Description and Grading Of The CA Bar Exam Beginning July, 2017

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."

Law School Exam Writing Guide

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.