The California Bar Exam

California State Capital building at sundown with trees lining the outside

 

 

The California Bar Exam is administered by the State Bar of California. California offers a state specific exam twice a year, in February and July.

Bar exam

The California Bar Exam has three (3) parts given over two (2) days: five (5) essay questions, the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE) and one (1) performance test. The written portion of the exam (essay questions and Performance Test) is typically administered on the first day, with three (3) essay questions given in the morning session and two (2) essay questions plus the Performance Test given in the afternoon session. The MBE is typically administered on the second day, with 100 questions given in the morning and 100 questions given in the afternoon.

Topics

  • Business Associations
  • Civil Procedure
  • Community Property
  • Constitutional Law
  • Contracts
  • Criminal Law and Procedure
  • Evidence
  • Professional Responsibility
  • Real Property
  • Remedies
  • Torts
  • Trusts
  • Wills and Succession

Registering as a Law Student

If you are planning to apply for application to the California Bar, California recommends that you register as a Law Student during your 1L year. Registering as a law student is required in order to apply to take the California Bar. There is a fee and processing time that is involved with this application, so please be sure to take that into consideration in the overall timeline of your bar application process.

Moral Character 

As defined by the Rules of the State Bar of California (Admissions Rules), “Good moral character” includes but is not limited to qualities of honesty, fairness, candor, trustworthiness, observance of fiduciary responsibility, respect for and obedience to the law, and respect for the rights of others and the judicial process. (Admissions Rules, Rule 4.40)

Completing the Moral Character Application is the most extensive step you must complete for the bar. Applicants with nothing of concern in your background can expect the processing time to be 6-8 months. These forms are available year around so no need to wait for an application period to start this step and it is recommend you start it early!   

Disclosures

Applicants should ensure that they make any disclosures to Law School. The information that is included in the Moral Character Application should match any information the Law School would send to the state. California has outlined their Moral Character Determination Guidelines if you want to research more about a specific circumstance.

Fingerprinting

Applicants are required to submit their fingerprints. The Moral Character Application instructions include Live Scan information.

Bar Application

California’s Bar Exam application must be completed online through their website. The application will open on March 1 for the July exam and October 1 for the February exam. Timely deadlines are typically 1 month after application opens and final deadlines are typically 2-3 months after the application opens.

  • After you submit your application, the California Bar will ask the Law School directly for a certification of your degree. Certification by the Registrar involves confirming that you have been awarded the J.D. degree. We can only certify students after all grades are received for their final semester and your degree if conferred. As long as you submitted your Bar Authorization form we will be able to complete your certification and send it to the state.

​​​​​Accommodations

Requesting accommodations for the California Bar exam requires a separate application that the Bar exam application. The application is available online through the Applicant Portal prior to the exam application and it is suggested that applicants request accommodations well in advance. Accommodations must be requested by January 1 for the February exam and June 1 for the July exam. California has created a Testing Accommodations Petition Submission Checklist to help applicants complete the required documents.

  • In order to be eligible for accommodations, applicants need documentation from a physician or specialist so be sure to start this process early. Processing can take a minimum of 60 days by the state.
  • Testing accommodations are available to individuals with mental or physical disabilities. Depending on the nature of the disability, accommodations may include such things as readers or personal healthcare assistants, wheelchair access, permission to dictate to a typist or digital recorder, customized timing, separate testing room, customized exam materials (Braille, large print, etc.), extended testing days, and permission to bring and use specific items or medical aids. 

MPRE

California requires a score of 86 or more in order to be admitted to the bar. Applicants do not have to pass the MPRE before taking the bar exam, but will not be admitted to the bar until a passing score is obtained. Consider taking the MPRE well in advance of the bar exam to prevent delays in admission. 

Laptop Program 

Once you are issued an admittance ticket for the CA Bar exam, applicants should install Examplify software and register with ExamSoft. Applicants must ensure their laptop meets the minimum requirements and must install the required software in order to use them for the exam. Applicants will also be required to completed a mock exam prior to the exam.