Passing the bar exam is an essential step for anyone interested in becoming an attorney. But according to The State Bar of California, it’s slightly more difficult to pass this exam in the Golden State than it is in many other parts of the country.
However, that doesn’t mean it has to be difficult for you. Plenty of California bar review courses offer great ways to study for the exam. The only thing you need to worry about is picking the right one.
I’ve gone ahead and taken a look at all of the major test prep providers for the California bar exam. Each of them has at least one major upside that other courses lack. Read on to see which of the best bar review courses for California will suit your needs!
1. BarMax Bar Prep Course
BarMax offers effective materials at a low price. Plus, their flexible course format and timing allows you to work through the material however you want.
BarMax Prep Course Details
BarMax makes it their mission to create a comprehensive and manageable bar course. This is done by streamlining test content and making it easy to understand. Lessons cut out unnecessary fluff that just serves to pad out courses. Instead, they provide you with multiple self-study materials such as books, flashcards or exams. Each of these can be accessed on your computer or smartphone, so you can take your learning on the go.
BarMax’s California bar course costs $2,495. Prices like that can be pretty steep, but it can be paid for monthly through the financing service Affirm. Plus, you gain lifetime access to the course materials— so you can easily revisit the course whenever you want. Additionally, you can set your own pace and take as long as you need to complete everything.
- 50+ Hours of Lectures
- 1,500+ Flashcards
- 180 Practice CA Essays
- 10 Free Essay Critiques
- 75+ Practice Tests
- Lifetime Access
Bar Max Pros and Cons
- Lectures: Most of what you learn from BarMax comes from a series of video lectures. Each of these conveys important bar exam topics in a simple and easy to understand manner. Plus, they’re short and self contained enough that you won’t burn out when working through the course.
- Financing: BarMax allows you to pay for your course over 3, 6, or 12 months. Plus, this all comes with 0% interest. As a result, you’re able to mitigate some of the cost of preparing for the bar exam with minimal financial risk.
- Essay Prep: Not many courses try to prepare you for the essay portion of the exam. However, BarMax understands how important it is and gives you plenty of chances to practice. All students have access to a wide range of essay prompts and 10 essay critiques.
Bottom Line: BarMax is the #1 course on this list for a reason. Stick with them and you’ll easily pass the California bar exam!
2. Quimbee Bar Exam Prep Course Review
Quimbee offers great self study resources through their online platform. Plus, all of your work is graded by practicing attorneys.
Quimbee Bar Exam Prep Course Details
Quimbee’s course consists mainly of video lectures and practice exams. Over the course of roughly 11 weeks you’ll work your way through each lesson and apply what you’ve learned. Each exam reinforces what you’ve learned and helps you track your progress. This data is also used to show you where you need to focus your studies in the future.
Anyone interested in this course has 2 options. The first one is the monthly Lite option that costs $49 a month and only includes the practice questions and videos. Alternatively, you can make a one time purchase of $999 and add in the attorney feedback and other bonus features.
Before enrolling in either package, you can also try out a free 1 week trial. I recommend trying this to see if Quimbee’s unique curriculum is a good fit for your study needs.
- 120 On-Demand Video Lessons
- 4,000+ Licensed Practice Questions
- Personalized Attorney Feedback
- Free, Unlimited Retakes
- PDF Coursebook and Outlines
- Free 7 Day Trial
Quimbee Pros and Cons
- Licensed Exam Questions: Quimbee doesn’t use “close fit” practice problems like other courses. Instead, they license questions from previous bar exams. Doing so ensures that you can get an accurate understanding of the format and content of the California bar exam.
- Real Attorney Graded: No questions are automatically graded with this course. Instead, real attorneys will look over your work and give you feedback on what you need to know. That way, you can learn about your future profession while working through the course!
- No Live Content: Unfortunately, Quimbee only offers self-study materials for the California bar exam. These are certainly effective enough to pass the test, but it can be a shame to miss out on the classroom experience.
Bottom Line: Quimbee is one of the best options for self-study materials. Their well designed attorney-led course will ensure that you get the score you need.
3. Crushendo Bar Prep Course
Crushendo focuses heavily on test based content when preparing you for the Bar exam. If you’re only interested in passing the bar and don’t want any unnecessary lessons, this is an excellent option.
Crushendo Bar Prep Course Details
Most of your time with Crushendo will be spent working on practice exams. Anyone enrolled in this course has access to 2,000+ multiple choice questions and 200+ essay questions. Completing these will help you build test taking strategies and ensure that you know how to apply your knowledge. You’ll also be able to study outlines on each test subject for extra review.
Currently, Crushendo offers 4 different course options for the Bar exam. Anyone taking the MBE can receive the full course for $540 or just review materials for $270. On the other hand, those who need help with the UBE can take that full course for $890 or buy some limited materials for $420. You also have the choice to just buy practice questions for $77 or $110.
- 250+ Proprietary Mnemonics
- 2,000+ MBE Questions
- 200+ MEE Questions
- 50+ Online MPT Questions
- Lifetime Course Access
- Audio and Written Content Outlines
Crushendo Pros and Cons
- Essay Questions: This course includes over 200 official essay questions. When compared to some of the other courses listed here, this places much more emphasis on a deceptively challenging part of the exam.
- Audio Content: Crushendo’s course comes with plenty of audio study content. This includes outlines, flashcards, and lectures that you can listen to on your phone while commuting or running errands.
- No Live Content: This course is entirely based on self study learning. And while this means you can set your pace while studying, that means it’s unfortunately impossible for them to include any live lessons in their curriculum.
Bottom Line: Crushendo is an excellent course for anyone hoping to hone their test taking abilities. They provide the most practice materials and have the best testing focus.
4. Kaplan Bar Review Exam Prep
Kaplan is great for anyone who wants the freedom to choose their study approach. Plus, their instructors are some of the best in the business.
Kaplan Bar Review Course Details
Kaplan prepares their students for the California bar exam either through self study materials or live classrooms. Feel free to choose whichever option best fits your learning style; both courses have identical lecture content and practice exams. However, live classes give students the opportunity to ask questions and interact with the teacher during lessons. On the other hand, self-study students have much more freedom when setting up their schedule— so it comes with its own benefits worth considering.
Kaplan currently offers 2 different programs for the California bar exam. To start, students can enroll in the complete bar review for $2199. Doing so grants them access to all live and self study content. However, those interested in a little more help can pay $3999 for the convenience package. This adds in bonus self study materials and a post-exam CE course.
- 4,000 Practice Questions
- Weekly Live Online Homeroom
- 4 Practice Exams
- Bar Review Course Textbooks
- “Ask an Expert” Q&A
- Personalized Study Plan
Kaplan Bar Pros and Cons
- Lawyer Instructors: Every teacher working with Kaplan is a practicing lawyer. Thanks to that, they’re able to use their professional experience when designing lessons. That way you can avoid making some costly or time-consuming mistakes at the beginning of your career.
- Live or On-Demand: Students have the choice between live classes or on-demand self study courses. As a result, no student has to worry about their learning style being incompatible with this program; everyone is welcome to learn with the techniques that work best for them.
- Rigid Live Schedule: Unfortunately, the live schedule forces Kaplan to abandon a self paced course schedule. Instead, they need to keep everything on a rigid schedule so you don’t miss out on any classes. This can be tough for people with other responsibilities— you may prefer BarMax if this applies to you.
Bottom Line: Kaplan is one of the most effective bar courses in the business. Their blend of live and self study materials ensures that you receive the education you need.
5. Smart Bar Prep Course California
Smart Bar Prep Course Details
Smart Bar Prep wants your learning to be as efficient as possible. That’s why they’ve put so much time and money into analyzing the exam. Every part of the course shows you how what you’ve learned applies to the exam. This information is also used to build the course around key content areas while cutting out unnecessary lessons.
Students have 3 options when using Smart Bar Prep’s prep course:
- First up is the $124 Standard package. It includes the smart sheets, frequency sheets, and priority outline for the exam.
- Next up is the Deluxe package for $175. This adds extra MBE content to the course.
- Last up is the $195 Ultimate package. Paying for this tier grants you access to everything the lower tiers have and extra self study materials such as flashcards.
Smart Bar Prep Features
- Priority Outlines
- Smart Attack Sheets
- Frequency Charts
- Smart Flashcards
- Practice Problems
SmartBarPrep Pros and Cons
- Smart Attack Sheets: Smart Bar Prep breaks down each subject into concise, color coded study sheets. These allow you to learn the essentials of each law without being bogged down by extra cruft. Plus, these serve as excellent final review sheets near the end of the course.
- Frequency Charts: Each section of the course comes with a set of frequency charts. These show you how often each content area tends to show up on the exam. Thanks to that, these can be used to guide your study to focus on the most important areas.
- No Live Content: Smart Bar Prep is exclusively a self study course. Anyone interested in live learning or tutoring will need to try out a different course. Luckily, this does drive down Smart Bar Prep’s prices quite a bit compared to other providers.
Bottom Line: Smart Bar Prep is an excellent option for anyone trying to save time and money when studying. They’ll ensure you know all of the essential bar topics.
6. Themis Bar Review California Exam Prep
Themis’ program shows proven results. This can be seen in their pass rates, where 82% of California Themis students pass the bar exam on their first try.
Themis Bar Review Course Details
Themis wants you to have an intimate understanding of the bar exam. That’s why every part of their exam focuses on a key content area. For instance, HD video lectures teach you essential bar knowledge while essay workshops prepare you for the written portion. Additionally, you’ll be asked to participate in a performance test workshop, which can help you develop test taking strategies.
Anyone interested in Themis’ California bar prep course will need to pay $1,695 for enrollment. Thankfully you’ll receive all the materials on offer since there’s only 1 payment tier. Thanks to that, you’ll easily be able to complete the course and achieve the exam score that you desire.
- On-Demand Video Lectures
- Directed Study Program
- MBE Question Bank
- Dedicated Essay Grader
- Flexible Online Learning Platform
Themis Bar Pros and Cons
- Video Lectures: Video lectures are a major part of Themis’ online program. Each one is taught by an experienced professor who’s able to easily convey the information you need. Plus, the teachers make a genuine effort to make their course fun and engaging, so you’ll easily remember what you’ve learned.
- Directed Study: Themis’ directed study program automatically adapts your course schedule to suit your needs. Thanks to that, you can easily plan around unexpected busy days. Plus, you can shift your schedule whenever you want; this allows you to take advantage of weeks that give you extra free time.
- Limited Course Options: Right now, Themis Bar Review only offers one course option for the California bar exam. It provides more than enough material to pass, but it can be disappointing not to build your own course. Still, this is a good course if you’ve got the money for it.
Bottom Line: Themis’ proven track record and great materials make them an excellent choice for bar exam prep. Make sure to give their course a try.
7. BARBRI Bar Review Course
With over 50 years helping law students pass the bar in 50 states, Barbri is an excellent resource with time-tested results.
Barbri Bar Prep Course Details
All of your progress through BARBRI’s course is recorded in your PSP Progress Center. This hub connects you to every aspect of the course and shows you how well you’re doing. As a result, you’re able to focus your efforts into areas where you need extra help. Doing so makes the practice exams, video lectures, and coaching sessions more effective overall. Plus, it’s a great way to see how close you are to passing the bar exam.
Prices are pretty steep for BARBRI’s courses Customers have a choice between the Extended Pass or Blended Extended Pass. These cost $5,999 and $6,299 respectively. People who pay the extra money gain access to blended classroom workshops. Other than that, everything is included in the Extended Pass.
- 1-on-1 Coaching Sessions
- 2,500+ Multiple Choice Questions
- Simulated Exams
- Hard Copy Books Set
- Immersion Workshop
- Virtual Course Webinars
Barbri Pros and Cons
- 1-on-1 Coaching Sessions: BARBRI offers something no one else on this list does: personal tutoring. This 1-on-1 study time is an extremely effective way to prepare for the exam. Your teacher is able to easily shift their focus into areas you need the most help in without having to change a whole course schedule.
- Print Materials: Many materials included with this course come with printed versions. This allows you to take your learning offline and on the go. I personally recommend taking a textbook to work and reading a few pages whenever you have a break. That way you can keep your knowledge fresh without burning out.
- Price: Unfortunately, high quality comes with an equally high price. Anyone interested in this course needs to pay a minimum of $5,999. That makes BARBRI the most expensive course on this list by far. Consider a different course like Quimbee if that’s out of your price range.
Bottom Line: BARBRI is an excellent bar course if you can afford it. However, the extremely high price tag makes it difficult to recommend over something like BarMax or Quimbee.
California Bar Review FAQs
Q: Is the California bar exam the hardest?
A: California’s bar exam is considered one of the hardest in the country. In fact, there was only a 37.2% pass rate for the February 2021 exam.
Q: How many times can you take the bar exam in California?
A: There’s no limit to the amount of times you can attempt the exam. However, the test is only administered twice a year.
Valerie Keene is an experienced lawyer and legal writer. Valerie’s litigation successes have included wins for cases involving contract disputes, real property disputes, and consumer issues. She has also assisted countless families with estate planning, guardianship issues, divorce and other family law matters. She provides clients with solid legal advice and representation.