UPDATE: Based on reader feedback, we’ve added information for Pieper Bar Review and Marino Bar Review.

Congratulations 3Ls! The grind of law school exams is over, or soon will be. Now you get to study for the bar exam — which, for some reason, law school didn’t really prepare you for.

Most newly minted J.D.s will be heading straight from law school classes into bar exam prep classes. We assume you all have been pitched all year by bar prep companies touting their costs, features, and success rates. With everyone claiming to have the secret to passing the bar exam, how to choose?

Since the last time we visited this question, bar exam prep courses have proliferated, offering a range of prices, technological formats, and philosophies.

As we here at ATL are all about service journalism, we’ve distilled the information about the major bar prep providers into a handy guide. For those of you mulling over which course best fits your needs, the crucial analyzing variables are cost, format, guarantees, discounts, and pass rate. Nobody want to have to take the bar exam more than once, so this is a serious investment decision. After the jump, check out an “apples to apples” look at the major prep companies…

BAR/BRI

COST

  • New York: $3,675 / Iowa: $1,200 / California: $4,135 (prices vary significantly by state)

ADDED COSTS

  • $250 non-refundable registration fee
  • $250 refundable materials deposit
  • $25 domestic shipping/$100 international
  • $75 late enrollment fee

FORMAT

  • 6-7 week course that meets 5-6 days a week
  • Unlimited access to online lectures
  • Mixture of law lectures, workshops (essays, performance test, and MBE), and simulated exams
  • In-person and online

GUARANTEES

  • All but $250 deposit is refundable
  • If you take course and fail, next available session is free

DISCOUNTS

  • Tuition Assistance Program (must not have job offer with pay more than $55,000)
  • “Alumni discount” for those who took a BAR/BRI course in a different state or more than once in the same state

PASS RATE

  • Officially unpublished, widespread rumors have reps suggesting a pass rate around 80%

KAPLAN

COST

  • New York: $2,300 (or 3 payments of $766.67) / Iowa: $1,080 (3 payments of $360) / California: $2,190 (3 payments of $730)

ADDED COSTS

  • None

FORMAT

  • 6 day foundation workshop
  • 4-5 day full length exam and review
  • 36-day lecture period
  • 14-day countdown to exam study plan
  • In-person and online

GUARANTEES

  • If you attended 90% of lectures, complete 33 review questions, complete all practice essays and homework and fail, you get money back OR free repeat
  • MUST be 1st timer, can’t have passed bar in another state

DISCOUNTS

  • Early enrollment offers massive reductions in course pricing

PASS RATE

  • Unpublished

THEMIS

COST

  • $1495 or $1695 for combo courses (NY/NJ, NJ/PA, NY/MA)

ADDED COSTS

  • None

FORMAT

  • 8 weeks of courses
  • 4 “Milestone Exams” including 1 simulated MBE and 1 simulated Essay
  • 20 minute lectures with assignment questions and model answers
  • Personal exam adviser
  • Free mobile learning option compatible with iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, and Android devices
  • Online only

GUARANTEES

  • If you complete 75% or more of course work and fail, you get money back AND free repeat for next available session. If you don’t complete 75% you get free repeat.
  • MUST be 1st timer

DISCOUNTS

  • Phi Alpha Delta Law Fraternity gets $100 discount
  • Public Interest Scholarship: If you have job offer in Public Interest with a salary less than $60,000, eligible for $500 discount

PASS RATE*

  • 75% CA
  • 90% NY
  • Between 87% and 100% in all other states
  • *Based on Themis first-time takers who completed 75% or more of their course assignments and on state bar exam first-time takers.

BARMAX

COST

  • $999 (only offered in BarMax UBE (Uniform Bar Exam), New York and California)

ADDED COSTS

  • Must own iOS device
  • Additional cost for more than two essay revisions: $20/each

FORMAT

  • 50 hours of audio lectures
  • 1,471 MBE questions from previous exams
  • 130 practice essays
  • 35 performance tests
  • E-mail and phone support
  • Outlines
  • 2 Essay revisions
  • iPad only iOS devices

GUARANTEES

  • Full money back refund if you fail

DISCOUNTS

  • Discounts on iPads with purchase of course (BarMax and Apple offer deal: $1274 (Barmax + iPad 4) / $999 (Barmax + iPad mini)
  • Public Interest Scholarship: if you have a job offer from a public interest law firm, eligible for 60% discount (new price $395)

PASS RATE*

  • 73% CA
  • 83% NY
  • *Overall pass rate

AMERIBAR

COST

  • Standard Package: $1295
  • Standard Package with Essay Critique: $1595
  • Standard Package with First Time Pass Guarantee: $1,995
  • Platinum Package: $2,695

ADDED COSTS

  • Upgrade for iPod audio lectures is $249.
  • Additional $99 refundable deposit.

FORMAT (Standard Package)

  • Essay Master Course (over 20 hours of audio lectures)
  • Multistate Bar Exam Course (over 40 hours of audio lectures)
  • Multistate Performance Test Course
  • Online lectures
  • Unlimited phone support
  • Additional packages add-on iPod rental, iPod lectures, and additional testing and/or essay critiques
  • Home study, audio lectures

GUARANTEES

  • One free retake of the online course if you do not pass.
  • “Pass the first time or your money back” guarantee also offers free complete study course with commitment to their study schedule

DISCOUNTS

  • None, courses with various price points offered

PASS RATE

  • Unpublished

PIEPER BAR REVIEW

COST

  • $3,650 – First Time Bar Exam Candidates
  • $1,495 – For students who have studied with Pieper Bar Review within the last 5 years and are repeating the NY Bar Exam (textbooks not included)
  • $1,495 – For students who have studied with Pieper Bar Review within the last 5 years and are repeating the NY Bar Exam (textbooks included)
  • $1,495 – For students who have not studied with Pieper Bar Review, but with another full New York State bar review course within the last 5 years and are repeating the NY Bar Exam (textbooks included)

ADDED COSTS

  • Tuition for “Early Start Home Study Program” is higher
  • Cost of textbooks with some packages

FORMAT

  • 175 hours, broken down into over 40 lectures of four and occasionally six hours
  • Pieper’s Essay Writing Workshop and MPT Program – 12 graded essays
  • Ability to request DVDs of live classes or access classes via iPass online
  • New York-specific bar review

GUARANTEES

  • Pass the bar the first time, or take Pieper’s Full Bar Review Course free of charge for the next administration of the exam

DISCOUNTS

  • Send documentation that shows a non-refundable deposit with another New York State full bar review course, and Pieper will credit you that dollar amount.

PASS RATE

  • Unpublished


MARINO BAR REVIEW

COST

  • New York and New Jersey: $1750

ADDED COSTS

  • None

FORMAT

  • Substantive Bar Preparation PLUS Exam Performance Training
  • 8 week course
  • Online and on-demand
  • Unlimited access to online lectures
  • Mixture of law lectures, workshops (essays, performance test, and MBE), and simulated exams

GUARANTEES

  • If you take course and fail, your next course is free

DISCOUNTS

  • Free Financing for up to one year AFTER your bar course starts
  • Early Enrollment Discounts

PASS RATE

  • Unpublished


LLM BAR EXAM

COST

  • New York only. $3,300

ADDED COSTS

  • $200 refundable materials deposit

FORMAT

  • Specifically designed for international LLM students
  • Personal tutor, tailored daily study schedules, personal feedback and performance analysis
  • 6 early exposure sessions
  • Triple review of MBE subjects
  • 4 simulated MBE tests, over 1,400 real NCBE questions, 2 full-day simulated bar exams
  • Over 40 mandatory graded essays assigned from a pool of over 100 essay questions
  • Mini-review covering NY bar exam strategies, taught by a former writer and grader of the NY bar exam
  • In-class and live streaming

GUARANTEES

  • Money-back guarantee if you attended 95% of lectures, submitted all homework and fail
  • Free repeat-course

DISCOUNTS

  • Yes

PASS RATE

  • 75-80%

Enrollment deadlines vary by state and company, so be sure to check the company websites. Readers, if you have personal experiences with any of these companies, please let us know about it the comments. Happy studying and good luck to all the test-takers.

Disclosure: All of the above companies (except Ameribar and LLM Bar Exam) are current or former ATL advertisers.


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