Should I Take The UBE If I Failed The California Bar Exam? - JD Advising
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If I Failed The California

Should I Take The UBE If I Failed The California Bar Exam?

The California Bar Exam is notoriously one of the hardest bar exams in the country.  Even though California lowered the passing score from 1440 to 1390 in 2020, California still requires one of the highest scores for passing (and also has one of the lowest passing rates) in the country.  If you recently failed the California Bar Exam, you may be wondering if you should re-take the California Bar Exam, or if you should consider taking the Uniform Bar Exam in another state that has a lower passing score.  In this post, we discuss some of the things to consider to determine whether you should retake the California Bar Exam or take the Uniform Bar Exam.

Should I Take The UBE If I Failed The California Bar Exam?

1. Know where you need to be licensed.

If you have a job practicing California law, you will almost certainly need to be licensed in the state of California, which means that you must retake the California Bar Exam.  However, there are some jobs, even in California, where it does not matter where you are licensed in order to practice.  For example, you can often practice federal law as long as you are licensed in a state, even if you are not licensed in the state in which you are physically located.  If you already have employment lined up, be sure to check with your employer about where you need to be licensed.  If you do not yet have employment lined up, know that living in California while being licensed in another state can limit your employment opportunities.

2. Understand the difference between the California Bar Exam and the Uniform Bar Exam.

Both the California Bar Exam and the UBE have a written portion and a multiple-choice portion.  Both exams offer the exact same multiple-choice portion of the exam (the Multistate Bar Exam or MBE).  The National Conference of Bar Examiners drafts the MBE.  So, the only real difference is in the written portion.

California’s written portion consists of one 90-minute performance test and five one-hour essays.  The Uniform Bar Exam consists of two 90-minute performance tests and six 30-minute essays.  The performance tests administered by California and the UBE are not identical, but they are relatively similar.

The essays, on the other hand, have some significant differences.  California’s essays tend to have shorter fact patterns with open-ended calls of the question.  This requires examinees to issue-spot the facts and then raise arguments on each side in the analysis.  There often is no right answer, and points tend to be awarded for creative, logical, and lawyerly thinking when it comes to spotting and analyzing the issues.  The Multistate Essay Exam (which is the essay portion of the UBE), on the other hand, tends to provide more detailed facts, identifies the issues that the examiners want you to discuss, and usually has a correct answer.

Precision and knowledge of the law’s nuances are often necessary for a passing score on the Multistate Essay Exam.  If you are thinking about taking a different bar exam, consider looking at some sample essays.  You can find past essays from the California Bar Exam here and past essays from the Uniform Bar Exam here.

3. Carefully analyze your strengths and weaknesses.

As mentioned above, both the California Bar Exam and the Uniform Bar Exam offer the exact same multiple-choice questions.  If your MBE score is significantly lower than your score on the written portion of the exam, switching to another state may not be beneficial.  As mentioned above, the most significant difference between the California Bar Exam and the UBE is the written portion.

If you are struggling with the format of California’s essays and think you could do better with the shorter, more issue-specific essays administered as part of the Uniform Bar Exam, then maybe you want to consider taking the bar exam in another state.  On the other hand, if your weakness is the performance test, keep in mind that the Uniform Bar Exam contains two performance tests, which does not reduce or eliminate the problem if that is your weakness.

4. Look at the various states’ passing scores

As mentioned above, California has one of the highest passing scores in the country.  The 1390 required to pass in California is is the equivalent of a 278 on the UBE’s 400-point grading scale.  Most UBE states require a lower score to pass.  Some of the states that have the lowest passing score (260) include Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, and North Dakota.  If you are close to passing but can’t quite reach California’s passing score, taking the exam in a state with a lower passing score might be a good option.

We hope this post “Should I Take The UBE If I Failed The California Bar Exam?” helps with your decision!

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