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Best Bar Prep Courses (2020 Reviews)
Our in-depth guide to the best bar review courses
No matter what state you are in, the bar exam is one of the most daunting professional exams in the country, and is not a test you want to be unprepared for. To ensure you are completely ready, and to give yourself the best shot at passing on the first try, you will almost assuredly need a bar review course. But with so many prep options to choose from and so much at stake, how do know which one is best for you? Our team of test prep experts has thoroughly reviewed every bar review course on the market and ranked the best of the best here to help you make an informed decision.
Offering one of the most comprehensive and detailed bar review curriculums available, Kaplan couldn’t be left off our best list. Kaplan boasts a first-rate course structure designed to optimize your learning and material retention through a robust and repeated learning framework. Each subject module follows the same pattern of “Learn, Practice, Review, and Catch Up.”
This purposeful framework provides an excellent means of learning (or re-learning) the material you need to do know, drilling it, and letting it sink in through review and recap. And this manner of studying is all wrapped around some top flight lessons, both in-person and on demand. The in-person lectures are delivered by excellent instructors with a knack for easily communicating difficult subjects, and the on demand video lessons have some of the strongest production quality we have seen. In addition, Kaplan’s prep package is buoyed by stacks of some of the best practice material in the industry.
Mountains of Prep Material
One of the highlights of the Kaplan bar review course is the sheer quantity of practice material you get. Boasting 4,000+ MBE practice questions, multiple full-length practice tests, a library of essay and performance test prompts, and some of the coolest tools for drilling in bar review, you will never have a shortage of work. This quantity of practice material is best in class and is utilized in multiple ways to maximize learning. Practice problems are accessed through lessons, drills, practice tests and extracurricular study. Most importantly, you can access these problems through Kaplan’s Qbank and Qformative, two programs artfully designed to help you narrowly focus your practice and gain a deeper understanding of the material being tested. Additionally, each MBE question is accompanied by a thorough text explanation, breaking down the question and answer choices in detail, making for a full-circle learning experience through review. And all of Kaplan’s essay and performance test prompts come with helpful model answers and explanations.
A relative newcomer to the bar prep world, BarMax was a must-add to our best bar review courses list for those students seeking flexible, self-paced study. With an eye towards the future of test prep, BarMax recognizes that the modern student is extremely busy and their life centers around digital content. As such, they smartly designed their prep program to give students access to the study materials from anywhere, at any time, on any device.
But the benefits don’t stop with the easy accessibility and flexibility, as BarMax also offers some great lessons and study resources. Their lectures are a combination of concise black letter law outlines keyed to audio lectures from Harvard Law School professors. While the audio-style isn’t our favorite, the content of these lessons is succinct, thoughtfully explained and spoon feeds you just what you need to know to pass the bar. In addition, BarMax offers some fantastic practice materials, including 1,750+ real MBE questions licensed directly from the NCBE which were used on past exams.
The BarMax Mobile App
Perhaps their biggest selling point, BarMax offers students a fantastic mobile app. This app goes well beyond a few practice questions and flashcards, and gives you access to all of your study materials, whether online or offline. This is at the heart of what makes BarMax our top pick for flexible, self-study. The app is intuitively designed with easy navigation, and your resources are incredibly easy to find and open. Moreover, the app maintains a very professional appearance and is crazy fast. Load times are next to nothing. But perhaps most importantly of all, actually working through lessons and practice problems is easy. Some apps are hard to actually use for studying with crummy layouts and unresponsive functionality, but not BarMax. The app truly makes studying from your phone or tablet a breeze and we personally found studying from an iPad the most effective means.
The makers of your trusted law school case briefs and outlines, Quimbee now offers a comprehensive bar review course. At just under a thousand dollars, Quimbee provides incredible value in prepping for the bar. Their instruction consists of a nice mixture of video lessons, outlines and strategy guides. The Quimbee video lessons take a much different track from traditional bar review courses by using engaging cartoon-style skits to convey the material being taught. Animated characters act out the case or legal principle being discussed in a funny and memorable way. This is a fantastic means of improving material retention and really helps with recall down the road when you see that particular case or legal issue again.
Our only complaint is that they don’t have more videos, offering only 120 of these engaging lessons at this time. The outlines and strategy guides that accompany the videos are thorough and very well-written, while still being intelligently distilled down to the most important material. These are the basis of your content review and offer true value. While not offering quite as much study material as other courses, the Quimbee bar review course is a fantastic all-around package for the price with a solid curriculum.
The Most Bang for Your Buck
Quimbee makes our best list for one primary reason – value. When staring down the prospect of spending thousands of dollars on a prep course, some students look for a more affordable, but comprehensive option. That’s where Quimbee comes in. At just $999, Quimbee costs a fraction of what other courses cost, while still offering many of the same benefits. And this is not necessarily a case of ‘you get what you pay for.’ Despite being on the cheaper end, Quimbee still offers solid video lessons, content-rich outlines, strategy guides and a bunch of real, previously used bar exam questions. All in all, it’s a great little package. For students that perhaps don’t need a deluxe prep package, whether because they’ve already done some bar prep or they’re in a state with a high pass rate, Quimbee may be a good option.
Bar Prep Hero takes a different approach to bar prep than most every other bar review company out there. Rather than having formal instruction covering content review, Bar Prep Hero focuses on practice, practice and more practice. The idea is that you learn by doing and reviewing each and every practice problem. Bar Prep Hero licenses its MBE, MEE and MPT materials directly form the NCBE, the body that makes the UBE portions of the bar exam. As such, Bar Prep Hero offers first rate practice material through questions that have actually appeared on past exams.
In addition, each MBE problem is accompanied by a detailed problem explanation, which breaks down the problem and answer choices, as well as cites to relevant case law for reference. The MEE and MPT material also have corresponding sample outlines and model answers, offering students a chance to practice those aspects of bar testing and check their answers against the gold standard. And for even more practice, Bar Prep Hero offers 1,800+ flashcards covering 12 of the most important legal categories covered on the bar. In short, Bar Prep Hero is all about the practice work.
Bar Prep Hero as a Supplement
The level and quality of practice material you get with Bar Prep Hero makes it an excellent supplement to any study plan. Without a thorough course of instruction though, it generally lacks the necessary content review function that other more expensive courses offer. However, at this extremely reasonable price point, Bar Prep Hero offers a great opportunity to serve as a complement to get you across the finish line. If you’ve taken a free prep course through your law school, or perhaps found a great set of used prep books that get you the content review you need but without the practice, Bar Prep Hero could be the perfect option. In our opinion, it is best utilized to supplement a study plan where the student has the content necessary to review for the bar, but just needs the practice.
It wouldn’t be a best bar review courses list without Barbri. Preparing students for the bar exam for 50+ years now, Barbri has a long track record of success in getting students across the finish line. Having such a long history has allowed Barbri to vet and incrementally improve their curriculum over the years to offer students one of the soundest course structures around. At the center of their course, Barbri offers their students both in-person and on demand video lessons. It is up to you to decide which course delivery style you’d like and there is no extra charge for attending the live, in-person classes.
Both course formats are excellent, though we would note that the on demand video based instruction is a bit dry and unengaging, despite being taught by some of the biggest names in the legal world. Beyond the lessons, Barbri offers very respectable quantities and quality of practice material, as well as some incredible prep books. All in all, Barbri offers a solid all-around prep package and is definitely the conservative choice for those looking to play it safe.
Top Notch Prep Books
A highlight of their bar review course, Barbri offers some legendary prep books. When you sign up with Barbri, they will ship you a massive box of printed texts, with titles including the following (if you’re in a UBE state):
MBE Practice Questions
Multistate Performance Test Workbook
The Conviser Mini Review for MEE-MBE
Lecture Handouts for MBE-MEE
This is a ton of great hard copy resources and generally some of the best on the market for those students who like to study through text. The content-filled review books are incredibly thorough and well-written, covering everything you may need to know for test day. And the lecture handout booklets and practice books significantly aid in your studies.
Offering a robust curriculum delivered through an effective online self-study course, Themis is an all-around solid course. Boasting 100+ hours of on demand video lessons, roughly 3,000 or so MBE questions and a host of other study resources, Themis earns its spot among our best rated courses with consistency and quality. Themis’ video-based instruction is very well done. Delivered by big name professors in the legal world, the video lessons have great production value and deliver tons of excellent content in an easy to understand manner. That said, the Themis video lectures do remind us of Barbri’s videos in a few ways, most notably in the way that they are a little on the dry and unengaging side. Sometimes big names don’t always mean big results. But aside from that aspect, Themis offers one of the most well-rounded bar review courses on the market.
Great Teaching Methodology
The highlight of Themis’ bar review course is the emphasis they place on learning science. They have designed their bar prep program around scientific learning and pedagogy principles that have been developed over the last decade, particularly as they relate to online education. Incorporating these elements into their lesson plan, material retention is greatly improved. They most clearly manage this through their Prime – Present – Practice framework. Every learning module starts with some basic practice and content introduction. This primes your brain for the coming lesson, increasing bandwidth in your memory banks for new material. Next, they present the material in a variety of ways, while also reaching back to older material as a means of increasing recall and understanding. Finally, they cap off their framework with tons of practice. This really helps the content to sink in and effectively improves retention. Altogether, this make for a smartly crafted curriculum and lesson plan that really benefits students.
The bar exam is a professional licensing examination that tests the knowledge and competency of a lawyer before being licensed to practice law. The bar is administered and overseen by the bar association (professional association of lawyers) of a specific jurisdiction. In the United States, bar exams are administered by the bar associations of individual states and territories.
Bar Exam Test Structure
The bar exam format varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. While some states require additional or separate testing components, the bar exam in most states is most commonly made up of three parts: (1) The Multistate Bar Examination (MBE), (2) the Multistate Essay Examination (MEE), and (3) The Multistate Performance Test (MPT).
The MBE comprises 200 multiple choice questions, 100 of which are given in the morning, and the remaining 100 administered in the afternoon. You are given 3 hours to complete each 100-question section, for a total of 6 hours. The MBE does not test jurisdiction-specific law. It includes federal law covering seven subjects:
Contacts and Sales
Criminal Law and Procedure
The MEE is made up of six, 30-minute essay questions. Each essay is designed to test one’s ability to identify legal issues and their relevance in hypothetical situations, to present a clear reasoned analysis, and demonstrate an understanding of legal principles relevant to the solution of those hypothetical situations.
The MEE tests a wide range of topics, including:
Business Associations (Agency and Partnership; Corporations and Limited Liability Companies)
Conflict of Laws
Criminal Law and Procedure
Federal Civil Procedure
Trusts and Estates
Uniform Commercial Code
The MPT consists of two, 90-minute sections and is intended to test one’s ability to apply fundamental reasoning skills to a simulated work situation. The MPT is designed to assess six skills:
Legal analysis and reasoning
Organization and management of a legal task
Recognizing and resolving ethical dilemmas
How Often is the Bar Exam Administered?
In most jurisdictions, the bar exam is a two-day examination and is offered two times annually – once in February and once in July.
How to Study for the Bar Exam
Create and Maintain a Study Schedule – In order to reduce anxiety and ease the stress that comes with bar exam test prep, it is imperative that you design a study schedule. Determine how much time you have until the test date, and work backwards from there. Your schedule should include the time you intend to spend studying, the locations you will study (switch it up to break up the monotony sometimes), the specific subject you want to concentrate on, the assignments you want to complete (including practice tests), and self-care. Set goals and keep a calendar. Many bar review courses will help you in this study planning.
Take Practice Tests – Taking multiple practice exams is the best way to gain insight on how the test will be organized and how the information will be tested. Initially, you can take your time on practice tests. This will allow you to identify the manner in which questions are presented and give you time to focus on your strengths and weaknesses. As time goes on, do the practice tests under timed conditions so you can identify any timing issues you may encounter.
Learn From your Practice Exam Mistakes – Keep a log of your missed questions, together with explanations, and review the log often. This will help you identify your particular strengths and weaknesses, and can be helpful in noticing patterns of missed questions.
Practice Self-Care – Studying for the bar exam can be stressful, but it will be far more daunting if you don’t take care of yourself. Make sure to stay hydrated, eat healthy meals and take time for physical exercise daily. Don’t skimp on sleep. Practice mindfulness daily, and stay connected with friends and family.
Do I need a bar review course?
Almost every aspiring attorney will need to take a bar review course in order to pass the bar exam. The bar is difficult enough, do not make things tougher by going in unprepared.
How much does a typical bar review course cost?
There are a wide variety of bar review courses commercially available today, ranging in price from $200 up to $5,000+. While that is a large disparity, know that most students will spend $2,500 to $3,500 on a comprehensive bar prep course.
How long do I need to study for the bar exam?
Most bar review courses provide approximately 8 to 10 weeks of prep time before you are ready to sit for the bar. If you’re a first-time bar exam taker, this generally means you will need to study from shortly after law school graduation until your exam date in late July.