How is the Bar Exam Formatted?
Step Four of How to Pass the Bar Exam:
Get to Know the Format of the Bar Exam
You may wonder how the bar exam is formatted. Learning how the bar exam is formatted is an important step to passing the bar exam!
Every jurisdiction administers a bar exam and is free to format the bar exam as they see fit. Most jurisdictions have an essay component. All jurisdictions besides Louisiana and Puerto Rico administer the Multistate Bar Exam (MBE), which is a 200-question multiple-choice exam. In most jurisdictions, the MBE is worth about 50% of an examinee’s overall bar exam score.
Here, we are going to focus on the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE) since 36 jurisdictions have adopted the Uniform Bar Exam. Further, even if your jurisdiction has not adopted the Uniform Bar Exam, it may still offer an exam similar in format. The best thing to do if your jurisdiction has not adopted the Uniform Bar Exam is to go to your jurisdiction’s board of law examiner’s website to review the format of the bar exam.
Which states have adopted the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE)?
You can see the most updated list of states that have adopted the UBE here. We also have a picture below so you can see how widespread the UBE has become!
How is the bar exam formatted?
The Uniform Bar Exam is formatted as follows.
It has three components—the Multistate Bar Exam (MBE), the Multistate Performance Test (MPT), and the Multistate Essay Exam (MEE).
Multistate Essay Exam (MEE)
The MEE consists of six, 30-minute essay questions and is worth 30% of your total bar exam score. Each essay fact pattern that an examinee must respond to is about three to five paragraphs.
The following subjects may appear on MEE questions:
- Business Associations (Agency and Partnership; Corporations and Limited Liability Companies),
- Civil Procedure,
- Conflict of Laws,
- Constitutional Law,
- Criminal Law and Procedure,
- Family Law,
- Real Property,
- Trusts and Estates (Decedents’ Estates; Trusts and Future Interests), and
- Uniform Commercial Code (Secured Transactions).
If you want to see how these subjects our tested, including an MEE frequency chart, check out our free MEE Guide here.
Multistate Performance Test (MPT)
The MPT is comprised of two, 90-minute “real world” legal tasks that account for 20% of your overall UBE score.
The MPT does not test any substantive legal knowledge. Rather, the MPT is designed to evaluate certain fundamental skills that new lawyers are expected to demonstrate regardless of the area of law in which the skills are applied. Examples of MPT tasks include drafting an objective memorandum, persuasive brief, or demand letter.
Each MPT has a file and a library. The file contains documents that state the facts of the case (in transcripts of interviews, pleadings, depositions, hearings or trials, correspondence, newspaper articles, police reports, client documents, medical records, lawyer’s notes, etc.). The facts given are sometimes ambiguous, incomplete, or they contradict each other (just like they sometimes do in real life). The examinee is expected to recognize ambiguous or contradicting facts. The library may contain rules, statutes, cases, regulations—not all of which are necessarily relevant. The examinee is supposed to identify what is relevant when performing the task assigned. The task will generally be detailed in a memo. To read more about the MPT, see this post.
Law students who are comfortable with legal writing or who have a lot of practical experience in the legal field often excel on this task (but some make the mistake of ignoring it when studying for the bar exam and then running into timing issues on the actual exam!).
Multistate Bar Exam (MBE)
The MBE is comprised of 200 multiple-choice questions administered over a six-hour period (you have three hours to complete the first 100 questions, then three hours to complete the second set of 100 questions). The MBE questions cover the following seven subject areas, which are tested equally (25 scored questions per subject).
- Civil Procedure
- Constitutional Law
- Criminal Law and Procedure
- Real Property
The MBE is worth 50% of your score in a UBE jurisdiction.
How is the bar exam scored?
In UBE jurisdictions, a passing score is set between 260 and 280. You can see passing scores by state here.
In general, if you score about 65% overall, you should pass the bar exam with the minimum passing score. Each jurisdiction sets their own specific grading scales, but the important thing to keep in mind is you do not need a perfect score (or anywhere near a perfect score!) to pass the bar exam!
We hope you now have a general idea of how the bar exam is formatted!
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