Do you know what’s harder than a diamond but just as valuable?
Passing the California Bar Exam.
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.
Our Verdict: Best California Bar Review Course
BarMax is our top choice for California Bar Exam prep due to its effective materials, affordability, and flexible course format. With streamlined content, in-depth outlines, audio lectures, and multiple self-study materials, BarMax offers a comprehensive learning experience. The option for monthly financing and lifetime access to course materials further add to its value.
However, that doesn’t mean it has to be difficult for you.
The key to passing the bar exam the first time is securing access to the best California bar review courses. The only thing you need to worry about is picking the right one.
Thankfully, this is a little easier because 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 these best California bar review courses will suit your needs!
1. BarMax Bar Prep Course
Soon law school will be a distant memory, and you’ll be a practicing attorney. But first, you need to pass the CA bar exam. Our top pick for helping make this happen is BarMax.
BarMax offers effective materials at an affordable price. Plus, their flexible course format and timing allow you to work through the material however you want.
BarMax Prep Course Details
BarMax makes it their mission to create a comprehensive bar course. that helps you pass the bar exam the first time.
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. Each subtopic included in this California bar review course comes with an in-depth outline and an audio lecture from a Harvard-educated law professor.
This bar review course also comes 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 $1,895. Prices like that might seem steep, but it can be paid for monthly through the financing service Affirm. Plus, you gain instant, 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, another thing that makes it one of the best bar review course offerings.
- 50+ Hours of Lectures
- 1,500+ Flashcards
- 180 Practice CA Essays
- 10 Free Essay Critiques
- 75+ Practice Tests
- Digital Welcome Packet
- Lifetime Access
“When you pay for BarMax, you OWN IT. Meaning you can use it again if you wish to take another jurisdiction or in the event you didn’t pass. You don’t have to keep paying again and again like other review courses.” – BarMax Client
Bar Max Pros and Cons
- Essays: BarMax understands how important it is and gives you plenty of chances to practice essays. All students have access to a wide range of prompts for California essays and 10 essay critiques. Unlimited essay grading for bar essays and essay feedback for essay questions is a part of this bar review course. So, if you need help with essay questions, BarMax may be the best California bar review course for you.
- Lectures: EveryMost 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.
Bottom Line: Bottom Line: BarMax is the #1 course on this list for a reason. For most candidates, it highlights the path to success in the CA bar exam – an affordable, flexible, and comprehensive course designed to help you pass with confidence.
2. Quimbee Bar Exam Prep Course Review
Quimbee offers great self-study resources through its online platform. Plus, all of your work is graded by practicing attorneys.
Quimbee Bar Exam Prep Course Details
Quimbee offers two different review options for Bar Review. Bar Review and Bar Review+
Quimbee’s offerings consist mainly of video lectures and practice exams. Over the course of roughly 10 weeks, you’ll work your way through each lesson and apply what you’ve learned. Need more time? Quimbee California bar exam prep is also offered part-time over 6 months.
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.
Before enrolling in their full-time course (10 weeks) or part-time course (6 months), 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.
- 2,500 simulated MBE questions
- 300+ bar-specific video lessons
- Coursebook and subject-matter outlines (print package sold separately)
- 0% Financing
- Free, unlimited retakes until you pass
- iOS and Android app access
- 325+ official MEE questions licensed from NCBE
- 85+ official MPT questions licensed from NCBE
- Official MPRE questions licensed from NCBE
Quimbee gets right to the meat and potatoes of the concepts it teaches and gives you excellent bang for your study hour. Bar review isn’t about learning everything; it’s about passing. And Quimbee helps you do that with less time. – Quimbee User
If you opt for Quimbee’s Bar+ program, you’ll also have access to:
- A print book package
- 1,450 real MBE questions from past exams featured throughout 4 diagnostics, a simulated MBE, and course materials
- 100% money-back guarantee
- 5 expert-graded essays for the California bar exam
- 1 expert-graded performance test
One other cool thing about Quimbee is that they offer a $250 credit to those who have signed up with another state bar exam review course but want to make the switch. Quimbee knows that the bar is one California performance test that requires the right materials to pass, and just picking any old bar review course isn’t enough.
Pricing for Quimbee starts at $999 and increases to $1,999 for Bar+
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 offers two options for bar exam review, providing concise video lectures and practice exams to help you focus your studies effectively. While their unique curriculum and flexible study durations make them appealing, the pricing at $1,999 may be a significant investment compared to other bar review options available.
3. Crushendo Bar Prep Course
Crushendo has four different California bar exam program offerings for those looking to pass the California bar. Crushendo focuses heavily on targeted test-based content when preparing you for the Bar exam after law school.
If you’re only interested in passing the bar and don’t want any unnecessary lessons that aren’t related to this performance test, 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. This can be a bit confusing, but it does highlight the fact that Crushendo is a California bar review course provider that offers more than just sample answers and a study schedule.
If you go with Crushendo for California bar review, you can choose:
- MBE Suite with Official NCBE MBE Practice Questions & MBE Outlines
- MBE Practice with Official NCBE MBE Practice Questions
- MBE Outlines
- Baby Bar
These programs range in price from $135-$590, with the middle two California bar review course offerings falling in the low to mid 300s.
Crushendo is also mobile-friendly, with downloads available, and comes with instant and lifetime access (including all future updates). Their 0% financing is available paired with their 30-day, 100% money-back guarantee, making them one of the best bar prep class picks for both the multistate bar exam and the California bar exam.
- Audio and Written Content Outlines
- 1,350+ official MBE (multiple-choice) online practice questions
- 60 bonus MBE-Style Civil Procedure online practice questions
- 4 self-assessments/full practice MBEs with subject performance analysis
- All MBE written and audio outlines, mnemonics & additional memory hooks, visual & audio flashcards, and MBE attack 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- California essays.
- 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 offers a range of California bar exam programs, focusing on targeted test-based content to help you pass the bar. While it provides ample essay questions and convenient audio content, the lack of live lessons may be a drawback for those seeking interactive instruction.
4. Kaplan Bar Review Exam Prep
Kaplan is one of the best California bar review courses 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, you can enroll in the complete bar review for $2199. Doing so grants you access to all live and self-study content. So in many ways, this is a two-for-one program.
If you’re interested in little more help, you can buy tutoring hours. California bar exam tutoring packages range from $999 to $3,799.
- 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 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 offers flexibility in study approaches and experienced lawyer instructors, making it a great choice for bar exam preparation. However, the rigid live schedule may not be suitable for individuals with other commitments, in which case an alternative like BarMax may be preferred.
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 5 options when using Smart Bar Prep’s prep courses! This might seem a little overwhelming, so we’ve broken down their California bar exam below:
- First up is the $124 Standard package. It includes the CA Essay Priority Outline, CA Essay Frequency Chart, CA PT Frequency Chart, MBE Frequency Chart, and Smart Guide to the MBE questions.
- Next up is the Deluxe package for $175. You get everything listed above, plus MBE Smart Sheets, MBE Smart Flashcards, and MBE Printable Flashcards.
- The $195 Ultimate package grants you access to everything the lower tiers have and CA Smart Flashcards/Printable Flashcards.
- Want CA Practice Essays & Answers (250+ essays) and CA PT Practice Materials (100+ PTs)? The Ultimate Plus package is the California bar exam for you. This will run you $275.
- For $449, you get everything above plus 800+ MBE Questions on California bar review course topics like civil procedure, criminal law, constitutional law, and community property. You’ll want to select the Pro personal bar prep course.
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 offers efficient and focused study materials, including Smart Attack Sheets and Frequency Charts, making it a cost-effective choice for bar exam preparation. However, the lack of live content or tutoring options may be a drawback for those seeking interactive instruction.
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 + a $30 book fee. 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 a 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: TThemis Bar Review has a strong track record with an impressive 82% pass rate for first-time California bar exam takers. However, the program’s limited course options may be a drawback for individuals seeking more customization in their bar exam preparation.
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
Things have changed with Barbri over the years. Prices for BARBRI’s courses used to be pretty steep! In the past, customers only had a choice between the Extended Pass or Blended Extended Pass were 6k+ and just not affordable for most people.
However, Barbri is helping law school grads out by offering personal bar prep that is exceptional yet affordable. So much so that they hail themselves as the course that more students study with over every other bar exam administration course provider combined.
Their courses now start at $1,999 and come with a hub that 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 on 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.
- 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 $1,999. 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 now offers more affordable options starting at $1,999 and provides a comprehensive course with personalized study features. While they have a strong reputation and offer valuable features like 1-on-1 coaching and extensive practice materials, the prices for additional features make 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. For 2022, the number was even lower, with only 33.9% passing.
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.