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Best Bar Prep Courses (2023 Reviews)
Our in-depth guide to the best bar review courses
No matter what state you’re in, the bar exam is one of the most challenging exams in the country, and is not a test you can take lightly. So to give yourself the best shot at passing on the first try, you will almost definitely need a bar review course. But with so many options, how do know which one is best for you? Our team of experts has thoroughly reviewed just about every bar review course on the market and ranked the best ones here.
To easily navigate through our guide of the best bar prep courses, simply click the jump-to links above.
Video Review: Which Bar Exam Course Is Best?
In the video above, John from the Test Prep Insight team (who successfully passed the California bar exam on his first attempt) walks you through our picks for this best bar review courses list. Alternatively, you can always continue reading for more details regarding each course.
Once we finally got a chance to review the BarMax course, we quickly realized they wouldn’t just be a must-add to our best bar review courses list, but would also be right up near the top.
With an eye on the future of test prep, BarMax recognizes that modern students prefer to consume content digitally, and the old school live classes of yesteryear are going to quickly become a thing of the past.
As such, they smartly designed their prep program to give students access to their study materials from anywhere, at any time, on any device.
In addition to this digital-first approach, our team absolutely loved the structure and depth of the BarMax curriculum. Their course content is smartly organized into logical, topic-based groupings, and their lessons are some of the best we have seen.
Their lessons feature a combination of concise black letter law outlines keyed to audio lectures from Harvard Law School professors. This is really the best of both worlds. The outlines are the perfect vehicle for distilling all of the black letter law you need to memorize down to just the need to know material.
In addition, the professors from Harvard that lead the audio-synced lectures do an incredible job expanding on the notes in the outlines, while still making the lectures highly digestible. In short, the content of these lessons is succinct, thoughtfully explained, and spoon feeds you just what you need to know to pass the bar.
While BarMax doesn’t provide as much practice material as some competitors in terms of straight quantity, we were very high on the BarMax practice problems and accompanying explanations.
BarMax licenses their 1,400+ MBE questions directly from the NCBE (the makers of the exam), so you are getting real test questions which were used on past exams. There is obviously no better form of practice work than previously used questions, so were really happy to see this.
In addition, the text explanations that accompany all of BarMax’s practice problems are rock solid. We found them to be insightful, well-drafted and just the right length in terms of detail. Overall, we were very impressed with BarMax’s practice material.
The BarMax Mobile App
One of their biggest selling points, 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 the most agile and modern bar review course. 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 one of the most effective means.
Landing in the second spot on our list of best bar review courses is Studicata. And I know some of you out there might be wondering “how can Studicata outrank Barbri and Themis?”. Well, the answer is simple: for many of the same reasons BarMax does.
We absolutely love Studicata’s new age approach to bar prep, with a streamlined course structure, killer outlines, digestible videos, and digital-only content. Studicata (and BarMax for that matter) are the antithesis of dinosaurs like Barbri.
Don’t get me wrong. Barbri still has its place in the legal education world (it is, after all, crazy comprehensive). But its ways are just dated.
Studicata delivers with essential-only content, a smart course framework, engaging visual content, and a value-driven price point (it is literally $1,000 less than Barbri).
The highlight of the Studicata course in my opinion is their series of video lessons. Course founder Michael leads every one of their more than 180 video lectures, and he is great. He is a bar exam guru and has a great delivery.
It’s actually somewhat funny comparing his videos with those of major law professors who are paid to deliver other bar prep companies’ video lectures. While the other guys read off scripts written for them from behind a lectern, Michael rips off hour-long videos without even looking at notes or pausing.
The stark contrast is almost comical to me. He knows this stuff like the back of his hand and can speak fluidly for 60+ minutes without even breaking stride. It’s just crazy good video content. It’s engaging, on point, and very digestible.
Now, the production value of these videos isn’t amazing – it’s just him standing in front of a whiteboard – but the content is there. The rest is just kind of window dressing.
In any event, if you’re looking for a BarMax-like course, but with video lessons instead of audio because you’re a visual learner, Studicata is it.
Awesome Attack Outlines & QuickSheets
Like BarMax, Studicata offers some fantastic outlines. They do a very nice job of cutting out the fluff and just distilling down what you need to learn.
However, I actually think the true value lies in the Studicata QuickSheets. These are highly condensed outlines intended to be used in the final days before the exam. They are the distilled of the distilled – maybe 4 pages per subject.
Take it from me, you’ll need these in the final stretch before test day, and Studicata’s are great. Plus, what I like about them is that they’re aligned with everything else in the course. The video lectures, attack outlines, flashcards, and QuickSheets all use the exact same material, which I think is very important.
Why Quimbee Is Our Pick For Best Value In Bar Review
The makers of your trusted law school case briefs and outlines, Quimbee now in the bar review game with their comprehensive bar review course. At just under $1,000 for their base course, 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 approach 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 250 or so of these engaging lessons (for the base package — the premium course has 350). 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 $3,000+ on a bar prep course, some students look for a more affordable, but comprehensive option. That’s where Quimbee comes in.
At just $999 for the base course, 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 quality bar exam questions. It’s a fantastic, streamlined package.
Now, to be clear, the Quimbee base package doesn’t include essay grading or the past official problems from the NCBE, just 2,500 or so of their in-house crafted problems in the MBE style. If you want the full Quimbee Bar Review+ course with all features, including those official problems, that’s closer to $1,800 (which is still a good value all things considered), but a definite step up.
So something you may want to think about doing if you want the official problems, but don’t necessarily feel like you need the essay grading, is combining the Quimbee base package with an MBE practice tool like Bar Prep Hero.
That way, you get the Quimbee video lessons, study schedule, and black letter law outlines, plus you’ll still get all the official past problems from the NCBE in a Qbank with solid answer solutions from Bar Prep Hero.
More on them below, but that’s what they’re known for, and they are really good. Together with the Quimbee base package, it would cost less than $1,500 total ($1,300 with discounts), which is half the cost of Barbri. Something to think about.
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, even if somewhat heavy handed.
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 Bar 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 one of the most comprehensive and detailed bar review curriculums available, Kaplan simply couldn’t be left off our best list. In fact, of the big three (Barbri, Themis and Kaplan), Kaplan might be the best.
For one, Kaplan has 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 practiceand 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.
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 1,600+ 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.
Standing behind their philosophy of working smarter and not harder, Smart Bar Prep earns a spot on our best list by bringing an arsenal of research-based outlines and guides to the bar prep playing field. We discuss the quality of these outlines in more detail below, but just know that they are about the best attack outlines in bar review.
They are clear and concise, and lend credence to Smart Bar Prep’s belief that you’ll be best served by spending more time studying black letter law and rules that are most frequently tested, and less time on topics that historically haven’t been seen as often.
Relative to others, Smart Bar Prep is a remarkably affordable bar prep option. Their most inclusive option tops out at about $400, and includes over 600 real MBE questions from past bar exams. You’ll also get point sheets used in the scoring of exams so you can self-assess as you go.
With such a reasonable price point, it is probably no surprise that you will not get the same comprehensive curriculum with Smart Bar Prep that you will get with others on our list.
Offering no online videos, live instruction, or printed materials (all outlines and guides are in PDF format and can be downloaded and printed), their sole focus is on condensing material into more manageable outlines and providing exam-like practice with their practice questions and guides.
If you are a student looking for a self-study option, with no desire for classroom or video instruction, Smart Bar Prep might be your best bet. Our team believes that it can easily be your one-stop resource for your bar prep, especially if you are a self-driven learner.
For others, we see great value in adding the resources provided by Smart Bar Prep as a companion for another bar prep course. In either case, Smart Bar Prep does not miss the mark when it comes to providing an affordable, no-frills bar prep option with solid resources.
Best Attack Outlines in Bar Prep
These aren’t just any outlines. They include every black letter law rule and essay topic that has been tested since 1995, as well as frequency charts to indicate how often the rules have appeared on past exams.
These thoughtfully designed outlines do a great job of condensing all of the topics into manageable bits of information, but don’t skimp on important details. Smart Bar Prep’s outlines really shine with their color-coding, making it super easy to identify if a rule should be viewed as high, medium, or low priority.
As you will find out, in the final days leading up to the bar exam, you will want to review nothing but high-yield outlines that provide concise statements of the various rules you need to memorize, and these outlines are the ticket.
If the main focus of your bar prep is the MBE, you have to give AdaptiBar a good look. For our team, the core of AdaptiBar’s offerings boil down to four main highlights: high-quality, realistic practice work; top notch problem explanations; adaptive tech for more efficient studying; and a cool a la carte pricing structure.
It all starts with their close to 1,500 MBE practice questions, 1,400+ of which are official licensed NCBE questions from past exams. These practice problems offer an ideal opportunity to practice under exam-like conditions.
And just as important as the questions themselves, you also get access to a detailed text explanation with each problem. More on these below.
In addition, wrapped around all of the practice work is AdaptiBar’s proprietary, adaptive algorithm that constantly reallocates questions in your queue based your weaknesses and current performance.
This is an immensely helpful background tool that offers great value. And finally, it is worth noting that AdaptiBar offers a very helpful a la carte pricing structure, where you can pick and choose the features of your prep course.
Amongst these add-ons is a series of incredibly engaging video lectures with Professor Jonathan Grossman. These videos focus on concise breakdowns of the necessary black letter law, and do an excellent job cutting out the fluff.
Cool, Adaptive Tech
Without a doubt, one of the biggest highlights of the AdaptiBar prep program is their adaptive tech. Their patented, adaptive algorithm assesses your performance on your initial diagnostic and your ongoing practice questions to consistently reallocate question types in your queue.
The program subtly increases the proportion of question types where you are weak, ensuring you get practice where it is needed most.
And the program does this while balancing your weaknesses against actual question weightings from past bar exams to make sure you’re not getting practice in one area that is out of whack with past MBE administrations.
Bottom line, if you’re crunched for time or want to get to the finish line as quick as possible, AdaptiBar offers some excellent tools.
Fantastic Practice Problem Explanations
For every single one of the nearly 1,500 MBE questions you’ll see with AdaptiBar, you also get a detailed text explanation. These explanations thoroughly cover the black letter law being tested under each question, and why each answer choice is correct or incorrect.
You’ll get at least a sentence or two on why each answer choice is right or wrong, which is more than you get with some of the most expensive courses, and is pretty impressive given the total number of practice questions.
AdaptiBar goes to great lengths to explain the underlying black letter law, rationale behind the application of law to facts, and even tangential subjects that incorrect answer choices touch on. Our team loved the quality and delivery of the practice material and accompanying solutions.
Here is some general information about the bar exam, to help you in your quest to pass on the first attempt.
About the Bar Exam
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. Building a study schedule is going to be mission critical to passing the bar exam. There is simply too much hard content to learn (or really, re-learn) before exam day. So 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 you 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 $1,500 to $3,000 on a comprehensive bar prep course.
How long do you 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.