Should I take the February or July bar exam?

by Dustin on


Some of you who graduate may be inclined to take the bar exam right away or decide to wait a semester.  Ultimately, your success on the bar has much more to do with you and your own preparation than when you will be taking the bar exam; however, let’s take a look at the Top 9 differences between taking the February vs. July bar exam.

(9)      Pass Rate

Advantage of February

Yes, it’s true in California that February has a lower pass rate.  But don’t let this fool you because it has nothing to do with the difficulty of the exam!  February usually has more foreign takers and repeaters than the July bar, and unfortunately repeaters have a lower pass rate than first-time takers.  Don’t think that the curve will be higher and competition will be less.  The examiners will just fail more people that don’t establish minimum competency.   Repeaters, don’t let this stat discourage you.  Remember, you can pass any exam you set your mind to and prepare for.  Also, if you pass, you can brag that you were one of the 34% to pass (July Bar has about a 54% pass rate) in California!

Advantage of July

More people pass during this time than February.  Perhaps by studying with this group you’ll be in the same boat of 1st time takers who know no failure and want to go one and done?  Join them and get it done your first time through.

(8)      Tuition Money

Advantage of February

I had the option of graduating in December (I was a part-time student and graduated in 3.5 years) or taking some more classes so I could take the July bar with ‘everyone else.’  I was seriously contemplating doing the July bar until I realized the minimum payment required by my school was $20,000 to enroll for another semester.  That’s almost a lifetime supply of Starbucks coffee!  Almost…  I decided I was ready to be done and start the bar exam fun.

Advantage of July

If you graduate on time, you’ll have a smaller tuition tab.

(7)     Morning vs. Evening Classes

Advantage of February

If you’re a night owl, then February may be your time.  Some bar prep programs offer their classes only at night, giving you the day to do your homework before your nighttime class.

Advantage of July

If you like hitting the morning with a good lecture, getting some lunch, then attacking the books, July may be your time.

(6)      Payment of Bar Dues

Advantage of February

If you take the bar in February, you get sworn in six months before the July bar takers, and have extra time to make an attorney salary (assuming you find a job)!

Advantage of July

In California, if you take the bar in February, find out you passed in May, and get sworn in before June 1st, you have to pay the full annual bar dues fee of $410 (if you wait until after June 1st, the fee drops to $205).

If you take the July bar, pass in November, and get sworn in before the end of November, you pay the $205 rate (if you wait until December, dues drop to $0).  July bar passers pay less.

(5)      Time off before the Bar Exam

Advantage of February

If you graduate in May, you’re thinking, “Yes! We’re done!”  Oh, wait.  Just kidding.  If you’re taking the July bar, your bar prep might begin the Monday after you graduate (debbie downer in the house!).  If you graduate in December, you’ll get a good two weeks of Holiday time with family and friends before bar prep season officially begins.

Advantage of July

If you’re feeling the “let’s do this” attitude and are ready to begin plugging away right after finals, then July is the time for you.

(4)      Summer Studying vs. Winter Studying

Advantage of February

If you take the exam in February, guess what?  You won’t have to take it in July and spend your entire summer indoors reading, while peering outside, seeing schoolchildren playing on the swings, and tempting yourself to join them.  Instead, you’ll be inside protecting yourself from the cold (which you probably already would have been), while peering outside and seeing the frost-bitten children wishing they could come in from recess and join you!  For you snowboarders and skiers out there, you still get December for play time in the snow.

Advantage of July

In between egg nog and watching little four-year old Timmy jump for joy with his new iphone (are they getting them that young these days?), you just might feel impelled to crack open the bar books and start the studying during the holiday and family season.  The February bar just may be in violation of encroachment on your festivities.

(3)      People that will be studying with you

Advantage of February

I took the bar in February.  In my bar prep classroom, we only had about sixty people.  In a classroom with space for 300 people, I had plenty of room to put my legs on the seat next to me, eat my smelly vinegar and garlic-loaded sandwich, stretch my arms out, and go deodorant-free without worrying about offending anyone next to me.  I sneaked a peak at the classroom for the summer study session and nearly every seat was filled!  I sure saved on my cologne money!

Advantage of July

But, less people in February may also mean fewer of your friends.  Usually, the anomalies take the February bar.  Either they graduated early (or late), decided to wait an extra few months to take the test, are from out-of-state, or didn’t pass the first time.  Either way, the majority of your classmates and friends are probably taking the July bar.  If you’re taking the February bar, then you might not be able to share in the experience with your closest, fellow advisors.

(2)      Time to prepare

Advantage of February

From the kickoff of January until bar day, you have about seven weeks of bar prep time.  For the July Bar, from the date of graduation until bar day, you have about nine weeks, giving you a couple more weeks of prep.  If you believe seven weeks is enough (it is), in the philosophy, “The time it takes is the time you have,” and don’t want an extra two weeks of bar preppin’, this is your time.

Advantage of July

Seven weeks is enough time, but an extra two weeks sure can help!

(1)      Date you Find out Results

Advantage of February

Maybe they are cruel or maybe the just love you, but in California, the bar examiners release your February bar passing results the night before your graduation ceremony.  As you can imagine this could be a glorious weekend or a time where you find out if you are a ‘glass half-full’ or ‘glass half-empty’ kind of person.

Advantage of July

For the July bar, the results will come out near Thanksgiving week.  Nothing like eating a large turkey and stuffing to celebrate being thankful for some passing bar results.

As I said, you can pass any bar you prepare for.  It’s all about you, your focus, preparation and mindset.


Good luck on passing your bar exam!

You too will read this very soon: “This name appears on the pass list.”

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