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Choosing between bar exam prep programs (Barbri vs Themis vs Kaplan, etc.) is not an easy decision.

The information below is best for those who 1) have not put down a deposit on a Bar prep program and 2) have not taken the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (“MPRE”).

Here are a few of the many options you have in deciding how to prepare for the Virginia bar exam:

  1. Self study
  2. Private tutoring
  3. BarBri
  4. Themis
  5. Kaplan

Self Study

Unless you know exactly what you are doing and what you need to study for, self study is NOT a recommended option.

Quite frankly, you’ve spent a lot of money on law school and a lot of money in submitting your Bar exam application.  A few more thousand dollars on a fully comprehensive Bar preparation program that will help you succeed, is not much in the grand scheme of things.

There are just too many rules to study, you simply do not have the time to figure out what to study and what not to study during the 2-3 months you have to prepare for the exam.  A Bar prep company will provide you the materials you need to help you stay focused, on schedule, and feel prepared.

Therefore, unless you are EXTREMELY CONFIDENT that you can do this on your own, you should not attempt this model or test your theory when taking the Virginia bar exam.

Private Tutoring

Obtaining a private tutor to help prepare you for the Virginia Bar Exam can be a good idea, but can be very expensive.

A private tutor should already have the materials you need to use to study.  If they don’t, then this should be a red flag.

Again, you simply do not have the time for the tutor to “figure it out” during a period of time you should be studying.  All of the materials you need should be provided to you at least a month before your graduation from law school.

One of the benefits of a private tutor is that they should be able to detect your weaknesses and strengths.  As a result, they can adjust your studying methods accordingly so you spend your time efficiently.

This option may not be available for all, as obtaining a private tutor is not cheap.

Professional Bar Prep Companies (i.e. BarBri, Themis, Kaplan)

This is where it gets tricky.  There are several commercial bar prep courses out in the market – which one should you invest in?

Here’s a typical law school answer – it depends.

Cost vs. Services Offered

Never focus on just the cost of the Bar prep program.  You need to focus primarily on what it is they are offering.  Here’s a list of services to compare:

  • Amount of MBE questions (are they actual MBE questions or MBE-like)
  • Amount of essays they grade
  • Availability to ask questions, in case you are stuck or just don’t understand the material(s)

Take them for a Free Test Drive

The best way to probably see how comfortable you are with their materials is to use their service to take the MPRE (Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination).  Most of the professional Bar prep companies provides you with FREE materials and videos to help you achieve a passing score for the MPRE.  So why not use them to see how well you like the material?

If you really want to, sign up to take the MPRE for each of the Bar prep companies.  This allows you to test drive how each will then prepare you for the Bar exam.  You may end up liking all, most, or none of the programs.  Alternatively, you may be surprised how one helped you understand the material a lot better than the other.  If they are going to provide study materials for the MPRE exam to you for free, then why not use their services to figure out which one to sign up for.

By comparing the services each of the Bar prep companies offer AND using the FREE MPRE preparation , in all likelihood, you will end up answering your own question and will know which Bar prep company to invest in.

Here’s a Tip

Just because one product is attractively priced, or alternatively, is the most expensive one, doesn’t mean it’s the best product out in the market.

Deciding between Bar exam prep programs comes down to what they have to offer and how comfortable you are with the way the material is taught.

In the end, your goal should be to choose a prep company that will help you pass the bar exam!