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California’s “New” Bar Examination. Should Attorneys now consider the MBE?  

Starting with the July 2017 administration of the California Bar exam, the Attorney’s exam has been shortened to one day rather than the usual two. Although the scope of the exam remains unchanged, the Committee of Bar Examiners assures us that “administering a two-day examination will yield essentially the same results as those for a three-day examination and that it will be more efficient”, and that “the modifications to the California Bar Examination will not make it an easier test to pass”.

The new exam now requires an attorney to complete 5 essay questions in one day along with a 90-minute Performance exam, as opposed to having two days to complete 6 essays and 2 Performance exams.  Because Attorneys do not have to take the MBE, they enjoyed a “day off” between the first and third days.  For many, this in between day allowed an attorney to re-group.  If for example, Wills, Contracts and Community Property were tested on day one, an attorney can in a sense disregard these subjects in favor of what he/she is most likely to see on day three.   It also allowed for a break from the mental marathon we undergo when taking this exam.  The new exam format allows very little room for error, and time management becomes crucial.  The first half of the day involves three one hour essays, and the second half involves 2 more hour essays followed by a 90-minute Performance Exam.   The new format will require applicants to endure a 3.5-hour afternoon consisting of both essays AND a Performance Test.

“Seasoned” attorneys enjoy the added benefit of having experience in the real world.  Because the Performance Exam essentially tests this “real world” experience, having to complete two three-hour Performance Exams could optimize a score.  If an attorney happened to be a good writer, and had written several briefs and memos in the past, the two Performance Exams could make a significant difference in his/her overall score.  But now, an attorney only has one chance (within 90 minutes) to outshine his co-applicants.  Between that and having to quickly shift gears between subjects, Attorneys MUST bring their “A” game in order to succeed.

So, that begs the questions as to whether attorneys should now consider the MBE.  The new exam format weights the written and MBE portions of the exam equally.   50% for the essay and 50% for the MBE.   If an attorney happens to be a decent multiple choice test taker, then the MBE is something to consider.   The MBE also tests endurance which is a new wrinkle on the written side of things, and also helps in memorizing the basic legal principles for 7 out of the 13 subjects tested.  The decision to take the MBE of course must be carefully weighed against the relative time a busy attorney has to prepare for the California Attorney’s Exam.  In helping an attorney make the decision as to whether the MBE is a good choice, the experts at Executive Bar Review have developed a proven MBE diagnostic which can quickly determine whether the MBE will help an applicant’s overall score.  Should an attorney make the decision to take the MBE, the Executive Bar Review programs allows for the inclusion of this portion of the exam while still maintaining its proven time-efficient model for Bar Exam success.

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