Selecting a Bar Preparation Course


The selection of a bar preparation course is generally fairly easy, especially for someone who has never taken the bar. If you are a first time taker or are taking a bar exam after practicing for an extended period (i.e., at least 5 years), then I recommend BarBri.


Although BarBri has a reputation like Microsoft of the mid-1990s, there is no denying that it does a good job of giving you all the information you need to pass the bar exam. The lectures (whether live or on video) provide a good summary of the important bar exam issues and cut through the fear created by looking through the massive outline books BarBri also gives to you. It seems generally true to me that if you can learn/memorize everything that you hear in the BarBri lectures, you will know enough to pass the bar exam.

BarBri also provides you with lots of opportunities to practice essays and get feedback. While the feedback may not be extremely valuable, it does, at the very least, give you a kick in the pants. That is, the first few essays you turn in for review will come back with comments like "what?" and "analysis?" and "incorrect." BarBri also provides you with a study schedule (called the PACE program) so you don't have to worry if you are studying enough or engaging in enough review.
I had two main criticisms of BarBri: 1) the PACE program was overburdensome and 2) the sample MBE (i.e, the multiple choice test) questions weren't very good.

As I discuss in more detail in my post on DILIGENCE, the PACE program essentially demands that, in addition to the 3-4 hours you spend in class, you spend another 5-9 hours studying and reviewing. This is crazy and inhuman. I guess if you are getting ready to work at BigLaw, then you should get used to it. For everyone else, I honestly believe you can quit studying at 5pm every day and can take at least one if not two days off each week. (See, again, my post on Diligence.)

For me, the BarBri MBE questions seemed anemic and the explanations of the answers confusing. It did not seem to test the material very well. I must prefered PMBR (see below). I felt that the people who wrote the questions for BarBri hadn't spent enough time editing them to make sure they made sense. Maybe they were trying to make the questions tricky (as they can be on the actual MBE exam), but the result was making them opaque and nonesensical. Still, I had friends and acquaintances who liked them far better than PMBR and they were successful on the bar exam.


I have heard good things about MicroMash, but have not actually seen the program. My understanding is that MicroMash provides recorded lectures that allow you to study on your own. MicroMash will also allow you to purchase only the review portions that you want. For instance, maybe you are repeating the bar exam and feel that you need another system for MBE preparation. Thus, you can purchase the MicroMash MBE prep only. Finally, MicroMash is more affordable than BarBri and looks to be about half the cost of BarBri. So, if you are paying for your bar prep course with your own money, you might explore MicroMash as an affordable alternative to BarBri.

Local Resources

Other than the massive bar prep mills, you may want to find a local bar prep company that has met with success and has good recommendations from prior enrollees. A fellow associate at my firm took just such a course from a local bar guru in San Diego. The person provided outlines, study techniques, and testing techniques. My colleague recommends this course to anyone who asks. So, check around with alumni from your law school or ask recently minted attorneys if they did something other than BarBri that helped them pass the bar.


PMBR (now called Kaplan)

PMBR is the grand-daddy/800-pound gorilla of MBE-only bar prep. Its massive red and blue books are instantly recognizable by people enrolled in bar review. I loved PMBR when I took the bar for the first time. The questions were very densely written and maddening, but logical. The explanations of the answers were detailed, thorough, and (as far as I could tell) accurate. I figured that if I could succeed on PMBR at a good percentage, then I could do well on the MBE. I will say that compared to the PMBR questions, the questions on the actual test were much more concise and less confusing. Of course, there were still questions I encountered on the real exam that dumbfounded me. I just marked a bubble and moved on. Nevertheless, I think I knew more about the common law thanks to PMBR than I could ever have learned just using the BarBri practice questions. PMBR offers several courses. If your firm is paying for it, you may as well sign up for everything. If you are paying for it, just pay the least amount of money that will get you the questions books and then answer as many questions as possible. My firm paid for everything, so I took the entire course. The six-day pre-BarBri course is essentially useless. All it serves to do is scare the hell out of you and make you think that you are going to fail the bar exam. BarBri or any other prep program can do that, so save your money.


When I took the California bar, I had intended just to use the PMBR books again. However, when I attempted to study from the books, I felt a massive depression surge over me and knew that I could not use them. So I began looking around for another prep course. That is when I found Adpatibar.   Check out my video review of Adapitbar below:

(Want to try Adaptibar and save $50 off the regular price? Click here and sign up.)


In the end, probably just about any bar prep course will work so long as you diligently study and review. If anyone has taken any courses not mentioned or has a different opinion compared to those expressed above, please post a comment.


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