Understanding a Passing MBE Score - JD Advising
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Passing MBE Score

Understanding a Passing MBE Score

Starting bar exam prep comes with lots of questions. A common question many have is what is a passing MBE score. This depends on your jurisdiction! In this post, we give you a general understanding of the MBE, how it is scored, and what you need to score to in order to pass.

Understanding a Passing MBE Score

What is the MBE?

MBE stands for the Multistate Bar Examination. Out of the 56 bar exam jurisdictions in the United States, 54 of them administer the MBE. (Louisiana and Puerto Rico are the exceptions.) Developed by the National Conference of Bar Examiners (“NCBE”), the MBE consists of 200 multiple choice questions over a span of six hours, divided into two three-hour morning and afternoon sessions. Out of the 200 questions, 175 are scored and 25 are unscored “pretest questions.” There is no point deduction for wrong answers, so make sure you answer every question.

According to NCBE, the purpose of the MBE is to test applicants on their ability to “apply fundamental legal principles and legal reasoning to analyze given fact patterns.” The MBE tests on the following topics: Civil Procedure, Constitutional Law, Contracts, Criminal Law and Procedure, Evidence, Real Property, and Torts. The 175 scored questions are divided equally among the subjects.

How much the MBE is worth depends on the jurisdiction you take it in. Each jurisdiction has its own policy for how much relative weight is given to the MBE in comparison to other components of the bar exam. For Uniform Bar Examination (“UBE”) the MBE component is weighted 50%.

How is the MBE scored?

In order to determine what is a passing MBE score it helps to understand how the MBE is scored. MBE scores are scaled scores calculated by NCBE through a statistical process known as equating commonly used on standardized tests. According to NCBE, “This statistical process adjusts raw scores on the current examination to account for differences in difficulty as compared with past examinations.”

Since the MBE is a scaled score, equating makes it impossible to know exactly how many questions an applicant needs to get right in order to get a certain score. Equating allows scores from different examinations to be compared since a particular scaled score represents the same level of knowledge from one examination to another.

What is a passing MBE score?

A passing MBE score depends on the jurisdiction in which you are taking the bar exam. If you are in a jurisdiction that scores on a 200-point scale, the passing score is whatever the overall score is. For example, a passing bar exam score in Michigan is 135. So if you score a 135 on the MBE this would be considered a “passing” score.

Make sure you determine the passing score for your jurisdiction. Passing scores are usually in the 130s. For the July 2017 bar exam, the national average MBE score was 141.7.

If you take the bar exam in a UBE jurisdiction,  it is easy to figure out a passing MBE score. Take the score you need to pass and divide by two. If your jurisdiction requires a 266 out of 400 to pass, then a 133 is a “passing” MBE score. But this does not mean that you need to score a 133 out of 175 questions on the MBE in order to pass. You could still score much lower and make up for those points on the written portion of the exam. If you are wondering what percentage of questions you need to answer correctly to get a passing MBE score, please see this post.

How do I work toward a passing MBE score?

Now that you have an idea of what a passing MBE score is for your jurisdiction you now have a score to aim for when you are studying and taking practice tests.

A great way to improve your MBE score is to practice with real MBE questions. Bar courses like Barbri and Kaplan use simulated MBE questions. These questions can are different than the real thing and not adequately reflect your potential performance on the MBE.

Watch our video or check out this post for ideas on where to find real MBE questions to practice with. If you need more help achieving a passing score on the MBE read how to improve your MBE score and also review our 10 Best MBE Tips and Tricks – by a Bar Expert who Scored a 180 on the MBE.