Ultimate Guide to California State Bar Exam

Your complete guide to California bar exam prep.

Pass Rates  · Format · Essay Topics · Schedule · Dates · Location · Application Fees & Deadlines · What to Bring · Scores & Grading · Results · Reciprocity · Law Schools · Groups · Other Resources · Other Jurisdictions

*Updated June 2020

california bar

California State Bar Exam | Basic Information

The State Bar of California was formed in 1927.  The California bar is a mandatory bar with over 250,000 members. The Bar distributes money for grants and legal aid, sending out over $78 million a year.

California is not a Uniform Bar Exam (UBE) state. California has its own bar exam that uses the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE), the national multiple choice test. California also requires the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE).

California Bar Exam Pass Rates

February 2020 (4,205 takers)

Overall Pass Rate: 27%
First-Time Pass Rate: 38%
Repeat Pass Rate: 22%

February 2019 (4,640 takers)

Overall Pass Rate: 31%
First-Time Pass Rate: 41%
Repeat Pass Rate: 28%

July 2019 (7,764 takers)

Overall Pass Rate: 50%
First-Time Pass Rate: 64%
Repeat Pass Rate: 26%

July 2018 (8,071 takers)

Overall Pass Rate: 41%
First-Time Pass Rate: 55%
Repeat Pass Rate: 16%

California State Bar Exam Format

What’s the format of the California Bar?

The bar exam is administered twice each year in California (in February and July). The examination is administered over two days in four, three-hour sessions. The California bar has three parts: the Multistate Bar Exam (MBE), the Essay questions, and the Performance Test (PT) questions.

MBE

The MBE is a six-hour test and consists of 200 multiple-choice questions that test your understanding across seven subjects. Your MBE score comprises 50% of your overall score.

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Essay Questions

The Essay questions consists of five legal essay questions, each one hour in length. These questions test the ability to identify the important facts in a case and the points of law. Your essay score comprises 40% of your score.

California bar exam essay topics may include the following: Business Associations, Civil Procedure, Conflict of Laws, Constitutional Law, Contracts, Criminal Law and Procedure, Evidence, Family Law, Property, Secured Transactions, Torts, Trusts, Unincorporated Business Entities, Wills and Estates, etc.

These essay questions are similar to the MEE questions used in the UBE. This video provides general essay tips that will be useful on this essay portion.

Performance Test (PT)

The Performance Test (PT) consists of one 90-minute tasks where you analyze and apply laws to specific scenarios. You are provided with a library of legal authorities that you must sift through to find the most relevant documents. Your PT score comprises 10% of your score.

This test is similar to the MPT in the UBE. This video can provide similar tips on how to answer these questions.

What’s the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination?

The Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE) tests your understanding of established standards of conduct for lawyers. In California, this test is required to practice, but can be taken anytime after the first year of law school. The MPRE is administered three times each year (in March, August, and November). The test consists of 60 multiple-choice questions and is two hours long. Check out this MPRE Tips video!

Upcoming Bar Exam Schedule, Dates, Location

Schedule

  Morning Afternoon
Day 1

3 Essays (3 hours)

2 Essays, 1 PT (3 hours)

Day 2 MBE (3 hours) MBE (3 hours)

Dates

  • July 28-29, 2020
  • February 23-24, 2021
  • July 27-28, 2021
  • February 22-23, 2022
  • July 26-27, 2022
  • February 21-22, 2023
  • July 25-26, 2023

Location

The California Bar is administered at many locations across California including Los Angeles, Ontario, and Northern California/Oakland.

California Bar Exam Application

Are you interested in taking the California State bar exam? Here’s some basic information on applying to take the California bar exam.

The California State Bar registration fee is $119.

*Visit the California Bar Admission Fee Schedule for more information (bar information starts at page 16).

If you want to take the bar exam in February, you should submit your bar exam application by November 1. You can submit your application from November 2-November 29 if you pay a $50 fee. You can submit your application from November 30-January 2 if you pay a $250 fee. January 2 is the final filing deadline.

If you want to take the bar exam in July, you should submit your bar exam application by April 1. You can submit your application from April 2-April 30 if you pay a $50 fee. You can submit your application from May 1-June 1 if you pay a $250 fee. June 1 is the final filing deadline.

In addition to passing the California bar exam with a score of at least 1440 out of 2000, there are several requirements that must be met in order to be admitted as an attorney in California, including:

  1. Score 86 or higher on the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE) within the accepted time frame.
  2. Committee on Character & Fitness certification.

California State Bar Admissions Office

Physical address:

State Bar of California
180 Howard Street
San Francisco, CA 94105
415-538-2000

State Bar of California
845 South Figueroa Street
Los Angeles, CA 90017
213-765-1000

Phone: 888-800-3400
Email: admissions@calbar.ca.gov

California Bar Exam: What to Bring

Allowed Items

  • Your current driver’s license
  • Your Bar Examination Identification & Certification Card that has your photo, NCBE number, and examinee number
  • Blue or black pens (Not allowed during MBE)
  • Pencils
  • Silent analog watches
  • Inhaler
  • Highlighters, paper clips, rulers (Not allowed during MBE)
  • Foam ear plugs
  • Feminine hygiene items, prescription medication
  • Eye drops in single use vials
  • Pillow, back support, cushion (Not allowed during MBE)
  • Crutches, wheelchairs, casts, hearing aids

Prohibited items

  • Any item that can connect to the internet
  • Any item that can record audio or video
  • Backpacks
  • Books
  • Briefcases
  • Calculators
  • Cameras
  • Notes
  • Phones
  • Food or drink
  • Purses
  • Radios
  • Scratch papers
  • Study materials

Learn more here.

California Bar Exam Scores and Grading

A passing score in California is 1440/2000. Scores of the three tests are weighted as follows:

  • MBE = 50% of your total UBE score
  • PT = 10%
  • Essay Questions = 40%

*A passing score for the MPRE in California is 86/150.

California Bar Exam Results

Frequently Asked Questions

When are my California bar exam results released?

California bar exam results are usually posted eight to nine weeks after the exam date.

Can I see my California bar exam score?

If you failed the California bar, your exam packet will be mailed to you.

Can I appeal to have my California bar exam re-graded?

The essays will be re-graded if they are close to passing, but there is no final appeal after your results have been reported.

How many times can I take the bar exam in California?

There’s no limit to how many times you can retake the bar in California.

California Bar Exam Reciprocity

California has no reciprocity with any other state. Non-attorney applicants must take the California Bar Exam to join the bar. If an attorney from another state wants to join the California Bar, they can take the Attorney’s exam. This exam is only one day and does not include the MBE. To qualify for the Attorney’s exam, attorneys must have at least four years of active status.

See further information on attorney applicants.

Law Schools in California

Here’s a list of law schools in California:

California Western School of Law

  • Founded: 1924
  • Located: San Diego, CA
  • Enrollment: about 675
  • Tuition Cost: $52,320 View tuition breakdown
  • Bar Passage Rate: 65%
  • ABA Accredited: Yes
  • Website: cwsl.edu

Dale E. Fowler School of Law (Chapman University)

Golden Gate University School of Law

  • Founded: 1901
  • Located: San Francisco, CA
  • Enrollment: about 500
  • Tuition Cost: $50,000 View tuition breakdown
  • Bar Passage Rate: 36%
  • ABA Accredited: Yes
  • Website: law.ggu.edu

Loyola School of Law

  • Founded: 1908
  • Located: Los Angeles, CA
  • Enrollment: about 1,000
  • Tuition Cost: $59,340 View tuition breakdown
  • Bar Passage Rate: 72%
  • ABA Accredited: Yes
  • Website: lls.edu

University of Law Verne School of Law

University of San Diego School of Law

University of San Francisco School of Law

  • Founded: 1912
  • Located: San Francisco, CA
  • Enrollment: about 400
  • Tuition Cost: $50,770 View tuition breakdown
  • Bar Passage Rate: 61%
  • ABA Accredited: Yes
  • Website: usfca.edu/law

Stanford School of Law

Hastings College of Law

  • Founded: 1878
  • Located: San Francisco, CA
  • Enrollment: about 950
  • Tuition Cost: $55,538 View tuition breakdown
  • Bar Passage Rate: 60%
  • ABA Accredited: Yes
  • Website: uchastings.edu

Western State University College of Law

  • Founded: 1966
  • Located: Irvine, CA
  • Enrollment: about 230
  • Tuition Cost: $42,860 View tuition breakdown
  • Bar Passage Rate: 49%
  • ABA Accredited: Yes
  • Website: wsulaw.edu

Alliant International University Law School

San Joaquin College of Law

  • Founded: 1969
  • Located: Clovis, CA
  • Enrollment: about 250
  • Tuition Cost: about $17,000 View tuition breakdown
  • Bar Passage Rate: 77%
  • ABA Accredited: No
  • Website: sjcl.edu

San Luis Obispo College of Law

Santa Barbara and Ventura College of Law

Southern California Institute of Law

University of West Los Angeles School of Law

  • Founded: 1966
  • Located: Inglewood, CA
  • Enrollment: about 450
  • Tuition Cost: $29,652 View tuition breakdown
  • Bar Passage Rate: 8%
  • ABA Accredited: No
  • Website: uwla.edu

Trinity Law School

  • Founded: 1998
  • Located: Santa Ana, California
  • Enrollment: about 200
  • Tuition Cost: about $15,000 View tuition breakdown
  • Bar Passage Rate: 44%
  • ABA Accredited: No
  • Website: tls.edu

Ventura College of Law

Thomas Jefferson

American Institute of Law

American International School of Law

California Southern University School of Law

San Francisco International University College of Law

  • Founded: 1912
  • Located: South San Francisco, CA
  • Enrollment: about 400
  • Tuition Cost: $12,000 View tuition breakdown
  • Bar Passage Rate: highly variable
  • ABA Accredited: No
  • Website: sfiulaw.com

Concord Law School at Purdue University Global

St. Francis School of Law

California Desert Trial Academy College of Law

California Southern Law School

  • Founded: 1971
  • Located: Riverside, CA
  • Enrollment: about 20
  • Tuition Cost: $7,400 View tuition breakdown
  • Bar Passage Rate: highly variable
  • ABA Accredited: No
  • Website: cslawschool.com

Western Sierra Law School

  • Founded: 1979
  • Located: San Diego, CA
  • Enrollment: about 30
  • Tuition Cost: $350 per unit View tuition breakdown
  • Bar Passage Rate: highly variable
  • ABA Accredited: No
  • Website: wslawschool.com

Pacific West College of Law

University of California Davis School of Law (King Hall)

University of California Irvine School of Law

  • Founded: 2008
  • Located: Irvine, CA
  • Enrollment: about 525
  • Tuition Cost: $23,743 View tuition breakdown
  • Bar Passage Rate: 71%
  • ABA Accredited: Yes
  • Website: law.uci.edu

University of California Los Angeles School of Law

  • Founded: 1949
  • Located: Los Angeles, CA
  • Enrollment: about 975
  • Tuition Cost: $54,052 View tuition breakdown
  • Bar Passage Rate: 85%
  • ABA Accredited: Yes
  • Website: law.ucla.edu

Pepperdine University School of Law

McGeorge School of Law (University of the Pacific)

  • Founded: 1924
  • Located: Sacramento, CA
  • Enrollment: about 500
  • Tuition Cost: $56,776 View tuition breakdown
  • Bar Passage Rate: 51%
  • ABA Accredited: Yes
  • Website: mcgeorge.edu

Southwestern School of Law

  • Founded: 1911
  • Located: Los Angeles, CA
  • Enrollment: about 800
  • Tuition Cost: $55,316 View tuition breakdown
  • Bar Passage Rate: 51%
  • ABA Accredited: Yes
  • Website: swlaw.edu

Santa Clara University School of Law

  • Founded: 1911
  • Located: Santa Clara, CA
  • Enrollment: about 700
  • Tuition Cost: $52,528 View tuition breakdown
  • Bar Passage Rate: 63%
  • ABA Accredited: Yes
  • Website: law.scu.edu

University of Southern California Gould School of Law

  • Founded: 1900
  • Located: Los Angeles, CA
  • Enrollment: about 600
  • Tuition Cost: $67,190
  • Bar Passage Rate: 81%
  • ABA Accredited: Yes
  • Website: gould.usc.edu

University of California Berkeley School of Law

Cal Northern School of Law

Empire College School of Law

Glendale University College of Law

Humphreys University Drivon School of Law

John F. Kennedy University College of Law

Kern County College of Law

Lincoln Law School of San Jose

Lincoln Law School of Sacramento

Monterey College of Law

Pacific Coast University School of Law

  • Founded: 1927
  • Located: Long Beach, CA
  • Enrollment: about 200
  • Tuition Cost: about $7,500
  • Bar Passage Rate: 22%
  • ABA Accredited: No
  • Website: pculaw.org

University of West Los Angeles School of Law

  • Founded: 1966
  • Located: Inglewood, CA
  • Enrollment: about 300
  • Tuition Cost: $29,652 View tuition breakdown
  • Bar Passage Rate: about 15%
  • ABA Accredited: No
  • Website: uwla.edu

Northwestern California University School of Law

Oak Brook College of Law and Government Policy

Taft Law School

  • Founded: 1984
  • Located: Santa Ana, CA
  • Tuition Cost: $8,760 View tuition breakdown
  • Bar Passage Rate: highly variable
  • ABA Accredited: No
  • Website: taftu.edu

Abraham Lincoln University School of Law

  • Founded: 1996
  • Located: Glendale, CA
  • Tuition Cost: $10,100 View tuition breakdown
  • Bar Passage Rate: 36%
  • ABA Accredited: No
  • Website: alu.edu

American Heritage University School of Law

California School of Law

Peoples College of Law

Irvine University College of Law