How to Select a Bar Exam Prep Course

By Linda Chan

Many bar exam review courses and tutoring services have cropped up in the past five years.  With technological developments, and a low fees to get into the business, almost anyone thinks they can start a bar prep business. Search or, and you could find up to five ads from first time passers looking to tutor for $50 to $125 per hour, former bar graders offering practice exam critiques, or alternative bar prep resources advertising services tailored for certain parts of the exam. 

With everyone claiming to have a secret to passing the bar exam, how does a candidate decide on a bar review course?  Since most people want to take the exam only once, consider the following before investing $1,000 - $10,000 on bar prep services:

Comprehensive outlines:  If the materials are not accurate, you could end up studying the wrong rules.  Beware of outlines, flashcards, checklists, and other study materials with few references for the substantive law.  With NO case citations, statutes, or other legal sources, how can you investigate discrepancies between what you learned in law school, and what the prep course says?  If the book on Business Associations states “a director must act as a prudent person and run the business as if it were his own” when it should be “a director must perform in good faith and act in a manner the director believes is in the best interest of the corporation, exercising that degree of care an ordinary person exercises under similar circumstances,” it is a red flag the bar review course’s materials contain legal mistakes.  The bar prep provider may claim simplicity and efficiency, but if you do not know where the law comes from, how can you find out if it is right? 

Legitimate referrals:  Beware of Yelp!, self-serving press releases, testimonials, and review sites.  A bar prep course that issues press releases on its own through low cost wire services (i.e. EIN Presswire), or has sparkling five stars from many positive reviewers in a short period of time could mean an advertising agenda to improve search engine optimization, sham reviewers, or paid referrals.  Get the names of former students and interview them.

Personal adviser:  What are the tutor’s qualifications?  Does the adviser address individual needs?  If the adviser has a supplemental job such as a law firm business, are you just extra money?

Technology:  Must you travel to a classroom just to watch videos, or can you get lectures on specific issues on mobile devices and study anytime, anywhere?

Feedback Do you get unlimited essay reviews?  Who does the critiques – former bar graders or attorneys trained with canned comments?

Price:  Is there a money-back pass guarantee?  Does the tutor demand huge amounts of cash upfront or charge onerous interest rates (e.g. 10%) for payment plans?  Do you have to pay a deposit to use the bathroom key?

Success Rate:  How many former students passed the exam with the tutor?  How many other students signed up for the program?  If a tutor spends too much time discussing how s/he passed the exam, or “inside information” to passing, the adviser may not have enough teaching ability to get YOU to passing.  A qualified tutor assesses YOUR needs.