The California Bar Exam 2024 | Structure, Topics, Dates, Cost, Scores, and Eligibility and Sample Questions

Get ready for the 2024 California Exam. Learn exam dates, costs, scores, pass rates, results, requirements, subjects, and practice with sample questions.
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Saying that the California Bar Exam is difficult would be an understatement. The California bar exam is considered one of the most challenging exams of its kind in the United States, primarily due to having the lowest historical pass rates. Still, that’s not to suggest that you cannot pass this difficult, high-stakes exam, whether you're a law graduate or an apprentice. This article will offer critical information about the California Bar Exam so you know how to prepare and what to expect before and on exam day.

California Bar Exam Structure

The California bar exam is administered over two days in three sections:

  1. California Essay Questions (Day one),
  2. California Performance Test (Day one), and
  3. Multistate Bar Exam (MBE®) (Day two)

California Essay Questions

This section consists of five one-hour essay questions designed to assess your ability to analyze legal issues arising from fact scenarios or patterns. Your answer should demonstrate that you are competent in analyzing the facts of the question, identifying the difference between material facts and immaterial facts, and discerning the law and fact upon which the question is based.

Moreover, your response must indicate that you know and understand the essential principles and legal theories, their merits and limitations, and how they intersect. What's important here is not proving that you can recite the legal principles you happened to have memorized but that you are adept in their use and application in real-life scenarios. These essays test your ability to think like a lawyer, apply the law logically, and reach a reasonable conclusion based on the facts presented.

California Performance Test

California offers a 90-minute performance test designed to evaluate your ability to handle a select number of legal authorities in the context of a factual problem involving a client. The question presents a scenario and asks you to identify the correct task(s) to be performed in response to that scenario. You will receive a memorandum setting forth the instructions for the task you are to complete, various documents containing factual information relevant to the case (and likely some that are not), and the legal skills needed to complete the task (and probably some that are irrelevant).

This test requires you to demonstrate your ability to analyze legal issues, separate relevant and irrelevant facts, assess the reliability of the facts, and identify whether they are sufficient to arrive at a logical conclusion.

Multistate Bar Exam (MBE)

Developed by the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE®), the MBE features 200 multiple-choice questions administered in two three-hour sessions (each testing 100 questions) for a total of six hours. You will be tested on these seven subjects:

  1. Civil Procedure
  2. Constitutional Law
  3. Contracts
  4. Criminal Law and Procedure
  5. Evidence
  6. Real Property
  7. Torts

UWorld MBE Sample Questions

Quality speaks for itself. Try some of our free MBE sample questions below.
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A husband and wife were married in State A and lived there for 10 years before separating. One month later, the wife permanently moved to State B and immediately filed for divorce in a federal court in State B. The wife claims that she is entitled to $300,000 in alimony. The husband appeared in the action and has filed a motion to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction.

Should the court grant the motion?

  1. No, because the court has diversity jurisdiction over the case.
  2. No, because the husband waived a subject-matter jurisdiction challenge by appearing in the case.
  3. Yes, because state courts have exclusive jurisdiction over this type of action.
  4. Yes, because the wife did not establish a domicile in State B.
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Federal diversity jurisdiction exceptions

Federal courts cannot exercise diversity jurisdiction over cases involving:

  • probate matters (eg, authenticating wills, administering estates) or
  • domestic relations (eg, issuing divorce, alimony, or child-custody decrees)

A federal court must possess subject-matter jurisdiction to hear the merits of a case before it. Subject-matter jurisdiction can be established through either:

  • federal-question jurisdiction – when a claim arises under the U.S. Constitution, a treaty, or federal law (not seen here) or
  • diversity jurisdiction – when the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000 and the opposing parties are citizens of different states.

Here, diversity jurisdiction is established since the wife claims that she is entitled to $300,000 and the parties are citizens of different states (States A and B). However, federal courts cannot exercise diversity jurisdiction over cases involving probate matters or domestic relations. Instead, state courts have exclusive jurisdiction over these types of actions (Choice A).* Therefore, the husband's motion to dismiss should be granted.

*The probate and domestic-relations exceptions exist because states have a strong interest in these substantive areas and are more qualified to deal with the constant judicial involvement these types of cases require.

(Choice B) A challenge to subject-matter jurisdiction is never waived. However, a challenge to personal jurisdiction is waived if the defendant has voluntarily appeared in the case, unless it was a special appearance for the express purpose of objecting to personal jurisdiction.

(Choice D) An individual is a citizen of the state where he/she is domiciled—ie, physically present with the intent to remain indefinitely. Since the wife permanently moved to State B, she has established her domicile there.

Educational objective:
Federal courts cannot exercise diversity jurisdiction over cases involving probate matters or domestic relations. Instead, state courts have exclusive jurisdiction over these types of cases.

Bluebook Citations :

  • Ankenbrandt v. Richards, 504 U.S. 689, 703–04 (1992) (explaining the domestic-relations exception to diversity jurisdiction).

A congressional committee investigated the pharmaceutical industry and found that the high cost of prescription drugs purchased and sold in the United States negatively impacted the nation's economy and the health of its citizens. In response, Congress passed a statute that regulates "the retail prices of every purchase or sale of prescription drugs in the United States."

A group of pharmaceutical companies challenged the constitutionality of this statute in federal court.

What is the strongest argument in support of the constitutionality of this statute?

  1. Congress may enact statutes for the general welfare.
  2. Congress may regulate the prices of all domestic purchases and sales of goods.
  3. The Constitution grants Congress the power to regulate the interstate transportation of prescription drugs.
  4. The purchases and sales of prescription drugs in the United States substantially impact interstate commerce in the aggregate.
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Commerce clause challenge

The commerce clause gives Congress broad power to regulate interstate and foreign commerce. This includes:

  • the channels of interstate and foreign commerce (eg, roadways)
  • the instrumentalities of interstate and foreign commerce (eg, vehicles)
  • persons and things moving in interstate or foreign commerce (eg, goods and services) and
  • in-state activities that, singly or in the aggregate, substantially impact interstate or foreign commerce.

Since Congress's commerce power is broad, federal statutes are constitutional if there is any rational basis for concluding that the regulated activity substantially affects interstate or foreign commerce. This can be shown through express congressional findings.

Here, the federal statute regulates the retail prices of prescription drugs in the United States. Congress has the authority to regulate such products' interstate transportation, but this statute also regulates in-state purchases and sales (Choice C). Since the congressional committee found that the high cost of prescription drugs negatively impacted the nation's economy, it is rational to conclude that their aggregated in-state purchases and sales substantially impact interstate commerce. Therefore, this is the strongest argument to support this statute.

(Choice A) The taxing and spending clause empowers Congress to tax and spend for the general welfare. But regulating prices is not equivalent to taxing or spending.

(Choice B) Congress cannot regulate the prices of every domestic purchase and sale of goods since it cannot regulate purely in-state sales that do not substantially affect interstate commerce.

Educational objective:
The commerce clause empowers Congress to regulate (1) channels and instrumentalities of, (2) persons and things moving in, and (3) in-state activities that—singly or in the aggregate—substantially affect interstate or foreign commerce.

Bluebook Citations :

  • Gonzales v. Raich, 545 U.S. 1, 17 (2005) (explaining Congress's broad authority under the commerce clause).

The owner of a new office building contracted with a well-known landscaper to design and install landscaping around the building for $30,000. The agreement was memorialized in writing, was signed by both parties, and called for a budget of $5,000 for trees, shrubs, sod, and materials. The contract required the landscaper to complete the work within six months. Due to an unexpected increase in the price of trees and shrubs, the landscaper abandoned the project and never completed any of the work.

Three years after the landscaper's deadline, the building owner sued the landscaper for breach of contract. In the jurisdiction, the statute of limitations for breach of a services contract is two years after the breach, and the statute of limitations for breach of a sale-of-goods contract is four years.

Can the owner recover damages from the landscaper?

  1. No, because the contract is divisible with respect to the services and goods, and the landscaper's breach is therefore subject to the two-year statute of limitations.
  2. No, because the contract primarily calls for services, and the landscaper's breach is therefore subject to the two-year statute of limitations.
  3. Yes, because the landscaper's breach was a result of an increase in the price of goods, and his breach is therefore subject to the four-year statute of limitations.
  4. Yes, because the landscaper's breach was willful, and he is therefore estopped from denying that his breach is subject to the four-year statute of limitations.
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Factors for determining contract's predominant purpose

Contracts for the sale of goods are governed by Article 2 of the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC), while contracts for services are governed by common law. However, some contracts involve the sale of goods and the rendering of services. To determine which law applies to a "mixed" or "hybrid" contract, courts ask whether its predominant purpose was the sale of goods or the rendering of services. The following factors are relevant to this determination:

  • The contract's language
  • The nature of the supplier's business (ie, whether it typically provides goods or services)
  • The relative value of the goods and services
  • The nature of the final product (ie, whether it can be described as a good or service)

Here, the building owner contracted to buy goods (eg, trees, shrubs, sod) and services (ie, designing and installing the landscaping). The owner likely hired the well-known landscaper due to his skill in performing landscaping services, and the $5,000 budget for goods was just one-sixth of the $30,000 contract price. Therefore, the contract primarily calls for services and is subject to the jurisdiction's two-year statute of limitations. And since the owner sued three years after the breach, the owner cannot recover damages from the landscaper.

(Choice A) The predominant-purpose test is unnecessary when a contract is divisible—ie, when the payment for goods can easily be separated from the payment for services. But here, the contract is likely indivisible since it combined the sale of the trees, shrubs, and sod with their installation.

(Choices C & D) The predominant-purpose test focuses on the parties' reason for entering the contract—not for breaching it. Therefore, it is irrelevant that the landscaper's breach was (1) a result of an increase in the price of goods or (2) willful.

Educational objective:
Sale-of-goods contracts are governed by the UCC, while services contracts are governed by common law. When a contract calls for the sale of goods AND the rendering of services, the contract's primary purpose determines whether the UCC or common law applies.

Bluebook Citations :

  • Bonebrake v. Cox, 499 F.2d 951, 960 (8th Cir. 1974) (applying the predominant-purpose test to determine which statute of limitations applies to a mixed contract for goods and services).
  • Princess Cruises, Inc. v. Gen. Elec. Co., 143 F.3d 828, 833 (4th Cir. 1998) (listing factors that courts consider when applying the predominant-purpose test).

A man and a woman dated for several weeks. During that time, the man repeatedly asked the woman to have sex. Each time, the woman responded that she would not have sex with the man unless they were married. One evening, the man promised the woman that they would elope the following weekend if she would agree to have sex. The woman agreed and the couple had sex. The following weekend, the man told the woman that he had no intention of eloping and only made that promise to get the woman's consent. The woman reported the man to the police, who later arrested and charged the man with rape.

Is the man guilty of rape?

  1. No, because fraud in factum did not negate the woman's consent.
  2. No, because fraud in the inducement did not negate the woman's consent.
  3. Yes, because the woman's consent was obtained by fraud in factum.
  4. Yes, because the woman's consent was obtained by fraud in the inducement.
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Consent to sexual intercourse obtained by fraud
Type of fraud Definition Effect
In factum
  • Fraud pertains to nature of act—eg, doctor convinces patient that sexual act is part of medical exam
  • Victim is unaware that he/she is consenting to sexual intercourse
Negates victim's consent
In inducement
  • Fraud pertains to what victim knows is an act of sexual intercourse—eg, defendant promises marriage in exchange for sex
  • Victim is aware that he/she is consenting to sexual intercourse
Does not negate victim's consent

In most modern jurisdictions, rape is defined as sexual intercourse with another without that person's consent.* This means that rape did not occur if the victim consented to sexual intercourse. However, a victim's consent may be ineffective if it was obtained by fraud. There are two types of fraud:

  • Fraud in factum – when consent is obtained by fraud regarding the nature of the act itself, leaving the victim unaware that he/she consented to sexual intercourse and negating the victim's consent
  • Fraud in the inducement – when consent is obtained by fraud regarding what the victim knows is an act of sexual intercourse, which does not negate the victim's consent

As a result, consent obtained by fraud in factum is not a valid defense to rape, but consent obtained by fraud in the inducement is a valid defense.

Here, the man falsely promised the woman that they would elope if she agreed to have sex with him. Since the woman knew that the act to which she consented was sexual intercourse, her consent was obtained by fraud in the inducement (Choices A & C). This type of fraud did not negate the woman's consent, so the man is not guilty of rape (Choice D).

*At common law, rape was defined as (1) unlawful sexual intercourse (2) with a female who is not the defendant's wife (3) against her will by force or threat of force.

Educational objective:
Fraud in factum occurs when the fraud pertains to the nature of the act itself and negates a rape victim's consent. In contrast, fraud in the inducement occurs when fraud is used to gain consent to what the victim knows is an act of sexual intercourse and does not negate the victim's consent.

A plaintiff sued a defendant for negligence to recover damages that the plaintiff suffered as a result of a crash between the two parties. At trial, the plaintiff's attorney called the plaintiff's wife to testify as to what she witnessed on the day of the crash. On cross-examination of the wife, the defendant's lawyer elicited several responses that tended to show that the plaintiff's actions constituted contributory negligence. The plaintiff's attorney seeks to ask the wife several questions on redirect examination, but the defendant's attorney objected.

What is the strongest argument that the court must allow redirect examination of the wife?

  1. The plaintiff's attorney failed to provide all significant information on direct examination.
  2. The plaintiff's attorney seeks to reiterate the necessary elements of the claim.
  3. The plaintiff's attorney seeks to reply to all matters raised on cross-examination.
  4. The plaintiff's attorney seeks to reply to significant new matters raised on cross-examination.
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Sequence and scope of witness examination

Federal Rule of Evidence 611 gives trial courts the authority to exercise reasonable control over the mode and order of examining witnesses at trial. This includes the discretion to determine whether—and to what extent—redirect examination of witnesses should be permitted. But when a party raises a significant new matter while cross-examining a witness, the court must allow the opposing party to address that matter through redirect examination.

Therefore, the strongest argument for allowing redirect examination of the plaintiff's wife is that the plaintiff's attorney seeks to reply to significant new matters that were raised on cross-examination.

(Choice A) A party is expected to elicit all significant information during direct examination of a witness. Therefore, a court need not permit redirect examination to allow the party to provide information inadvertently omitted on direct examination.

(Choices B & C) Redirect examination is generally limited to significant new matters raised on cross-examination. Therefore, a party is not entitled to redirect examination to (1) reiterate information like the necessary elements of the claim or (2) reply to all matters addressed in cross-examination.

Educational objective:
When a party raises a significant new matter on cross-examination of a witness, the court must allow redirect examination by the opposing party to address that matter.

Bluebook Citations :

  • Fed. R. Evid. 611 (explaining the mode and order of examining witnesses).

Twenty years ago, a man who owned a 20-acre ranch agreed to sell all of his mineral rights to his neighbor. The man executed a warranty deed conveying the mineral estate to the neighbor, who failed to record the deed.

The following year, a woman moved her mobile home onto an undeveloped five-acre portion of the man's ranch. After the woman had lived on the property for 10 years, a local drilling company began operations on a nearby tract to drill a natural gas well. Believing that the woman owned the property, the drilling company approached the woman about leasing the mineral rights on her property and requested that the woman sign a lease of her mineral rights. The woman signed the lease as requested, and it was promptly and properly recorded. The drilling operations were successful, and the drilling company prepared to distribute profits from royalties. However, a dispute arose between the neighbor and the woman, as both parties claim ownership of the minerals.

The period of time to acquire title by adverse possession in the jurisdiction is 10 years.

In an action to determine title, is the court likely to award title to the mineral estate to the woman?

  1. No, because the woman actually possessed only the surface estate that had previously been severed from the mineral estate.
  2. No, because the woman did not actually possess the mineral estate until she signed the lease of the mineral rights.
  3. Yes, because the neighbor failed to record the warranty deed conveying the mineral estate.
  4. Yes, because the woman adversely possessed both the surface estate and the mineral estate for the statutory period.
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Adverse possession of a mineral state

An adverse possessor can acquire title to land owned by another if his/her possession of the land is:

  • Open and notorious – apparent or visible to a reasonable owner
  • Continuous – uninterrupted for the statutory period
  • Exclusive – not shared with the owner
  • Actual – physical presence on the land and
  • Nonpermissive – hostile and adverse to the owner.

If the surface and mineral estates are owned by the same party, then the adverse possessor will acquire title to both estates—even if only one estate is actually possessed. But if the mineral estate has been severed from the surface estate (ie, the surface and mineral estates are owned by different parties), then the adverse possessor will only acquire title to the estate that is actually possessed. The mineral estate is actually possessed when the adverse possessor mines or drills wells on the land.

Here, the neighbor purchased the mineral estate from the man, thereby severing the mineral estate from the surface estate. And since the woman merely lived on the property for the 10-year statutory period—she did not attempt to mine or drill a well on the mineral estate—she actually possessed only the surface estate during that time (Choice D). This means that the woman did not adversely possess the mineral estate, and the court is not likely to award her title to that estate.

(Choice B) Adverse possession of a mineral estate requires the commencement of drilling or mining operations. Merely signing a lease of the mineral rights is not enough.

(Choice C) A deed need not be recorded to be valid, so the neighbor's failure to record has no impact on whether the woman adversely possessed the mineral estate.

Educational objective:
If a mineral estate has previously been severed from the surface estate (ie, surface and minerals owned by different persons), then an adverse possessor can only acquire title to the mineral estate by actually possessing the minerals (eg, by mining or drilling wells).

A teenager was riding a bicycle when she saw a classmate walking toward her. The teenager rode quickly toward the classmate, knowing that he would think she would run into him on her current trajectory. The teenager was not purposefully trying to harm or touch him. The classmate saw the teenager riding toward him and yelled at her to stop. The teenager swerved at the last moment and avoided hitting him. The classmate had a panic attack because he thought that the teenager would hit him.

Is the classmate likely to succeed if he sues the teenager for assault?

  1. No, because the teenager did not make contact with the classmate.
  2. No, because the teenager did not purposefully try to harm or touch the classmate.
  3. Yes, because the teenager acted with the requisite intent.
  4. Yes, because the teenager's conduct was extreme and outrageous.


Two types of intent

Assault occurs when (1) a defendant intends to cause the plaintiff to anticipate an imminent, and harmful or offensive, contact with the plaintiff's person and (2) the defendant's affirmative conduct causes the plaintiff to anticipate such contact. The intent requirement is met when the defendant acts with either:

  • purpose – the desire to cause anticipation of an imminent harmful or offensive contact or
  • knowledge – the substantial certainty that the plaintiff will suffer such anticipation.

Here, the teenager rode her bicycle directly at her classmate, causing him to think that she would hit him (anticipation of imminent contact). And since the teenager knew with substantial certainty that the classmate would think she would run into him, she acted with the requisite intent. As a result, the classmate is likely to succeed in a suit against the teenager for assault.

(Choice A) Assault merely requires that the plaintiff be placed in anticipation of imminent contact. Actual bodily contact is not required. Therefore, the fact that the teenager did not make contact with the classmate is irrelevant.

(Choice B) The intent to make contact with the plaintiff is a requirement for battery, but assault merely requires the intent to cause the plaintiff to anticipate imminent contact. Therefore, the fact that the teenager did not purposefully try to harm or touch the classmate does not absolve her of liability for assault.

(Choice D) Extreme and outrageous conduct (i.e., conduct that is unacceptable in civilized society) is an element of intentional infliction of emotional distress—not assault, which only requires intentional conduct.

Educational objective:
For assault, intent exists when a defendant acts with the purpose (desire) or knowledge (substantial certainty) that his/her conduct will cause the plaintiff to anticipate an imminent, and harmful or offensive, contact.

Bluebook Citations :
  • Restatement (Third) of Torts: Intentional Torts to Persons § 105 (Am. L. Inst., Tentative Draft No. 1, 2015) (providing the elements for assault).

Take a look at a typical competitor sample question below. Their practice questions might parody the exam, but ours consistently meet or exceed exam-level difficulty. Their limited explanations address the right answer choice but do not go the extra mile to explain the wrong choices – so you don’t make the same mistakes on exam day.

A mother gave her land to her two kids, a son, and a daughter, as joint tenants. The son built two adjoining homes on the land. He lived in one house and rented the other. The daughter lived out of the country and never visited the land. The daughter needed money, so she sold her interest in the land to her ex-boyfriend. Her ex-boyfriend immediately hired a developer to build a third home on the land. Soon after the daughter had sold her interest in the land, she was killed in a motorcycle accident. The ex-boyfriend is now asking the court for a judicial partition of the land. The son contends that upon his sister's death, he was now the sole owner of the land.

How should the court rule?

  1. For the ex-boyfriend, because he plans to live on the land.
  2. For the ex-boyfriend, because he paid for the son’s interest in the land.
  3. For the son, because he has the right of survivorship.
  4. For the son, because he has the sole position of the land.


Correct answer: B

California Bar Exam Dates, Requirements, and Scheduling

When it comes to preparing for the California bar exam, no date is more important than the filing date. California bar examinees must also submit their Application for Moral Character Determination, along with their fingerprints. Students typically submit this application in the third year of law school, and approved applications are valid for three years.

Exam Dates

Deadlines February 27-28, 2024 exam July 30-31, 2024 Exam*
Application Opens October 1, 2023 March 1, 2024
Timely Filing November 1, 2023 April 1, 2024
Late Filing November 30, 2023 June 1, 2024
Final Filing January 2, 2024 TBA

*July 2024 dates are TBA. Dates shown are for last year's bar exam. However, deadlines are typically similar year-to-year.


About 16,000 individuals sit for the California bar exam annually. To be eligible, candidates must fulfill the following requirements:

  • Have completed a minimum of 2 years of college before beginning law school or have completed approved College Level Equivalency Program examinations.
  • Have graduated from an American Bar Association (ABA) approved law school or one accredited by the Committee of Bar Examiners of the State Bar of California.
  • Have completed their first year of law school or have passed the First-Year Law Students' Examination.

Candidates who have not graduated from approved or accredited law schools are eligible for the California bar exam if they studied law at:

  • A correspondence school registered with the Committee of Bar Examiners of the State Bar of California.
  • A law office or judge's chamber meeting the Rules Regulating Admission to Practice Law in California.


Scheduling your California Bar Exam is done through your exam application.

  • To apply for the California State Bar Exam, visit their website, navigate to "Admissions," select "Create a new registration," and continue through the registration process.
  • Once you've completed registering, you will receive a confirmation email prompting you to pay a one-time registration fee of $119. At that point, you can begin working on your online application.

California Bar Exam Costs and Fees

The cost to register for the California Bar Exam varies depending on the filing date and whether an applicant is taking the General Bar Exam or the Attorney's Exam. Below is a breakdown of fees:

California State Bar Exam Fees, Requirements, and Deadlines
Application Type Fees* Deadline
Registration with the California Bar $119 First year of law school
Moral Character Determination $551 Complete in fall of third year of law school. Good for three years.
Fingerprinting Varies 90 days before Moral Character application is submitted
Bar Exam
Exam Fee $677 Filed before timely filing deadline
Filing Late Fee +$50 Filed after timely filing deadline but before late filing deadline
Filing Final Deadline Fee +$250 Filed after late filing deadline but before final filing deadline
Attorney Exam Fee $983
Laptop Fee +$153
Filing Late +$15 If filed after regular filing deadline

Payment Policies

California Bar Exam applicants must be registered before submitting their exam application. Applicants can file their registration form and their exam application concurrently. However, if their registration is not approved within 10 days, their exam fee will be returned. Disputing, stopping, or dishonoring a payment will not be honored as withdrawing from an exam.

If a candidate wishes to withdraw their application, they must do so before established deadlines via the Admissions Applicant Portal. Below is the refund schedule of withdrawals fees for the February 2024 California bar exam::

2024 California Bar Exam Application Withdrawal
Fee Schedule
Timelines Refund
October 1 - December 1 60%
December 2 -16 30%
December 17 - February 13 0%
December 1 - December 29 60% (for immediate repeaters)
December 30 - January 3 30% (for immediate repeaters)
N/A 0% (for immediate repeaters)
February 13 Failure to withdraw before the final deadline will result in a "no show" and may delay processing for the next exam. (immediate repeaters included)

95% of all paid fees may be refunded in the case of death or physical incapacity by filling out a refund form.

Cost-Saving Options

These bar exam costs can become quite expensive. The good news is that you have options that could waive some of the fees or help you avoid paying them altogether. One such option is applying for scholarships dedicated to helping bar exam candidates with related costs.

For example, the California Bar Foundation awards 15 bar exam scholarships to law students who intend to pursue public interest law careers. Nominated by their law schools, recipients of the Rosenthal Bar Exam Scholarship have typically demonstrated a significant commitment to service in the public interest within their communities through leadership and volunteerism.

Berkeley Law has an outside agency scholarships page dedicated to third-party scholarships that are available to law students enrolled at a law school in California. The page provides a snapshot of pertinent information about the various scholarships, ranging from $500 to over $10,000, including the application deadline, award amount, and website link. This scholarship page is a helpful resource for bar exam candidates to consider.

Other California Bar Exam scholarship resources include the Mexican American Bar Foundation and the Latina Lawyers Bar Association. As a California Bar Exam candidate, explore as many of these scholarships as possible to help you with bar exam costs.

California Bar Exam Subjects and Topics

Every topic on the California State Bar Exam is essential, so candidates should prepare for all of them. However, it would be helpful to pay special attention to the following:

The essay questions may test the following:

  • Article 1
  • Article 2
  • Article 9 – Fixtures
Examinees will encounter questions regarding Corporations, Sole Proprietorships, Partnerships (General/, Limited/Limited Liability), Joint Ventures, LLCs, among a variety of other Business Associations. One must also cultivate a thorough understanding of the principles of agency inherent in business relationships.
Brush up on Federal Civil Procedure and how it compares and contrasts with the California Code of Civil Procedure, especially where the California Code of Civil Procedure has no counterpart in the Federal Civil Procedure.
California is a community property state, and the topic weighs heavy on the bar. If you didn’t cover community property in law school, review issues regarding the termination of the marital economic community, separate property, quasi-community property, transmutations, and debts.
Constitutional law is a highly nuanced topic covering individual rights, the nature of judicial review, the separation of powers, and the relation of nation and states in a federal system. Ensure that your constitutional law outline covers all the rules and their many exceptions.
Contracts are a quagmire of sophisticated legal jargon crucial to creating a binding agreement that protects all interested parties. Beginning with the most heavily weighted, essential subjects for review include formation of contracts, performance, breach and discharge, defenses to enforceability, contract and content meaning, remedies, and third-party rights.
This MBE section of the California State Bar is split relatively evenly between Criminal Law and Criminal Procedure. Understand the variables involved in deducing exactly what crime has been committed or if a crime has genuinely been committed at all. Focus your review primarily on constitutional protection of accused persons, followed by homicide, other crimes, inchoate crimes, parties, and general principles.
Polish your knowledge of the Federal Rules of Evidence and how they compare and contrast with the California Evidence Code, especially where the California rules do not exactly match federal rules.

This probably goes without saying, but the expectation of uncompromising professional responsibility will always be a staple of the legal profession. You should ensure that you are well-versed in the California Rules of Professional Conduct, the California Business and Professions Code, and relevant federal and state case laws. 

You should also be familiar with the American Bar Association (ABA®) Model Rules of Professional Conduct and the ABA Model Code of Professional Responsibility. You may encounter questions on Professional Responsibility in various sections of the California Bar Exam.

Note: Before practicing law in California, you must also pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE®). The MPRE features 60 multiple-choice questions administered over two hours.

Diagram questions dealing with conveyances as they tend to have multiple contingencies, remainders, or grantees. Don’t be intimidated by old legal rules. They vary from their contemporaries in language only. The topics of Real Property are weighted evenly between ownership of real property, rights in real property, real estate contracts, mortgages/security devices, and titles.
Remedies questions are typically tested as general law on the California Bar and sometimes combined with other subjects (Contracts, Constitutional Law, Torts, Evidence, and/or Professional Responsibility). Examinees will likely encounter essay questions involving compensatory damages, punitive damages and restitutionary damages in tort, temporary restraining orders, compensatory damages in contracts, equitable defenses, and specific performance in contracts.

Nearly half of the Torts subject matter involves negligence theory. Make sure you understand how to classify torts accurately before moving on to answer choices. If you’re having trouble making a liability judgment call, ask yourself—is that how a reasonable person would behave? Other topics include intentional torts, strict liability and product liability, and other torts.

You should typically answer Trusts questions in conformity with general law unless you are explicitly prompted to answer according to California law. The exam frequently pairs Trusts with Wills. The most heavily weighted Trusts issues on the essay section involve trust validity, testamentary trusts, charitable trusts, and duties of a trustee.

Refresh your knowledge of the following provisions of the California Probate Code and California law governing these topics:

Division 2. General Provisions

  • Part 1. Effect of Death of Married Person on Community and Quasi-Community Property, Sections 100-103
  • Part 3. Contractual Arrangements Relating to Rights at Death, Sections 140-147
  • Part 5. Simultaneous Death, Sections 220, 222-224
  • Part 6. Distribution Among Heirs or Beneficiaries, Section 240

Division 6. Wills and Intestate Succession

  • Part 1. Wills
  • Chapter 1. General Provisions, Sections 6100, 6101, 6104, 6105
  • Chapter 2. Execution of Wills, Sections 6110-6113
  • Chapter 3. Revocation and Revival, Sections 6120, 6121, 6123
  • Part 2. Intestate Succession, Sections 6400-6402

Division 11. Construction of Wills, Trusts, and Other Instruments

  • Part 1. Rules of Interpretation of Instruments, Sections 21105, 21109, 21110
  • Part 6. Family Protection: Omitted Spouses and Children [for decedents dying on or after January 1, 1998]
  • Chapter 2. Omitted Spouses, Sections 21610-21612
  • Chapter 3. Omitted Children, Sections 21620-21623

CA MPRE Minimum Passing Score

The California Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE®) minimum score is 86, the highest of any jurisdiction in the US. Performance on the MPRE is measured on a scaled score that ranges from 50 to 150. Scaled scoring is done through a statistical method called equating to ensure fairness across various test versions. For example, last year's exam may have been more difficult than this year's exam, in which case examinees will receive "bonus points".

Bonuses or deductions occur when an examinee's raw score is translated into their scaled score. In other words, if you get 30 out of 50 graded MPRE questions correct (a raw score of 60%), your scaled score could be 85. Unfortunately, the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NBCE®) does not reveal exactly how these scores are translated, and calculations likely vary from exam version to exam version, but California MPRE examinees should aim for a consistent score of at least 30 on their practice exams.

CA Bar Exam Scoring/Grading

The California Bar Exam had a notoriously high minimum passing score of 1,440/2,000. In July 2020, the California Supreme Court permanently reduced the passing score to 1,390 to be more in line with the rest of the country.

The State Bar of California generates exam scores by halving (multiplying by 0.50) an examinee's MBE score and written score separately before adding them together. For example, if an examinee receives 1390 (x 0.50 = 695) on their MBE and 1400 (x 0.50 = 700) on their written exam, their score for the entire bar exam would be 1395. This means that a superior score on one portion of the test can balance out a lackluster score on the other.

The California Performance Test has a raw score between 80-100, while each of the five essays on the written exam has a raw score between 40-100. If an examinee receives a minimum passing score for each section, their raw score would be 480/700 before it's translated into a scaled score.

The State Bar of California measures performance on both sections of the test with scaled scores to ensure fairness across various test versions. For example, a 480/700 on this February's exam may be more challenging to achieve than it was on last July's. Therefore, the raw score is converted into a scaled score using a statistical method called equating. Equating penalizes or awards an examinee's raw score based on the difficulty of the exam type. In this case, the scaled score would be out of the 2,000 points possible (this also applies to the MBE).

Now that we understand how the scoring process works, we can move on to the grading process. Six groups grade California Bar Exam essays and performance tests. Each group consists of twelve experienced attorneys and four apprentice graders. These graders participate in three sessions where they calibrate standards for the grading process. Graders then read through the exams and assign a raw score. If an examinee receives a score of 1350 on the first reading, they will move to a second reading and potentially receive a passing score.

California Bar Exam Results

The State Bar of California posts pass lists on its website. Results are typically released in May and November for the February and July exams, respectively.

California Bar Exam Pass Rates

As is typical with bar exams across the country, the California Bar Exam's repeater pass rate is markedly lower than the first-timer pass rate. This phenomenon is likely because many examinees who failed the first time haven't changed their study habits significantly.

Exam Overall Pass Rate First-Timer Pass Rate Repeater Pass Rate Results Release Date
July 2023 52% 65% 24% November 9
Feb. 2023 33% 45% 28% May 5

Below are the annual pass rates for the South Carolina Bar Exam since 2017 divided into first-time examinees and repeaters:

Below is a breakdown of historic pass rates of CA Bar Exam:

California Bar Exam for Foreigners

You do not have to be a US citizen to become a licensed attorney in the state of California. Attorneys that have been actively practicing law in a foreign country and are in good standing are not required to take additional legal education to sit for the California state bar exam. However, foreign law students must meet particular educational requirements before they become eligible.

Foreign Law Students with a First Degree in Law

Foreign law students with a first law degree may take the California Bar Examination if they can prove that their degree is commensurate with the standards set for a Juris Doctorate (JD) by the American Bar Association (ABA) or California-accredited law school. Furthermore, they must prove that they have completed one year at an ABA-approved law school or a law school accredited by the committee.

The following must be submitted to the State Bar's Office of Admissions in Los Angeles:

  • Registration as a Foreign Education General Application ($119)
  • Foreign Law Study Evaluation Study (for a law degree)

Foreign Law Students without a First Degree in Law

Foreign law students that have studied law outside of the US but have not received a first degree in law must prove that they have completed two years of undergraduate study (or the equivalent), received an exemption from the First-Year Law Students' Examination, and successfully completed four years of legal study in the US.

The following must be submitted to the State Bar's Office of Admissions in Los Angeles:

  • Registration as a Foreign Education General Application ($119)
  • Foreign Law Study Evaluation Summary (for a course breakdown)

What Makes the California Bar Exam Unique?

The California Bar Exam has long been considered the most difficult exam because of the state's higher MBE passing score—commonly referred to as the “cut score”—of 1440, which was the second-highest required score until the October 2020 exam (behind Delaware). Beginning with the October 2020 California bar exam, the cut score was lowered to 1390 (due to COVID), representing the fourth highest cut score in the US as of the July 2021 exams.

In addition, California permits aspiring lawyers to take the bar exam without earning a Juris Doctorate (JD). These candidates are permitted to apprentice with a practicing attorney or judge instead. California is the only jurisdiction with such a policy. California also offers a one-day Attorney Examination, which practicing attorneys in good standing for at least four years in another US jurisdiction can take to practice law in California.

Contact Details of California State Bar

The State Bar of California has offices in Los Angeles and San Francisco. It recommends using email or your application portal for inquiries. Hours of operation are 8:45 am - 5:00 pm PST on weekdays, except for Wednesday, when they close at 4:00 pm PST.

Contact Details of California State Bar for Applicants
Group Phone Email
Admissions and Committee
of Bar Examiners
[email protected]
Oath Card Processing N/A [email protected]
Practical Training of Law Students 415‑538‑2175 [email protected]
Pro Hac Vice 415‑538‑2300 [email protected]

California Bar Exam FAQs

Not everyone can take the bar exam in California. To be eligible, you must complete at least two years of college or complete the equivalent through approved College Equivalency Program examinations. You must also attend and graduate from a law school approved by the American Bar Association (ABA) or accredited by the Committee of Bar Examiners of the State Bar of California.

However, California allows individuals to take the bar without meeting the above requirements if they have studied law at a law office or judge’s chamber that meets the Rules Regulating Admission to Practice Law in California.
The California bar exam is offered bi-annually. Once in February and once in July.
The California bar exam is split across two days. The first day consists of 5 one-hour essay questions and a 90-minute performance test, while the second day consists of 200 multiple-choice MBE questions.
The California bar exam spans two days. The first day consists of 3 one-hour essay questions in the morning, followed in the afternoon by two more one-hour essay questions and a 90-minute performance test. The second day consists of the 200 multiple-choice Multistate Bar Exam (MBE) split evenly between the morning and afternoon.
California Bar Exam Schedule
Morning Afternoon
Day 1 3 one-hour essay questions 2 one-hour essay questions and 90-minute performance test
Day 2 100 multiple-choice MBE questions 100 multiple-choice MBE questions
There is no limit to the number of times you can retake the California bar exam.

The deadline to file for the February 2024 California state bar exam was November 1, 2023. The deadline for final filing is January 2, 2024, but you will incur a fee of $250. July 2024 deadlines are TBA.

It is recommended that students taking the bar put aside approximately $5,800 to pay for fees and review courses, including a $667 application fee.

It takes 400 hours to study for the California bar exam. Examinees should spend half of this time studying the law and memorizing outlines and the other half on practice questions and tests. Some students will study more, some less. It depends heavily on their educational background, their personal lives, and how well they optimize their bar exam study schedule.
The California bar exam has consistently had one of the lowest pass rates of any bar exam in the US. The large candidate pool in California likely contributes to these low pass rates, but California also has had a notoriously high minimum passing score.
The State Bar of California usually releases July exam results by mid-November and February results by mid-May. You may check your results by visiting the State Bar of California website.
If you fail the exam on your first try, you may retake it. However, you will need to register and pay the $677 again.
California doesn’t offer reciprocity with other jurisdictions. However, licensed attorneys in another jurisdiction who have been in good standing for four years may take the one-day Attorney Exam and skip the MBE portion of the California bar exam.
To transfer your California MBE score to another jurisdiction, you must electronically submit a request for MBE score services through your NCBE account.
The State Bar of California doesn’t allow applicants to transfer MBE scores from other jurisdictions.
There are a few options for those wishing to become a licensed attorney in California:
  • Complete 3-4 years at an ABA-accredited law school.
  • Complete 4 years at a State Bar-registered, fixed-facility law school
  • Complete 4 years at an unaccredited or correspondence law school with a minimum of 864 hours of preparation.
  • Complete 4 years of supervised study under a state judge or attorney.
  • Some mixture of the above.
Yes, California is one of only four states that allows individuals to sit for their state bar exam without having to graduate from law school. Instead, aspiring lawyers can complete 4 years of supervised study under a state judge or attorney.
Individuals needing special accommodations for the California bar exam must submit a complete request online via the Applicant Portal.
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