The NextGen bar exam includes an expansion of skills testing, so how will candidates study?
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When the National Conference of Bar Examiners launches a revamped version of the bar exam in 2026, called the NextGen bar exam, it is expected that there will be new assessments on skills including legal research, investigation and client counseling. And that could mean less focus on memorization for candidates. Or not, says Mike Sims, president of the test prep group BARBRI.
He’s been with BARBRI for more than two decades and says with the current exam, which includes essay questions and a multiple-choice section, candidates have a 90% chance of passing, if they follow the advice of their law schools’ academic support staff and do what the test prep provider tells them.
It’s not an easy task. The advice generally includes spending at least seven hours per day, Monday through Friday and maybe Saturdays too, studying for the bar—starting two months before the test date.
With the new exam, Sims says, it’s possible that law school classes will prepare candidates for the skills assessment pieces, but the study process will probably remain the same, at least initially, because there will be many unknowns about what it takes to pass, and the exam will still include multiple-choice questions and essays, Sims says.
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Mike Sims is the president and chief growth officer of the test prep group BARBRI, which offers bar exam review, as well as extended bar prep courses in person or online.