Good Luck on Bar Results Tonight!

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Hello all,

Bar results for the California bar exam will be released this evening at 6:00 pm.

Wishing everyone who is waiting for results all the best of luck tonight! And, for those of you who are about to begin studying for the July 2016 bar exam, check out our newly designed website at:


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

5 Things to do to pass the California Bar Exam

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Does this look familiar to you?Books&StudentOverwhelmedThe California bar exam is in 30 Days. How will you be spending this time?

Most examinees spend countless hours and hours reviewing lengthy outlines that do not translate into writing successful essay exams or scoring high on the MBEs. Successful examinees know that they need to work form a very condensed version of the law in order to navigate the essays, identify the correct issues and write successfully on exam day. If you would like to see an example how you can reduce and move away from lengthy outlines, sign up below and we will email you a free copy of our Tort Bar Exam Cram Sheets:

Sign up here for a free Torts Bar Exam Cram Sheet

Here are five things you can do now to increase your chances of passing one of the hardest bar exams in the country:

1. Start studying the actual test, now! 

Reviewing past essay exams is one of the quickest ways to learn what the bar examiners are looking for and to understand the context for the law that you are learning. And, if you actually study the answers, you are learning the law. It is truly a type of substantive review, but one that is far more specific to the task at hand. Keep in mind you will not be called upon to write a Torts outline on the bar exam. Instead, you will be expected to write an essay answer. This is something that you need to prepare for.

All too often examinees fail because they delay the actual study of the exam. I have worked with thousands of students preparing for the bar, many of whom were repeat bar exam takers. One of the biggest mistakes an examinee can make is to delay review and study of the essay exams and MBEs. Most examinees seem to understand the importance of doing practice MBEs. But, far too many examinees wait to conduct a review of the essays (and answers) until they feel they have the law memorized. This is a big mistake!

First of all, by waiting until you have the law memorized you fail to see the context for the law you are trying to learn and you understand less. This makes it harder to memorize and tends to send examinees off a cliff of never ending memorization. The bar examiners are not looking for your ability to regurgitate rule statements. Instead, it is your job to identify legal issues presented by each essay and resolve these issues through a solid legal analysis. Yes, it is important to know the rules. But, until you carefully review essays and answers, you will have a bridge to gap between what you have memorized in your outline and what you should say/write in your essay answer. Furthermore, until you start studying the actual test questions (both essays and MBEs) you will not know how the issues come up or how to organize a successful essay answer. It is a bad feeling to spend months memorizing outlines and then open an essay exam and not be certain as to what issues are presented or how to organize your answer.

One of the best ways to prepare for the exam is to truly understand the material. This might seem obvious. But, far too many examinees memorize voluminous outlines only to their demise because they have failed to see how the issues are tested on the essays.

Make sure that you begin studying the essays and answers soon. Your goal should be to see as many as possible (I recommend reading through 100 past exams). Essay exams repeat over and over again. Therefore, by reading and studying past exams you will increase your chances of seeing something similar on the actual bar exam. How great would that be?

2. Write some practice exams under non-timed conditions and open book to learn the law.

In case you haven’t noticed, I am a big proponent of learning from the actual test. While writing timed essay exams for practice is something you should do. It is also important to write exams under non-timed conditions and open book so that you can work on sorting out how to answer the question. Think about it this way: do you want to just get a 60 or a 65 (or worse) on your essays? Or do you want to be able to write 75s and 80s? Well, practicing essays under non-timed conditions, with the benefit of an answer and a writing approach for that subject, will help you craft your own model answer that is well above passing.

It is true that you will not have more than an hour on the exam day. But, if you take the time to tackle some of the subjects that are particularly challenging now, under non-timed conditions (like Products Liability, First Amendment Speech Essays, Evidence Transcript Style Essays and Evidence in general) you will have a tremendous advantage on exam day. And, you will have a far better understanding of the material (since you have practiced – without the time pressure – how to analyze it and organize it). All of this will make memorization much easier.

3. Make sure you know how to begin every essay subject or topic.

One of the challenges I had leading up to the bar exam many years ago, was the fear of not knowing how to even start my essay answer. So, I decided to tackle this. I liked Community Property because there was an easy paragraph that is used to start all Community Property essays. That brought me comfort and some peace of mind. I thought about the other subjects and how could I make every topic this comfortable. Well, I thought about Constitutional Law and how most of the time (not always, but most often) Constitutional Law essays begin with an Article III Case or Controversy discussion (where in addition to State Action, you address Standing, Ripeness, Mootness and Political Question). Then I committed to working out both a starting point and an approach for every subject so that I would know how to begin my exams on exam day. This was time consuming, but I know it was one of the reasons that I passed the California bar exam on my first attempt.
One way to figure out how you should start your essay answer is by reviewing past essays and answers (see above, under number 1). There are also resources available that provide approaches by topic to assist you in writing an organized essay exam. Our Bar Exam Cram Sheets include approaches for the most commonly tested essay areas (this includes step-by-step approaches as well as what headings to use). It is important to know ahead of time – before you walk into the bar exam – what your approach will be for each subject and topic. Even better (and I think this is really a necessity) is to have that approach evidenced in the headings that you use on each essay.

4. Condense the material that you need to commit to memory.

Trying to commit outlines that are each 100 pages or more is not only not realistic, it is not necessary or practical. Instead, you should conduct an extensive review of each topic and then move away from the more extensive material to a) either an outline that you have created for yourself that is a condensed outline (2 to 4 pages per topic) or b) purchase a condensed outline (from a source you trust) and make it your own. By this I mean, go through past exams and add notes to your condensed outline so that it becomes a document that represents not only the rules for a subject, but also the most commonly tested areas of law from the essays.

It is very important to have a condensed and trustworthy outline for each topic prior to going into the bar exam.

Every subject really does have an approach. Rather than trying to commit a hundred page outline to memory, you should be working on figuring out how to bridge the gap between your study of lengthy outlines and the essays. There is a gap. Typical outlines do not prepare you for the realities of writing an essay answer. You need short and concise definitions – not one or two paragraph definitions – in order to successfully handle all of the issues that a one hour California bar exam essay requires.

Again, sign up above for a free condensed Torts outline (our Torts Bar Exam Cram Sheets).

5. Be Smart About the MBEs.

First of all, do MBEs every day. How many MBEs you should do each day will depend upon how much time you have available (whether you working full time, part time or if you are able to study full time). If you are working full time, then getting time to practice MBE questions is a challenge. Often examinees who work full time during their studies wait until weekends to complete any MBEs. This is not a great plan. Instead, get up a half hour earlier each morning and complete 10 MBEs every day before you go to work. This will not only add up to 50 MBEs every Monday through Friday, it also keeps your head in this part of the test. It will help you continue to improve your MBE scores every day. This is critical.

Complete each MBE one at a time and review the answers carefully before moving onto the next MBE. Eventually, you will need to complete 200 MBEs in one day. And, you should attempt to do that well before the actual bar exam. However, right now you are likely still in need of correction and improvement on your MBEs. The best way to fix an MBE that you have missed so as to increase your chances of getting it correct the next time – is to immediately review the answer explanations to that MBE. The goal is to make the correction quickly and without delay. Think about it this way: if you complete a set of 30 or 50 MBEs without checking the answers and then go back to check the answers afterwards, you will have to re-read the MBE fact pattern again in order to make sense of the answer explanations. This takes time, and it actually wastes time. If you want to make the quickest corrections and make these corrections stick – review the answer explanations for each MBE right after you pick your answer.

Good luck to all who are studying for the bar exam. Don’t forget to subscribe to this blog for more tips!

Lisa Duncanson, Bar Exam Guru, Founder The Bar Exam Cram Session & Bar None Review 213-529-0990

Feeling overwhelmed? Sign up for the Bar Exam Cram Session on Feb. 6 & 7

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CA Bar Exam: Free Workshop Tonight!

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Hello all, 

We still have a few spots left in this evening’s workshop.  This is not just our everyday free, “How to Pass the California Bar Exam Workshop” 

Instead, tonight’s workshop will provide a few significant bonuses!

What will be different about this workshop?
  • Students will receive our free Guide to the California Bar Exam
  • Free copies of selected Bar Exam Writing Templates
To register, click on the link below: 

We hope to see you this evening!

Bar Exam Tip: Should I Study for the Bar While Waiting for Bar Results?

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So now you have the July 2015 bar exam behind you (congratulations) and hopefully you have been able to enjoy some of your summer. Bar results are still months away and probably one of the most common questions I receive at this time of the year is: Should I study while I am waiting for my results?

The answer to that question depends upon a lot of variables. Each examinee’s situation is different and so whether you should continue your studies while you wait for your bar results really depends upon your own unique circumstances.

I don’t recommend it to everyone to study while waiting for results. However, there are some good reasons why you might want to consider opening up those books while you wait.

1. If you feel as though you did poorly on the bar exam. If you feel you did poorly on the exam, then studying some now while you wait for results, is a good idea. If nothing more, it is a little bar review insurance. If you find out that you passed the bar exam, I doubt you will regret the fact that you put in some time studying that apparently wasn’t needed.

2. If you are working full time. If you currently have a full time job, will you be able to take time off from that job to study if you do not pass the July 2015 bar exam? No one plans on failing the bar exam. However, too few examinees give much thought to a game plan in the event that they do not receive passing results. Something you can do now is to spend a few hours each week until bar results come out in November (see, you have a lot of time). This way, if you do fail, you will have already made some headway with the material and the task ahead of you will be less daunting. In addition, you won’t be trying to juggle quite as much in the event that you are unable to secure time off from work to study full time again. And, if you are fortunate enough to receive passing results, then no harm, no foul. You won’t regret it.

3. If you did not finish a portion of the test. if you were unable to finish one of the essays or perhaps were unable to finish one of the performance tests, you may very well want to start studying again just to be on the safe side. While failing to finish an essay or even a PT does not mean you have failed, it is an indication that things did not go as planned. If it were me, under these circumstances, I would start putting in some study time early.

The bottom line is only you know how you feel about your performance on the July 2015 bar exam. As the test is designed to be difficult, it is normal for it it feel very difficult. Most examinees (pass or fail) do not walk out of the California bar exam feeling like they aced it. So try to keep it in perspective. But if you have serious doubts as to whether you passed the exam, then I recommend putting in a little time now on a weekly basis. It simply can’t hurt.

All the best to those who are waiting for bar results!!!


Lisa Duncanson, The Bar Exam Guru

Founder/Program Director Bar None Review and The Bar Exam Cram Session


Bar Exam Tip: Bar Exam Predictions, Criminal Law Murder

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Hello Everyone,

Thank you again for following the blog. We are almost at 700,00 site visits, so thank you!

I have not yet released my predictions publicly, but I will. Please understand that my enrolled students get access to the predictions first. Our last Bar Exam Cram Session on July 18th and 19th will be the last time we release predictions in our classroom setting. At that point all of our students will have my predictions. Once our students have had an opportunity to have the predictions, I will begin releasing these publicly on the site. It will likely be (as always) the week before the bar exam. For more information about our last Bar Exam Cram Session, click here, we still have some spots left.

In the meantime, however, I wanted to post an approach for Criminal Law Murder. I personally think that Criminal Law Murder is due. While Criminal Law has been tested several times in recent years (including showing up back to back on two consecutive bar rounds), the bar examiners have not tested Criminal Law Murder in several years. So, I think it is safe to say that it is coming soon.

First, a few words about my “predictions” . . .

I can not predict what will be on the bar exam. I have had a lot of luck in making the predictions that I make. I am glad of that. I spend a great deal of time reviewing several years of past exams and put in a lot of effort to come up with these predictions. However, no one can predict the bar exam. And, whatever you hear about predictions, you should NOT study based upon predictions. That being said, I think it is helpful to think about possible essay scenarios that might be a bit more likely to show up on the bar exam because these areas have not been tested in some time.

Also, understand – my theory and philosophy towards the bar exam is to be ready for anything – I firmly believe that is the best way to prepare. So, whether or not Criminal Law Murder shows up on the bar exam this July 2015, you want to walk into the bar exam prepared to write a Criminal Law Murder Essay. That is how you want to prepare for the bar exam.

The following is from an earlier post that I wrote covering the basic murder approach that we have seen traditionally embraced by the California bar examiners. You may have come across this post earlier if you have been searching through older posts. If so, this will be familiar to you – either way it is a good refresher.

Incidentally, if murder were to show up on the exam on day one or day three of the July 2015 bar exam, then I would not be surprised if it were crossed over with some of the lesser tested areas of Criminal Procedure. We have not seen any 8th Amendment issues in some time (see the “Free Stuff” page for a free download of an exam template for this area) and we also have not seen much testing of the 6th Amendment areas of void dire (peremptory challenges, right to an impartial jury, etc.). So these areas could easily be tested this bar round. Evidence is also an area that can repeat and sometimes we see it as a cross-over with Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure (and if you read my post from a few days ago – we have seen it tested with Wills and Community Property as a cross over with marital and spousal privileges).

It is this simple – as I have always maintained over the many years of writing this blog – the bar examiners can test anything on any bar exam round. I do not say this to send you into a panic. It is simply true. As a result, there will be topics that you are hoping for and there will probably be a few you hope not to get – that is the nature of the bar exam. But, you can do it, do NOT give up no matter what you see on the exam. And, remember, you have time to prepare adequately.

The bar exam is still weeks away. I know it does not seem like much time. But, if you use it effectively, then you can absolutely prepare in time. Our students in our last Bar Exam Cram Session generally come in without any approaches to the bar exam and yet, they are able to take the approaches we provide in class and memorize these and write the bar exam using these approaches. So, you have time now to start working on these things. I had to come up with my own approaches to the essays because the commercial bar prep companies at that time were not providing essay approaches. In fact, they still don’t. If I can come up with my own, you can too. Take control over your own bar studies and make certain you prepare from here on forward in such a way that you will know how to write any essay that you face. And, remember you should prepare for every topic, because any topic could come up.


As a bar taker you will undoubtedly walk into the bar exam and have a very good grasp of the rules for Murder. However, it is very important that you are able to make your way through all of the necessary points efficiently and in a manner that the grader will recognize as a passing or above passing answer. This requires an essay approach. You should walk into the bar exam with approaches to every topic (each bar subject has either one approach or several. For example, Contracts really only has one approach – the approach for Contracts is essentially the same regardless of the Contracts essay, the only differences being whether you write on the Common Law of Contracts only or if you have a UCC exam. On the other hand, Torts has several approaches – a defamation approach, a products liability approach, a negligence approach a torts/remedies approach and a miscellaneous torts approach. I will do my best to write more on these topics as I have time).


My point is that there is a lot you can do to effectively prepare for the bar exam now so that on exam day you know exactly what to do, what to write, how to start your essay, etc.. You should NOT be trying to figure this out on exam day. If you are in that position, you are likely to fail. So please take it upon yourself to prepare NOW for these situations. You know that you are going to have to write essays – so figure out ahead of time how you will start each topic.

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 – this 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, it will appear organized and it will make it easier for you to write your answer because you have an approach).


First 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) felony – it 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 – it either was premeditated and deliberate (lying in wait, planned, thought out etc.) or it wasn’t – address the issue and conclude and move on).

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 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 – this has not been tested in years), self defense, defense of others etc. that can all work 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.

Thank you again for following the blog!

Lisa Duncanson

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

California Bar Exam Workshop – Last Free Class before July 2015 Bar Exam Plus BONUS Performance Test coverage!


Hello all, 

We still have a few spots left in this evening’s workshop.  This is not just our everyday free, “How to Pass the California Bar Exam Workshop” 

Instead, tonight’s workshop will provide a few significant bonuses!

As a bonus, what will be different about this workshop?
  • I will address the Performance Test (including how to maximize points on this portion of the exam, how to start organized and stay organized on the PT so that you can write a passing or better than passing answer)
  • I will give out my first set of bar exam predictions to you live in class.
To register, click on this link: 

This workshop is our last free workshop prior to the July 2015 bar exam! I will teach the same coverage with respect to how to pass the California bar exam. However, I will also spend time on how to properly approach the Performance Test and will give out my first set of predictions live.

***Parking is free. But to take advantage of free parking, please use the valet parking at the hotel and we will provide you with validation. Space is limited. 

California Bar Exam: Congrats on Being Halfway Done!

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Good afternoon all,

Congratulations on completing half of the bar exam! By now you have completed the first section of the MBEs and are on your lunch break.

I wanted to write a quick post to wish you all the very best of luck and to give you a few more tips for this afternoon – in case you happen to be reading while you are on your break.

As I wrote this morning, you should expect the MBEs today be hard. This is always the case – every bar round. But, this February 2015, with the addition of Civil Procedure to the MBEs – many examinees are pretty worked up. So by now, you have seen some of these new MBEs (you are NOT supposed to discuss the MBEs, remember, you signed something promising NOT to discuss the MBEs). However, your experience with the questions so far has likely been very similar to everyone else’s experience – it was difficult. And, this afternoon will be difficult as well. But, you are in the same boat as everyone else – it is all in how you navigate it at this point (attitude, sense of accomplishment, refusal to give up, persistence and perseverance, etc.).

Day two is always a long day, and it may feel like you are not passing the exam even if you are actually doing well. How is that? Well, passing raw scores on the MBE have ranged from as low as 129 to as high as the 140s. The passing raw score for the past several years has hovered around 133. A 133 is 66.5% . . . that is a D in regular grading, right? So why should you care about this? Well, if you are getting a D, it may feel like you are getting a D. What I mean is that even if you are scoring well enough to pass on the MBEs, it may not feel like you are passing. You may have scored 70% or 80% on practice MBEs during your bar studies. If so, then you know what scoring 70% or 80% feels like . . . and it feels a lot better than scoring 66.5%. But, on the last several bar exams, 66.5% was all you needed to pass . . . so just keep that in mind – as you go back into this afternoon’s MBEs today. If today has felt a lot harder than your practice MBEs – this is not only normal, it is okay.

If you haven’t figured it out by now, you should know that a significant amount of what it takes to pass the California bar exam is simply keeping your head above water, staying mentally above it all and not letting the test get to you. This is a choice, by the way.

I think one of the biggest challenges that examinees face on the days of the exam is not whether they can remember enough (which is everyone’s biggest fear) but it is instead simply keeping it together, not losing it, staying calm and remembering that it is supposed to be hard, it will be hard, but that you CAN do it.

This is all of your choosing – you can choose to not let this test get to you. You can choose to put yesterdays essays and performance test behind you and completely focus on doing your absolute best on what is still in front of you. You, and only you, can choose to be positive.

And remember that when you are passing the bar exam it doesn’t necessarily feel like you are passing it – it still feels hard (because it is hard), it sill feels very challenging (because it is very challenging), it still might be hard to finish an essay or a performance test tomorrow (and, in fact you may not finish everything and still pass).

So choose to be positive, see everything about your performance in the best light and stay out of your own way, be your own cheerleader and kick butt! Yes, I just said that . . .

I will continue to post and will continue to send out emails. It is not too late to join our Bar Exam Tips List, see my earlier posts to sign up.

All the best to you on today’s second half of the MBEs and on tomorrow – you are half way done!!!

Lisa Duncanson

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