By Steve Levin,
BARBRI Director of Essay Testing


When I ask students who scored lower on the bar exam or were just below the threshold of passing, whether they submitted practice essays during bar prep, often the answer is “no” or “not many.” I’ve heard from students, in the past, that they felt the need to know all the rules of the law before they could or should submit a practice essay during bar review.

The written portion of a U.S. Bar Exam is critical to your overall score in every state and in some states, there is greater weight on the written portion compared to the MBE. (Download the BARBRI Bar Exam Digest for details.) Essay writing for a U.S. Bar Exam is an acquired skill you must strengthen during bar prep.

You’ll need to know how to provide an answer to the call of the question in the format U.S. state bar examiners want to see. The best way to achieve proficiency is to tackle practice essays multiple times during bar preparation and submit them for personal feedback – even while you are still learning the substantive material.

You’ll experience optimum results with BARBRI’s Directed Essay Grading.

This consists of, first, working with the BARBRI Essay Architect online tool to enhance your high-level essay writing skills. And then writing answers to the practice essays assigned throughout the BARBRI International Bar Preparation program. You’ll be directed to submit some of those for feedback that will enable you to continue your essay writing skill development.

Note that I said, “skill development.” Do not hold back on submitting a practice essay just because you are still learning the black letter law. When reviewing your essays, we aren’t just looking at your substantive knowledge – we also focus on feedback that helps refine your essay writing skills.

With each submitted essay, you’ll benefit from personalized input from a trained bar exam writing expert. You’ll come away knowing where you will capture points and where you may lose points, as well as how to frame a better essay answer. Submitting essays as they are assigned during bar preparation, over time, will allow you to incorporate previous feedback into the next practice essay. You’ll move along an upward trajectory of continuous improvement and U.S. Bar Exam readiness.


By Robert Dudley,
International Director at BARBRI


There’s great appeal to qualifying as a U.S. attorney, particularly the impact it has on increasing earning potential and broadening the scope of job opportunities on a global scale. These reasons alone are enough to prompt many foreign-trained attorneys and law graduates to continue their career aspirations abroad with plans to sit the New York or California Bar Exam. Whilst the end goal justifies the journey, the first step requires determining your U.S. Bar Exam eligibility and it can appear complicated. This shouldn’t keep you from pursuing U.S. qualification, of course. It’s just vital that you start to gather the right information and proper guidance as soon as you’re decided.

This eligibility process doesn’t happen overnight, either. It takes time, especially if you’re currently working full time. Remember, too, that the U.S. Bar Exam is administered only twice a year: in late February and late July. Even if you’re simply entertaining the idea of U.S. qualification at this point, it’s prudent to learn about your eligibility right away. Should you wait too long, you might miss an upcoming window for the next scheduled U.S. Bar Exam. There really isn’t a downside to get going on it now.

It’s paramount to understand that, although New York and California are most popular with foreign-trained attorneys and law graduates, each state has different eligibility requirements. For example, is your law degree equivalent to a U.S. law degree? Are you prepared to provide the required supporting documents, which can include your original law school transcripts, law degree certificate and/or practicing certificate?

Timing is key. It‘s worth repeating, since this is your future. BARBRI recommends that you submit your supporting documentation for eligibility at least six months before you plan to sit the bar exam. It will generally take about 4-5 months to confirm your New York eligibility and between 2-3 months for California eligibility. And then there is the time to study and prepare for the exam with the BARBRI International Bar Preparation programme – offered over a 6-month or 10-month timeframe – which you must consider in your timeline.

With all that in mind, don’t get too caught up in feeling as if you really must immediately grasp all the details and instructions for U.S. eligibility. You have resources and one-to-one support available through BARBRI. All you need really are your questions and some time to speak with us – we’ll answer everything and walk you through it. And if, later in the process, the U.S. bar examiners require anything extra or happen to toss an obstacle your way, we are here to help.


Gordon Wade is the head of KPMG Ireland’s team of data protection lawyers. He’s also a Dublin facilitator for the BARBRI International Bar Exam Preparation Classroom Lecture course. Find out how he passed the New York Bar Exam on his first attempt, landed a prime role on a top global firm’s international arbitration team — and is now here to help you.

Gordon gained his Master of Laws from Trinity College Dublin in 2009 and started the BARBRI International Bar Preparation course in October of that same year while working full time. Upon passing the New York Bar Exam on his first attempt, he was admitted to the State Bar of New York in 2010.

“After entering law school, it was always my ambition to practise internationally. During my LL.M., I specialised in International Commercial Arbitration and began researching careers in that field. It quickly became clear that the vast majority of the top practitioners either had a U.S. law school education and/or were U.S. qualified. So I decided to enrol in the BARBRI International New York Bar Preparation course, which was instrumental in my securing a place on the International Arbitration team at Wilmer Hale in London. It was also a reason why I was selected to join KPMG’s Thailand legal team in Bangkok as part of a worldwide network building programme,” Gordon said.

Today, Gordon leads KPMG Ireland’s team of data protection lawyers and is aiming to grow the practice both in Ireland and within the KPMG global network, particularly in light of Brexit and the upcoming General Data Protection Regulation. Gordon is also one of the BARBRI facilitators you’ll personally work with while preparing for a U.S. Bar Exam in Dublin through the BARBRI International Bar Exam Preparation Classroom Lecture course.

BARBRI facilitators are your mentors throughout BARBRI International Bar Preparation. They are present in the classroom and lead interactive workshops and skills sessions. They have been in your shoes so they understand the demands, physically and emotionally, that are involved in this pursuit.

Gordon’s Advice: “If you want to pass a U.S. Bar Exam on your first attempt, BARBRI International Bar Preparation is a very effective form of brain training. Make the time, do the work, apply the BARBRI techniques, lean on people like me – your classroom facilitator – and pass the exam. It’s your gateway to a career as an international lawyer.”


By Matthew Nash,
Legal Manager at BARBRI


Indeed, it’s perfectly acceptable to strive to land in the passing margin of the U.S. Bar Exam’s graded curve. There’s no need really to overwork yourself into oblivion to achieve a top percentile ranking. If you can (and want to), that’s commendable – yet not necessary. You see, when U.S. Bar Exam results come out, you’ll either have passed or failed.

That’s precisely what you need to realize and remember during the bar prep process: the U.S. Bar Exam is ultimately a pass-fail test. Approaching it as such will make your study time that much more efficient and productive. It will help mitigate stress, too.

Yes, perfection does sound like a worthy endeavor. You’re likely accustomed to scoring high marks on exams. But, in the case of the U.S. Bar Exam, perfection is not truly the end goal you want to target. You want to be extremely prepared, of course; however, the idea of perfection may lead you to place too great an emphasis on one individual area of the law. It may seem somewhat counterintuitive but you want to learn to be average across the vast number of areas of the law that will be covered on the exam. You’ll still be in good shape to pass the bar exam.

What does it mean to be “average” exactly? Not to put too fine a point on it, you’ll want to aim for about 65 percent correct on practice questions, over time. That should position you confidently in the passing margin. For example, if you work 25 practice questions, look to answer 16 or 17 correctly. You will have missed 8 or 9 questions – but that 65 percent correct is going to be enough to score the points you need to pass. Don’t expect to get there right way, it will take time to get there – particularly on subjects that may be completely unfamiliar to you when you start your U.S. Bar Exam studies.

The massive volume of U.S. Bar Exam material you’ll encounter during your preparation requires manageable and realistic expectations. All you need to do is make it on the pass list. Learning to be average – achieving that 65 percent or better, patting yourself on the back and making progress every day (without burning yourself out) – will get you there.

The Countdown Begins!

Guest Blog by Tiffany Khoo, LLB
London School of Economics and Political Science graduate

Believe it or not, its been about 8 months since I started preparing for the NY Bar with BARBRI!

Over the past few months, I’ve been trying to do my best to stay on top of the work we’ve been assigned and juggle the requirements of working full-time. Almost stubbornly, I’ve made weekend plans every week and try to squeeze in study time in the pockets of time I have remaining.

But with April comes the realisation that there is not much time left! Most of us have registered for the exam and put down the $750 fee so there’s no turning back now! With that in mind, I’ve decided to put myself on an exam “detox”, so to speak, with fewer weekend excursions and more focused studying.

As part of this “detox”, I will be restricting my social media use to half an hour a day, which includes Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram time. I’ll be heading out for dinner with my friends tonight to celebrate the end of the work week (Friyays!) but after this, outings with friends will have to wait till August.

Part of why I feel the need to set such boundaries for myself is that work responsibilities have increased. I’ve been working for as long as I’ve been with BARBRI and over these last 8 months, the work assigned to me has increased in number and complexity. Don’t get me wrong – it’s such a great opportunity to be able to work and study at the same time, but it can be so tiring after a long work day to crack open the books and go through more law (even if it is in another jurisdiction!). So, I believe that if I set aside more time to study over the weekend, I can truly unwind on the weekdays!

As we enter revision period, I wish my peers the best! For those just starting on the BARBRI journey, good luck! Enjoy the lectures, the learning and the community! There’s nothing quite like having people from across the globe sharing notes and sharing jokes. ”



Amanda Lee always planned to pass the New York Bar Exam and with BARBRI, nothing would stop her – not even a broken watch during the bar exam – as she achieved U.S. qualification.

MY NAME IS AMANDA LEE and, since I can remember, I always wanted to be a lawyer able to practice New York law in the United States. Sitting the New York Bar Exam was always part of my plan, it was just a matter of time. Today, I am successfully dual-qualified as a New York attorney – U.S. qualified with the help of BARBRI – and a Solicitor Advocate at Seymours, a commercial law practice in the City of London.

Perhaps inspired by my U.S. qualification goal, my legal career has always had a global dimension: practising international commercial arbitration and litigation, with a particular interest in ADR (Alternative Dispute Resolution). Having a specific long-term plan required diligent steps along the way. I began researching bar review options while at university and when the time came to prepare for the New York Bar Exam it was clear that BARBRI was the logical choice. I enrolled on the BARBRI International Bar Preparation course in 2011 and studied while practicing full-time as a Solicitor.


The program is carefully constructed to teach you and guide you through what it takes to prepare and provide you with the right skills to pass. The BARBRI lectures delivered an expert overview of the tested bar topics and the scope of study materials equipped me with solid techniques to perform with proficiency on the multiple-choice (MBE) question portion of the exam.

In describing BARBRI International Bar Preparation, I choose the words “highly effective” – if you commit to doing the work and apply the techniques you will pass the bar exam. It’s an exercise in endurance, time management and information retention due to the sheer volume of material involved. The BARBRI course prepared me well to overcome any unforeseen challenges (such as my watch stopping on the morning of the exam) and get through the exam successfully.

To anyone with the goal of passing a U.S. bar exam and becoming U.S. qualified – go with BARBRI, make the time, do the work, apply the techniques and you’ll be in the best position to pass.

Challenge Seekers

Nora Garaz, Legal Co-ordinator

Blog by Nora Garaz,
Legal Coordinator

Hello my fellow challenge seekers,

Studying law has always filled me with a certain level of satisfaction. I love learning, and the different modules throughout law school kept me entertained enough to actually graduate. And while I am a hopeless traveler, I am also a challenge seeker. So, it didn’t come as a surprise, that just weeks after graduation I embarked on a journey with BARBRI. And when I say a journey, I mean it!

The study whenever, wherever program allowed me to do the course while I was traveling. I was able to download my lectures on my phone and watch them offline on my long-haul flights. The 10-month part-time study requires only 10-15 hours of study a week. Yes, I spent a couple of hours listening to tort lectures during my California vacation, but I was rocking the rest of my time on the beach and downtown.

Earlier this year I popped my lecture notes into my carry on and I was off to Iceland for the weekend. Spent a couple of hours in a coffee shop to warm up and to read through my notes. And the evening? I was off to hunt for the Aurora Borealis, the infamous Northern Lights.

Just because I am studying for the New York Bar, my life didn’t stop.

I am working full time and travelling abroad whenever I can. I needed to get creative in how I use my time and study material. I follow my Personal Study Plan, which allocates my study load for me. I use the BARBRI app to view material offline and use the books when I do intensive studying.

So, I would encourage you to sign up and challenge yourself to further your legal career and still have time for the things that matter.


Before joining a Magic Circle law firm in London, Hannah McCarthy worked in Washington, D.C., interned with a U.S. Senator and passed the New York Bar Exam – using the BARBRI International home study program.

MY NAME IS HANNAH McCARTHY and I passed the New York Bar in February 2015. I am currently working in international arbitration with a Magic Circle law firm in London and just completed my last set of exams as part of the Qualified Lawyer Transfer Scheme (QLTS), which foreign qualified lawyers can take in order to qualify as an English solicitor.

I originally studied Law and Business at Trinity College, Dublin, and after graduating in 2014, I wanted to explore my options. I was fortunate enough to be offered a place on the Washington Ireland Program (WIP) and spent the summer after graduation working for a communications firm in Washington, D.C.

I ended up spending an additional three months in the U.S. Capitol, working for the Democratic Party on their congressional campaigns before interning a few weeks for U.S. Senator Charles “Chuck” Schumer (D-New York).

It was during this time that I decided to study for the New York Bar Exam and give myself some greater flexibility in term of employment prospects as a U.S. qualified attorney.

After completing BARBRI Bar Review using the course’s flexible home study program, I took the New York bar exam in February 2015. The following week, I began work as a paralegal for a law firm located in Times Square in Midtown Manhattan while I waited to hear if I had passed (which very thankfully I did).

After my stint in New York and prior to beginning my master’s degree, I returned to Dublin and landed a position within the legal team of Twitter’s European office for four months. I joined my current firm upon finishing up my master’s degree.

Every day I am working with smart people who are really interested and engaged in their work. With the practice being international, many of the lawyers are dual-qualified. Having passed the New York Bar Exam and being qualified as a U.S. attorney is certainly helpful.


Guest Blog by Tiffany Khoo, LLB
London School of Economics and Political Science graduate

Happy Lunar New Year!

Celebrations have always been a wonderful thing, but with the Bar Exam inching closer, I’ve started to dread the festivities that come with these celebrations, knowing I have to really work at managing my time better!

For those who don’t celebrate it, the Lunar New Year is a 2 week affair, filled with lots of family gatherings, large dinners, and an abundance of firecrackers. The days are spent with house visits and red packet collection (filled with money!), whilst the nights are spent at Chinese restaurants as we eat the evening away.

You’re probably wondering, what about the studying? I’ve been trying to keep up to date with my Personal Study Plan and although the weekly work assigned is reasonable, taking the time to sit down and watch lectures or prepare for a 200 question mock exam was really difficult! In fact, I’m holding off sitting my mock exam as I’ve been so busy in the last two weeks!

I’m so grateful though that the material is interesting and really relevant. In light of the recent US elections and exercise of power by the newly elected President, it’s been particularly enjoyable to learn Constitutional Law and the limits and breadth of power that the executive and judiciary have. This also reminds me of how useful it is to have an international qualification from the US! As such an important country, American news affects all of us in the rest of the world and having an understanding of the legal implications of certain acts definitely makes for more interesting table talk. I look forward to the opportunities that will come with passing the New York Bar.

That is, if I stick to my study schedule.

A word of advice to my fellow peers – definitely don’t fall behind! If you know you’ll be busy for a particular week, maybe plan to study a little more the week beforehand. Once you’ve fallen behind, although it’s by no means impossible to catch up, it does become very challenging! It’s also crucial that we maintain our health. Trying to study when unwell can be counterproductive so load up on fruits and veggies, everyone!

Till next time!

Inspired To Become U.S. Qualified, South African Lawyer Achieves Impact

Inspired to Become U.S. Qualified,
South African Lawyer Achieves Impact

Francisca Pretorius looked abroad to the United States to continue her studies, then applied to sit for the Colorado bar exam and passed it on the first try – with the help of BARBRI.

MY NAME IS FRANCISCA PRETORIUS and my yardstick for success is impact. I am a qualified South African lawyer, having practiced as a senior associate for a corporate law firm in Johannesburg, South Africa, and successfully worked towards passing the Colorado bar exam in July 2016. Being qualified in another country, especially the United States, exponentially increases the positive impact I can make in the world.

I have always wanted to continue my higher education studies in the United States and was accepted to a Master of Business Administration program (Global, Social and Sustainable Enterprise focus) at a university in Colorado. I decided to make my legal skills transferable, as well, and applied to sit for the Colorado bar exam.

Based on its outstanding reputation as the best U.S. bar review course, I chose BARBRI to prepare. Furthermore, BARBRI was the only bar review company to offer the flexibility and convenience of a separate, tailored home study option for international students like me.

THE QUANTITY OF BARBRI BAR REVIEW CONTENT was equally matched by the course’s high quality lectures, homework and practice exams. The substantive law did prove particularly challenging as the foundations of South African law and U.S. law are vastly different – South Africa’s mixed legal system incorporates Roman-Dutch law and the U.S. employs a common-law jurisdiction. Despite this rather significant hurdle, I progressed steadily through the BARBRI personalized study schedule and assignments. Continuous assessments and immeasurable support from BARBRI support attorneys and staff was another big advantage.

By following the BARBRI Bar Review study schedule – knowing it was specifically designed to prepare international students – I passed the Colorado bar exam the first time. Taking and passing a U.S. bar exam was a challenging yet fulfilling experience that would not have been possible without the help of BARBRI.