California Bar Exam Essay Predictions February 2014

Posted on by Tumi

We are pleased to welcome back Jeff Curl to the Bar Exam Toolbox blog. Jeff  talks about the best way to focus your studying for the California bar exam. Previously he was an apprentice grader for the California bar exam, and now works as an attorney  practicing bankruptcy law at JC Law Group PCWelcome, Jeff! 

Studying for the bar is overwhelming for a variety of reasons – it stresses your life, both professionally and personally. It also puts strains on relationships and your sense of well being. One of the biggest stresses is the sheer volume and scale involved with studying for the California Bar Exam.

Naturally, you want to impose some order and limit the scope of your studies if at all possible. There are really two ways of doing this when it comes to the written portion of the exam: try to predict the questions and study for those, or use history and the structure of the exam as a guide.

I absolutely despise the attempts to predict the exam questions to the tee. I will hear that “a Fourth Amendment question is due,” or that torts is a summer bar exam topic, but not a winter question, so expect that in July. Such predictions are both desperate and dangerous.

What is the more intelligent way to focus your studies?

  1. Look at the historically tested subjects that make regular appearances. Negligence and Commerce Clause questions, for example, do seem to make regular appearances, albeit not necessarily as Question 2, every February administration of the exam.
  2. The California State Bar has made it abundantly clear that it is testing professional responsibility in almost every exam whether on its own or as a cross-over. Given that it also serves as double duty for the MPRE to get your license, mastering this subject makes sense.
  3. Spending a little more time on the six core subjects that are on the multistate exam also makes good sense. You are killing two birds with one stone since you will be tested on constitutional law, contracts, criminal law and procedure, evidence, real property and torts on the MBE already.
  4. Weigh the cost/benefit analysis of trying to study for every single area of the thirteen subjects tested, versus trying studying the more popular subjects. Unless you have one of those crazy memories that permits you to absorb the elements of everything, attempting to memorize 150 things may serve you better than trying to memorize 300. Never would I skip any subject in its entirety, but you must have an honest discussion with yourself about your limits and how far you can reasonably push them to incorporate every detail of every subject that is tested.

Yes, curveballs may be thrown, but spending time trying to master all potential outlier questions is just not within the ability of many bar candidates. If you can memorize everything, great. If not, design the scope of your studies intelligently from the outset.

Jeff Curl was an apprentice grader for the CA bar exam. He practices bankruptcy law with his wife Jeena Cho at JC Law Group PC. 

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With just under a month away from the July bar exam, we thought it would be a good idea to take a look at how California has tested the various subjects. We also decided to make a few predictions about the topics that will be tested on the Essay portion of the July bar. Just to disclaim, just because a topic is labeled as low-probability doesn’t mean that the bar examiners won’t try to mix it up. This year marks a change in the way California tests the exam moving from a 3-day format, down to 2. With one less essay and performance test, we may see an overall increase in the number of crossover questions.

Lastly, if you are studying for the California bar and looking for additional resources (affiliates to the website), two items to check out include:

  • BarProse – A California Essay Grading Solution (use the code LSHQ25 for $25 off)
  • Adaptibar – For Multiple Choice questions (sign up here and receive $30 off your order)

First, how often have things been tested on the July Bar? Below is a chart showing topics tested in July since 2009. Our predictions by subject, along with the rational are below. Note, one reader identified Evidence had been tested in 2014, we have updated accordingly.

Business Associations – Low

Historically, Business associations has been tested during the February bar exam, with a consistent run from 2009 – 2013. However, it 2014 & 2015 it was tested three times, and just tested on the February 2017 bar exam. Only twice in the last 7 years has it been tested on both the February & July bar exams in the same year. Likely result is a low probability on the July bar.

Civil Procedure – High

Civil procedure has been tested consistently at least once per year since 2013, and has consistently been tested during the July bar exam. Given that it was not tested during the February Bar Exam, it is likely that it will be tested during the July 2017 bar.

Community Property – High

Community Property is most often tested during the July Bar Exam and has been tested at least once each year since 2010. As it was not tested on the February 2017 bar exam, it is likely that it will be tested on the July bar.

Constitutional Law – High

Similar to Community Property, Constitutional Law has historically been tested once per year, appearing on the July bar exam during the 2015 and 2016 periods. Given that it also did not appear on the February bar, makes it that much more likely it will appear on the July Bar Exam.

Contracts – Medium

Contracts is a subject that has not been tested consistently, but appeared twice last year, and was not tested during the February exam. As such, it may be that the California Bar is taking a break this year (similar to what happened in 2014.

Criminal Law and Procedure – Low

Criminal Law & Procedure is most often tested once each year, and has not recently been tested twice in the same year. As it appeared on the February Bar Exam, it is unlikely that it will also appear on the July Bar

Evidence – Medium

Evidence covers both Federal & California. According to California’s  sample answers, Evidence has not been tested during the July Bar exam since 2012. It has also been tested during the February bar exam during the last two exam periods. As such, even though this subject may be ripe for July testing, it is unlikely it would appear on the July Bar.

Professional Responsibility – High

Professional Responsibility is one of those subjects that is just almost guaranteed to make it, or be included as an add on to another question. It has been tested every single year in recent memory on the Bar, and is almost always tested on the February exam as well.

Real Property – Medium

Real Property was historically a February topic up until 2015 when it started appearing on the July bar. It also did not appear on the February Exam making it that much more likely to appear on the July Bar.

Remedies – Low

Similar to Real Property, Remedies has historically been a February exam topic. It was also just tested in February, making it unlikely it will appear on the July exam.

Torts – Low

Torts was tested on the February exam, and has not been a topic appearing on the July bar since July 2014. As such, it is also unlikely that it will be tested this time around.

Trusts – Medium

Historically, Trusts was a topic for the February bar appearing between 2015-2016. However, the February bar did not test the subject. As such, it is possible that this may move to a July testing phase.

Wills & Succession – Low

Wills & Succession last appeared on the July bar exam between 2012 – 2015 and has not appeared since. Given that it also was just tested on the February 2017 exam, it is unlikely that it will make another appearance this time around.

For a few charts about the historical topic testing in California, check out the state’s profile here:


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