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November 23, 2020 – Update on the California Bar Examination

On Thursday, November 19th the Supreme Court of California issued an Order concerning the administration of the February 2021 California Bar Examination.    Citing COVID-19 precautions, the Supreme Court directed the State Bar of California to administer a mostly remote exam on February 23rd and February 24th.  Similar to the October administration of the California Bar Examination, applicants will be able to take the exam in a secure remote environment.   The first day of the exam will consist of five one-hour essay questions and one 90-minute Performance Exam.   The second day of the General Bar Examination will consist of the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE).  The traditional format, however, has changed.  Applicants will sign into four 90-minute sessions for the MBE.  The 200-question exam will be split into four 50-question sessions tested over 90 minutes each.  The first 100 questions will be tested in the morning, and the second 100 questions will be tested in the afternoon.

NOTE TO ATTORNEY APPLICANTS: The entire first day of testing on Tuesday, February 23d will constitute the Attorneys’ Examination.   The attorneys’ examination will NOT be administered over a two-day period as it was for the October 2020 exam.  The answers to the five essays and the Performance Test will be graded on the basis of 700 raw points. 100 points for each essay question, and 200 raw points for the 90-minute Performance Exam.  Applicants who take the Attorneys’ one-day exam will have their scores scaled, and the answers to the five essays and Performance exam will be weighted at 100 percent.

February California Bar Exam FAQ


After tremendous speculation regarding the administration of California’s first remote/online bar exam we are happy to report that the transition from in-person to online went smoothly and efficiently.   COVID-19 presented a brand-new landscape for future attorneys hoping to gain admission to the State Bar of California. Back in March of 2020 the National Conference of Bar Examiners and the State Bar of California had to take a hard look at how to safely administer an exam while maintaining the integrity of the California Bar Exam.  With the assistance of the California Supreme Court, the governing bodies decided over the objection of many that the exam could and would be administered remotely.  Many advocated for diploma privilege in an attempt to sidestep the rigorous admission requirements, but that request was readily dismissed. Many speculated that the technology would fail due to the large number of nationwide applicants, however the NCBE and the technology vendor ExamSoft released the following: 

“98% of applicants who had downloaded the exam files started their exams as planned. Of the 2% who did not start the exam, less than 0.3% had technical issues that required additional action, with the most common technical issue being user devices that did not meet the published minimum system requirements. The other 1.7% were either “no-shows” (did not attempt to launch the exam), chose not to take the exam prior to test day, or were determined to be ineligible to test by their jurisdiction.  ExamSoft further reported that most of the requests from applicants to customer support were educational in nature, such as verifying the automated confirmation that their answer files had uploaded after the exam; those actually dealing with technical issues were proportionately low.”

The transition from in person to on-line certainly was not an easy one, but applicants were carefully guided by the State Bar of California through a series of e-mails to registered applicants complete with detailed instructions on how to navigate the exam process.  Originally applicants were scheduled to take the exam back in July, but that date was then moved to September, followed by a final push to October 5th, 2020.   It was certainly a long road, but the process was necessary.  While the final outcome is yet to be determined (results from the October examination are scheduled to be released in January 2021) confidence among those in the industry remains high.  

Here at Executive Bar Review we were able to monitor our bar exam applicants every step of the way ensuring that they were prepared for this new exam format.   While most bar exam service providers ended their programs back in July, Executive Bar Review made the corporate decision to continue the July program all the way through the administration of the October exam. By doing so, applicants were able to focus on the substantive material tested on the bar exam rather than worry about the technical requirements and uncertainty surrounding the new exam format.  

Program adjustments were made in real time, and course applicants were readily familiar with the specifics of the remote exam.  In the coming days we will update prospective applicants on the new program details for the February 2021 California Bar Examination and Attorneys Exam. 


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