Does it Matter Where to Take the UBE?
The Uniform Bar Exam (UBE) is appealing to many bar exam takers due to the portability of scores. States that administer the UBE all administer the same MBE, MEE, and MPT portions. You will receive a score that can then, in most cases, be transferred to another UBE jurisdiction. If you have achieved a passing score according to the score set by the state you seek to transfer to, you can be eligible for admission to the bar without taking a new state’s bar exam (though you will still have to complete their other licensing requirements, including perhaps passing a state law portion of the exam, passing character and fitness/the MPRE, paying fees, etc.)
Thus, many bar exam takers may think that it doesn’t matter where to take the UBE; that they can take it in any state and transfer freely. However, there are other factors to consider, meaning all Uniform Bar Exams are not ultimately created equal!
If you are considering the UBE and wondering whether it matters where to take it, this post is for you! We will go through factors you should consider outside of the actual test questions themselves, which could make certain states’ UBEs more appealing to you.
Does it Matter Where to Take the UBE?
Differing pass rates and passing scores
When thinking about where to take the UBE, remember that each state has both its own pass rate and its own passing score. States with the lowest passing score (260) are Alabama, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, and North Dakota. The state with the highest passing score (280) is Alaska. Even though states may have the same requisite passing score and the same test is administered, this does not mean each state has the same pass rate. This reflects external factors such as grading, the examinee make up, etc. Pass rates also fluctuate from exam to exam, although some states may have notoriously higher or lower pass rates in general. If you just want to pass, a state with a low passing score and high pass rate may be best. If you have aspirations to practice in a state with a high passing score, then sitting for the exam in a state with a low passing score may not give you the right motivation to earn that higher score. The pass rate and passing score of each state are certainly things to consider when deciding where to take the UBE. See the most up-to-date list of passing scores by state here.
The portability deadlines of UBE scores
Your portable UBE score that you earn by taking the UBE does not last forever. Each state has a requirement for how recently you must have taken the UBE if you want your score to transfer in. Therefore, when thinking about where to take the UBE, you should think about where you want to (or potentially could) end up within the next few years. States such as Missouri, North Dakota, and Utah require that your score is 2 years old or less if you want to transfer it and obtain admission to those state’s bars. Thus, if you think you might end up there down the line, it might be better to just take that bar exam now or understand that you will have to take another bar exam when the time comes. Other states like Alaska, Arizona, D.C., and Nebraska accept scores that are up to 5 years old, so you have more flexibility if you might end up there.
Taking the bar exam is an expensive endeavor. Not only do prep courses cost a lot of money, but there are plenty of administration fees involved in even signing up for the exam. If you are low on funds and have a choice of where to take the UBE, some states are less expensive than others. You might consider the fees of different aspects of the exam when evaluating where to take the UBE.
You may also want to take the UBE in a state that is close to you or less costly to travel to and stay in.
Number of takers
The environment that you take the bar exam in should be a prime consideration for where to take the UBE. The number of takers in each state greatly affects the experience you will have. In more popular states, there will be a lot of takers and the environment can be much more stressful. Tensions will be higher in more crowded and cramped conditions, and you will feel a different sort of energy.
States with fewer takers reportedly have a less stressful environment. There are fewer people around to disturb you, as well as fewer people filling up venues such as hotels or restaurants. It is also more likely that the exam administration will run more efficiently as there are fewer exams to distribute and collect. If you are looking for a calmer environment, then you should consider the popularity of each state’s exam.
Score release date
This factor is somewhat unpredictable and might not be important to many takers, but some states are certainly known to release their results earlier than others. If you want to know your results sooner rather than later, this could play a role in your decision as to where to take the UBE. Release dates can be tied to exam popularity, as the more examinees there are, the longer it should take to grade (in theory). But other factors could impact this as well. Thus, it is something to consider if you don’t want to wait as long before knowing your results (or if you could benefit professionally by learning your result sooner).
Many students ask us if a UBE in one state is “easier” than a UBE in another state. We have not found that any state grades easier than any other state. So we have not found this to be a compelling reason to travel to a specific state!
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