California Bar Exam Essay Grading Criteria

Re: 2017 February California Bar Exam

Postby angiesmirnoff » Thu May 18, 2017 7:15 pm

Hi, thank you so much for the feedback. I am going slightly crazy after this breakdown of scores.

So I do know that I only had 35-40 minutes left on essay 2 and I knew it was a Remedies essay, I just simply ran out of time to write about all of the issues I wanted. I am SURE I would have gotten at least 60-65 if I wrote everything I wanted to. I had studied Remedies so much but ran out of time. I spent 1hr20min on Essay 3 first (and thought I wrote enough for 80 LOL, but I made some mistakes so I guess they dropped my score). Then I spent 1hr 10 min writing out Wills and I had more to write (for a 100, looking at the score???) but I FORCED myself to stop and go to Remedies. Then I had very little time left - 35-40min.

As far as the second set of essays... Essay 6 was Crim Law/pro, so I knew I did good on it. And the others are CALIFORNIA subjects essays. I actually failed my last CA bar exam because of the CA essays, my PTs were ok 60-65. And my MBE scaled score was 1546 (I focused on it A LOT!). But I saw that they gave me low grades specifically on California subject essays. And I have put in extra 3-4 weeks just for CALI subjects this time around, at the expense of doing lots of MBEs like before (and I think I did like 20-30 questions on Contracts, got them all right and that was it; I ran out of prep time - and I focused on thorough review of the Contracts outline plus the other subjects, instead. Plus memorizations).

PT s are tricky for me and risky because sometimes I get caught up in my own version of reasoning and structure. I might struggle with presenting both the CA subjects and the PTs in a certain structured manner. It's just so much information in the PT and I pay so much attention to every single case! I'm also a bit slower reader (of so much information) since English is my second language.

ANY ADVICE ON HOW TO BEAT THE CALIFORNIA SUBJECTS??? I KNOW that they will give 3/5 essays on CALI subjects this July. They have to, it's California's thing and differentiator.
Well... I focused so much on CALI subjects (And Wills and Trusts is one of them) that I got my knowledge of Wills to a result of a 90 score. I thought I was pretty good on others, too. But apparently not as much yet.


I am so happy that I posted in this forum... the feedback and the support is SO HELPFUL! And I sort of feel like I am not alone in this.

p.s. I truly believe that if I focus my attention on MBEs like before I can try to get to 80% accuracy on them. And it's 50% of the exam now!!!
The new PT sample on the website is kinda tough since there is so much reading just for 90 minutes! But I am happy that the two 3-hour PTs are over.

measure of an applicant's ability

In a notice recently published by the Committee of Bar Examiners, and available on the CA State Bar website, the new 2-day CA Bar Exam will continue to be designed to measure an applicant's ability to analyze legal issues arising from fact situations.

With respect to the essay questions, an applicant's answer must demonstrate minimum competency, meaning the answer must show knowledge and understanding of the pertinent principles and theories of law being tested, their qualifications and limitations, and their relationships to each other. In the words of the Bar Examiners, "The answer should evidence the applicant's ability to apply the law to the given facts, and to reason in a logical, lawyerlike manner from the premises adopted to a sound conclusion. An applicant should not merely show that he/she remembers the legal principles, but should demonstrate his/her proficiency in using and applying them."

With respect to the Performance test questions, an applicant's Performance Test answer is graded on its compliance with instructions, and on its content, thoroughness, and organization. In the words of the Bar Examiners, "The measure of passing goes to an applicant's ability to:

1. Sift through detailed factual material and separate relevant from irrelevant facts, assess the consistency and reliability of facts, and determine the need for and source of additional facts;

2. Analyze the legal rules and principles applicable to a problem and formulate legal theories from facts that may be only partly known and are being developed;

3. Recognize and resolve ethical issues arising in a practical situation;

4. Apply problem solving skills to diagnose a problem, generate alternative solutions, and develop a plan of action; and

5. Communicate effectively, whether advocating, advising a client, eliciting information, or effectuating a legal transaction."

If you would like a PDF of the Professional Responsibility February 2017 California Exam Question #5, please enter your email address, and you'll be able to download the guidelines thereafter.


The Committee utilizes a grading procedure designed to ensure that the difficulty of passing the exam remains unchanged from one administration of the exam to another. The statistical technique, called scaling, converts scores on the written portion to the same scale of measurement as the MBE.

MBE scores are reported on a scale ranging from 0 to 2000 points. On the written section of the exam, applicants are graded initially on a basis of 700 possible raw points: 100 points for each of the 5 essay questions, and 200 points for the Performance Test.

The scores obtained on the written section are then translated to the 2000-point MBE scale. An applicant's total score is the scale MBE score (on the 1000-point scale) multiplied by .50 plus the converted score on the written section multiplied by .50. Scaling ensures the two portions of the exam carry the relative weights assigned to them: written (50%) and MBE (50%).

For more information related to the description and grading of the CA Bar Exam, please go to the CA State Bar web site for the full content of this notice published by the Committee of Bar Examiners.  


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