Admission Requirements

To be admitted to practice law in California you must complete the necessary education, register with the Committee of Bar Examiners, and pass the First-year Law Students' Examination (unless exempt). You must also pass the California Bar Examination, which is administered during the last week of February and July, the Moral Character Determination and the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE), which is administered in March, August and November.


Applications for the First-year Law Students' Examination, General Bar Examination, Attorney's Examination and Determination of Moral Character may be picked up at the Committee of Bar Examiners of the State of California or downloaded at State Bar offices are located in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Application packets are also available at most law schools. For application fees and timely filing deadlines, please contact the State Bar. Applications for the MPRE are available through the National Conference of Bar Examiners. For more information, visit them at

Exam Format

The bar exam consists of three sections: the essay, the performance test and the multistate bar examination.

  • The Essay
  • On Tuesday and Thursday mornings, applicants are given three essays, which must be completed within three hours. Applicants can be tested on the following subjects: Torts, Contracts, Constitutional Law, Criminal Law & Procedure, Evidence, Real Property, Civil Procedure, Community Property, Corporations, Professional Responsibility, Remedies, Trusts and Wills. Beginning with the July 2007 administration of the exam, candidates will also be responsible for California Evidence, California Civil Procedure, Agency and Partnership.
  • The Performance Test
  • On Tuesday and Thursday afternoon, applicants will take the Performance Test. Each performance test consists of a three-hour writing project. Applicants are given a file and library from a hypothetical law firm and are asked to prepare one or more written documents. These may include any of the following: Client Letter, Closing Argument, Discovery Plan and Interrogatories, Memorandum of Points & Authorities, Memorandum to a Senior Partner or Trial Brief.
  • The Multistate Bar Exam (MBE)
  • On Wednesday, applicants take a 200-question multiple-choice exam given in 2 three-hour sessions. Applicants are tested on seven subjects: Torts, 28 questions; Contracts, 28 questions; Civil Procedure, 27 questions; Constitutional Law, 27 questions, Criminal Law and Procedure, 27 questions; Evidence, 27 questions; and Real Property, 27 questions.

Exam Grading

  • Relative Weights:
  • Written Portion - 65% (Essay 39% o Performance Test 26%); Multistate Bar Exam - 35%
  • Scaling:
  • In order to compensate for the differences in degree of difficulty from on exam to the next, the California Bar Exam is scaled. There are a total of 2000 scaled points that can be earned on the exam and only those students scoring 1440 (72%) or above will pass. On the MBE, applicants earn a raw score ranging from 0 to 190. This score is then adjusted and reported on a scale of 0 to 2000. Similarly, there are initially 1000 points possible on the written portion of the exam, including up to 100 points per essay and up to 200 points for each performance test. These scores are then converted to a 2000 point scaled score. Finally, the examiners scale the written section to the MBE. The net result is to make the written section of more importance in determining whether a student passes or fails the examination.
  • Phased Grading:
  • The examination is graded using a 3-phase procedure.
  • Phase One - Applicants with total scaled scores of 1440 or above pass the examination. Applicants with total scaled scores below 1390 fail the examination.

  • Phase Two - Applicants with total scaled scores of between 1390 and 1440 will have the written portion of their examination read and scored by a second set of graders. These scores are then averaged with the applicant's original scores.  New scores of 1440 or above pass the exam.  Applicant's with scores below 1440 fail the exam.

  • Phase Three - Written score discrepancies in the second phase of ten (10) or more points will be reviewed by a member of the Board of Reappraisers.  "Resolution grades" will be used to calculate a new total scaled score.  Again, new scores of 1440 or above pass the examination.  Scores below 1440 fail the examination.

Bar Exam Results

Results for the February administration of the exam are released during the month of May. The results for the July administration are released in November.

Attorneys' Examination

The Attorneys' Examination consists of only of the essay and performance test sections of the California Bar Exam. Attorneys admitted in other states or jurisdictions of the United States who have been admitted in active status in good standing four years immediately preceding the bar exam may be eligible to take the attorney examination. For more information, contact the Committee of Bar Examiners.


The MPRE is a 60 question multiple-choice examination administered by the National Conference of Bar Examiners. It is designed to test an applicant's knowledge and understanding of established ethical standards as set forth in the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct, ABA Model Code of Judicial Conduct, as well as controlling constitutional decisions and generally accepted principles established in leading federal and state cases and in procedural and evidentiary rules. Applicants may take the MPRE in March, August or November.