam Tips list!

Best of luck to you all!

Lisa Duncanson

Program Director/Founder
Bar None Review
(213) 529-0990

Day 1 February Bar Exam is Done: Full Steam Ahead


Hello All,

By the time you are reading this, you will have completed day one of the California Bar Exam!  Thank you to everyone who wrote in with their recap of what was on the exam today.

As you likely know, today’s essays were: 1) Wills, 2) Remedies, and 3) Evidence.

Understand that I did not see the essays, so I am relying completely on examinees’ recaps that have been sent in to me. While I have not seen the exams, I have heard from many examinees and believe I have a pretty good sense of what was tested today on the essays. I have heard about many other areas that may or may not have been tested along with Wills and Remedies.

Everyone agrees that the third essay was Evidence. I say this simply because I know that there are variations in how to interpret the essays. I do not want to throw anyone off by suggesting cross-overs that may or may not be there. And, the reality is that you can write on many things that your colleagues do not write on and all of you can pass. That is the nature of this exam, it is not about surgical precision or about everyone agreeing on the supposed right answer. However, I think everyone would agree that the three main topics for today were: Wills, Remedies, and Evidence.

From the reports I have received, there were likely several different ways Essay Two could be handled (either as Contract Remedies or involving Tort Remedies or both). From everything I have heard, it sounds like the Remedies essay was the “oddball” or at least perhaps the more challenging essay of the day. In any case, it is very likely that there were multiple ways to handle this question successfully. This is often the case with Remedies exams.

Let it go . . . It is very important that you put today behind you. Simply be glad it is over, move forward, do not dwell on what you wish you could have written . . . let it go. This is key. Day one is behind you, there is nothing you can do about whatever you wrote or did not write. So move forward and focus on what is ahead.

Okay, moving on from day one . . . Your focus now should be to move forward and do your very best in the days ahead. No matter how you feel Day One went (good or bad) put it behind you and focus on doing your absolute best on Wednesday and Thursday!

Thoughts on what might appear on Day Three’s essays . . . 

So far there have been no real surprises – the subjects that showed up on the essays were in line with what was expected. But, as I write this post, I have not yet heard what was on the PT subject matter wise. Understand, I will not discuss the PT until after everyone has taken the PTs (this means not until after this Sunday). However, what is tested on the PT subject wise, does affect how I might revise or not revise my “predictions” for Thursday’s essays. So, I will wait until I hear what was tested subject matter wise before I weigh in on any new or revised “predictions” for Thursday’s essays (I will elaborate more on this once I hear which subject was tested on this afternoon’s PT).

What should I study tonight (Tuesday night)? I would focus on the MBE topics because you know you will be tested on these tomorrow.

I would reserve most of my studying for Thursday’s essays until Wednesday however, here are a few thoughts until then:

Don’t put Evidence away just yet . . . obviously you will see Evidence on the MBEs tomorrow but, there is also a chance that you will see Evidence again on Thursday on one of the essays. It is not my first choice but, you should be aware that on past bar exams, Evidence was tested on day one and then again as a cross over on day three. So, just keep this in mind. Again, not my first pick but, my point is that you need to be prepared for the possibility so that you are not surprised by it, should it show up on day three.

Criminal Law Murder (perhaps crossed with Criminal Procedure and/or Evidence). This is very possible. Nothing that was tested today really changes my initial list. These are not the only areas that are worth taking a look at. But, I would spend any review time this evening on the MBE topics since you know that you are going to face those tomorrow. This is an MBE topic so study of it will be doing double duty for you since it will be on the exam on Wednesday and may  be on the exam on Thursday.

Then, worry about what to study on Wednesday for Thursday’s essays.

So, what should you study on Wednesday night before the exam on Thursday? For now, that should be in this order: first, you should review any subject that you feel is weak, or that you would fear seeing an essay on that topic. This is far more important than reviewing all of the “predicted” topics. Remember, no one can predict what will be tested, you should be ready for anything. Second, you should look over any of the predicted subjects that were not tested on day one’s essays. I will post more (after I hear what was tested subject wise on this afternoon’s PT) about what you might want to focus on in preparing for Thursday’s essays.

I will continue to post here in the coming days. For those of you who are just signing up for our Bar Exam Tips List, we are sending out my initial predictions email (that was sent earlier) and  then you will receive any subsequent emails.

Thank you again to everyone who sent in reports of what was tested today! I try to respond to every email. This becomes increasingly difficult as the traffic grows. But, I will do my best to get back to everyone. The blog has received thousands and thousands of views in just the past couple of days. I am truly honored to have this following and grateful to be able to offer some help. There is still time to join our February 2017 bar exam tips list (see earlier post below).

All the best to you on the MBE section tomorrow. And, for those of you who are taking the Attorney Taker’s exam, I would spend day two studying in this order: 1) review the topic(s) that you are least comfortable with, and  2) Review any of the “predicted” topics. Above all, review the areas that you feel the least secure about so that if you do see one of these areas, you will have a better opportunity.

I will keep posting and keep sending out emails. Stay tuned. If you have a question, please feel free to send me an email at: I will do my best to get back to you personally, my enrolled students taking priority of course.

All the best of luck to you tomorrow! Stay positive!

Lisa Duncanson

Program Director/Founder
Bar None Review
(213) 529-0990 and