California Bar Exam

*Applicants may be required to take the California First-Year Law Students’ Exam.

California Bar Exam Format

The California bar exam takes three days and consists of the California Essays, the California Performance Tests, and the Multistate Bar Exam (“MBE”). California law is tested on the California bar exam.

California Essays
California tests six (6) essays. The essays are designed for one hour each. Subjects include:

  • Business Associations (Corporations, Sole Proprietorships, Partnerships, Joint Ventures, LLCs, Agency)
  • Civil Procedure (California and Federal)
  • Community Property
  • Constitutional Law
  • Contracts (Common Law and Sales/UCC Art. 2)
  • Criminal Law
  • Criminal Procedure
  • Evidence (California and Federal)
  • Professional Responsibility
  • Real Property
  • Remedies
  • Torts
  • Trusts
  • Uniform Commercial Code Art 1. (General Provisions) and Art. 9 (Concerning Fixtures)
  • Wills and Successions (California Rules)

California Performance Tests
California tests two (2) performance tests. Each California Performance Test takes three hours. The performance tests are similar to the Multistate Performance Test (“MPT”) and are designed to test the applicant’s ability to understand and apply legal authority in the context of a factual problem. Applicants receive a file and a library that contain instructions advising the applicant of what tasks need to be performed (objective memorandum, persuasive, brief, etc.). All of the materials needed to answer a  performance test are included in the test packet.

MBE (Multiple Choice)
California uses the standard MBE. Subjects include:

  • Civil Procedure
  • Constitutional Law
  • Contracts (Common Law, Sales/UCC Art. 2)
  • Criminal Law
  • Criminal Procedure
  • Evidence
  • Real Property
  • Torts

MBE Score Transfer
California does not accept MBE scores from other jurisdictions.

California Bar Exam Testing Schedule

Day 1 (Tuesday)
Morning – 3 California Essays (3 hours)
Afternoon – 1 California PT (3 hours)

Day 2 (Wednesday)
Morning – MBE Part I (100 questions; 3 hours)
Afternoon – MBE Part II (100 questions; 3 hours)

Day 3 (Thursday)
Morning – 3 California Essays (3 hours)
Afternoon – 1 California PT (3 hours)

California Bar Exam Testing Dates and Application

The California bar exam is held on the last Tuesday through Thursday of February and July. Applications can be found on the California State Bar’s Website. Deadline are approximate.

Exam Date Preliminary Date Application Deadline Late Deadline
Final Deadline
February 21-23, 2017 Oct. 1 Nov 1 Dec. 10 Jan. 15
July 25-27, 2017 March 1 April 1 April 30 June 15


California Bar Exam Weight

CA Essays 39%
CA PT 26%
MBE 35%

Grading Procedure
Each California Performance Test is worth twice as much as an individual essay. Each California essay is assigned a score up to 100 points. The California performance tests are graded up to 200 points. The written portion of the exam is then scaled to the MBE. The scaled scores are weighted with the written exam accounting for 65% and the MBE accounting for 35% of the total California bar exam score.

Pass/fail determinations are made after one reading in Phase 1. For applicants whose scores after the first reading are near the passing score (1,390-1,440), all answers are re-graded in Phase II. The scores are then averaged, but there can be no grading discrepancies of more than 10 raw points between the first and second grades on any question. The total average score after the two readings is used to make a second set of pass/fail determinations. Answers with grading differences of more than 10 raw points are read for a third time by a grading supervisor in Phase III. The grading supervisor’s grade is the final resolution and the average scores are disregarded. The Board then makes a third set of pass/fail determinations.

Passing Score
The passing score after any phase is at least 1,440 out of 2,000 possible points. Bar exam results are generally released in late May for the February exam and late November for the July exam.

Pass Rates
Bar exam statistics can be found here.

Review and Appeal for Applicants Failing the California Bar Exam
The bar exam scores and books are returned to unsuccessful applicants within four to six weeks after the results are released. The applicable rules do not provide provisions for appeal.

Retaking the California Bar Exam

Unsuccessful applicants may reapply to take the California bar exam.