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BarMax vs Barbri
Our comprehensive comparison of the bar review courses from BarMax and Barbri
Given the high-stakes nature of the bar exam, you’re going to need a review course. There’s just no self-prepping for an exam that is the culmination of three years of law school and covers hundreds of topics. So as you do your research to pick the prep course which will guide your studies for the next 8 to 10 weeks, there is a decent chance you might up trying to decide between longtime favorite Barbri and upcomer BarMax. Both courses have their own strengths and weaknesses, and it can be a really tough decision. In this comparison, we analyze the bar review courses from both companies so you can choose which one best fits your particular study style and needs.
Advantage: BarMax. Pricing has become more important than ever to law students getting ready for the bar exam, and unless your firm is going to be paying for your prep, be prepared to spend a couple thousand dollars on a course (no small amount, especially when lumped in with student debt). So with it understood that value is a critical component when comparing prep options, BarMax wins the pricing battle with Barbri by a good margin. With their standard UBE and California courses coming in at a shade under $1,900, BarMax provides the better value (by more than $1,000) when compared directly to Barbri’s comparable Guided Pass course, which carries a price tag of close to $3,000.
Pricing and course options current as of publication.
Advantage: BarMax. This pick may come as a surprise, but BarMax has sailed up our rankings in the past couple years. Every year, their bar study materials get incrementally better, and our team agrees that they have finally matched, and perhaps even eclipsed, Barbri (though this internal decision wasn’t unanimous). And what this really comes down to is how these two companies approach their prep.
Whereas Barbri attacks studying for the bar with mountains of material, including long video lectures, thick textbooks and thousands of practice problems, BarMax takes a different tact. With concise black letter law outlines, audio-synced lectures from Harvard Law professors, much of the same practice material, and a killer digital platform, the majority of our team just prefers BarMax today. With more states year after year moving to the UBE, or shortening their bar exams in any case (California), you just don’t need the stacks of prep material like you used to. A digital and more streamlined approach to studying seems to be the way of the future.
Advantage: Barbri. In terms of straight video instruction, Barbri takes the cake here. And that’s probably because BarMax doesn’t actually provide video lessons. BarMax employs outline-synced audio lectures, rather than using a more typical video lesson. While we love the content of these audio lectures, which feature lectures from Harvard Law professors and closely track the outlines, they just aren’t our team’s favorite and won’t really move the needle for visual leaners. On the flipside, Barbri keeps with the traditional approach of having an instructor appear onscreen and give a more law school-type lecture (without the cold calling).
We like this for the nonverbal communication cues you can garner and the benefit it provides to visual leaners, but otherwise there’s nothing too special about the Barbri video lessons. Yes, they are led by some of the biggest names in legal academia like Erwin Chemerinsky, but they’re also pretty boring. We just feel like these videos haven’t evolved since the 1990’s, even as other companies whiz by them in terms of video style and production value. Bottom line, Barbri wins, but only because they have traditional video as opposed to audio-only lectures.
Advantage: Tie. When considering practice questions as a whole, including quantity provided, quality and their accompanying explanations, this category is a tie. Both courses rely heavily on NCBE-licensed practice questions, essays and performance tests from past bar exams. That said, Barbri takes things a little further by also providing a bevy of their own in-house generated questions and essays. We like the additional variety of questions this provides, and found these company-generated practice problems to be highly realistic of the real bar exam.
This would normally push this category in favor of Barbri but for BarMax’s excellent problem explanations. Reviewing text explanations that accompany problems is where the real learning takes place, and on the whole, our team prefers BarMax’s problem explanations. They are thorough, well written and provide some great insights that can be turned into actionable takeaways.
Prep Books & Outlines
Advantage: Barbri. Barbri provides some of the best bar prep books in the game, pure and simple. These texts have been vetted and incrementally improved upon for close to 50 years, so you can trust that they are about the most authoritative written source of bar prep material around. They are detailed and extremely comprehensive; in fact, almost too much so. Just look at the giant stack of books you get when you sign up with Barbri.
That is a massive collection of prep books, and we honestly find it hard to believe that any student would actually read every word contained in these books. So to that end, these books are awesome and will serve text-based leaners well, but may be overkill.
BarMax on the other hand does not provide full-length textbook style books to read. Rather with BarMax, you get their black letter law outlines in hardcopy and digital format, but that’s more or less it. For some students who don’t enjoy learning via text (which probably made law school a rough three years), you may actually prefer this more streamlined approach. Compared to thick texts stuffed both boatloads of detailed info, you just get the most pertinent bar material boiled down into easily readable outlines. But in the end, Barbri’s prep books are king. There’s no denying that.
Advantage: BarMax (by a mile). This one isn’t even close. You likely don’t even need our objective analysis to tell you which company offers the better mobile app. As of publication, Barbri’s app in the Apple app store has a 1-star rating with 200+ reviews, while BarMax gets 5 stars with 2,200+ reviews. Just let that sink in. And honestly, we can’t disagree here. After using both apps, BarMax offers the far superior product. In fact, their entire course seems to be built around it. Their desktop online platform is identical to the mobile app, which makes studying across devices seamless. You get access to all your materials, which we love, and the user interface is awesome. 5 stars indeed.
Advantage: Barbri. Both bar review companies offer their fair share of bonus resources to accompany their core study materials, but Barbri gets the edge here. With immersion workshops, attorney support and unlimited graded essays, it is just hard to compete with their resources. But BarMax has some notable resources of their own, including our favorite, their office hours.
Although BarMax advertises that their instructor office hours are “weekly,” we actually found them to occur closer to daily. In these sessions, BarMax’s instructors take a deep dive into a particular bar topic and answer any questions students may have.
Advantage: BarMax. This category is an easy slam dunk for BarMax. BarMax offers lifetime access to their materials, ensuring you’ll always have their course in case you fail. Conversely, Barbri offers limited time access only. Though I would note you do get one free retake with Barbri.
Money Back Guarantee
Advantage: BarMax. Again, another open and shut case where BarMax wins. BarMax does have a money back pass guarantee, though check the fine print for details to make sure meet the requirements, including baseline course completion thresholds. Barbri doesn’t offer such a money back promise, and in fact, is about the only course on our list of best bar review courses that doesn’t offer such a guarantee.
Verdict: BarMax vs Barbri
Choosing between these two courses is a very tough call. On the one side, you have tried and tested Barbri, with decades of experience, some of the best prep books around, and a great overall curriculum. And on the other side, you have upcomer BarMax, which offers a much more modern and relevant approach to bar study that builds on concise black letter law outlines, realistic practice material with great explanations, and the best digital study platform in the game. For conservative students that like the old school approach to studying of traditional video lectures, mass amounts of assigned reading, and tons of practice work, Barbri may be a solid choice. But for the rest of you out here, including most of our team members, BarMax gets the edge. Their lower price point and more modern, streamlined approach to prep wins out.
Which bar review course costs more, BarMax or Barbri?
Looking at the standard package for each course to compare apples to apples, Barbri is a few hundred dollars more expensive than BarMax. If you’re looking for pure value, BarMax is your better bet.
What’s the main difference between Barbri and BarMax?
The clear difference between Barbri and BarMax is their approach to prep. Barbri takes a traditional approach with thick textbooks, old school video lectures and heaps of practice. BarMax, on the other hand, focuses on outline-synced audio lectures from Harvard Law professors and a sleek digital platform for their learning experience.
Which bar review is better, BarMax or Barbri?
Which bar review course is better will depend on the individual student’s needs and preferred style of studying. Both courses have their own strengths and weaknesses, and which one is best is a subjective determination. Read our full analysis for more detailed info.