What is the Bar Exam?

What is the Bar Exam?

The bar exam, or bar examination, is a test administered by a state’s bar association that a lawyer must pass before being accepted to the bar of that jurisdiction. People who want to practice law must meet the criteria and pass the bar examination before they earn a license to practice. Every country and/or jurisdiction has its own bar exam.

In the United States, the bar exams are administered by authorities of the individual states. Sometimes the administering agency is an office or committee of the state’s highest court. The bar examination in most of the United States and territories is at least two days long and typically consist of:

  • Essay questions
    • Basically, all jurisdiction administers a number of these questions that measure knowledge of general legal principles and might also assess knowledge of the law of the state. For this purpose, some jurisdiction has chosen to use the Multistate Essay Examination (MEE) which has been established by the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) since 1988. Some may create their own questions with this in mind, while some jurisdictions may both create their own questions and use the MEE.
  • Multistate standardized exams

Getting Started With The Bar Exam

What is the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE)?

The Uniform Bar Exam (UBE) is a structured bar examination developed by the National Bar Examination Conference (NCBE), designed to measure the skills and knowledge that every lawyer must have before being licensed to practice law. The UBE is universally implemented and scored, which ensures that the scores can be used in various jurisdictions that have implemented the UBE.

What is on the bar exam?

The UBE bar exam is administered twice a year for two days. It comprises of three sections:

  • Multistate Bar Examination (MBE) – 50%
  • Multistate Essay Examination (MEE) – 30%
  • Multistate Performance Test (MPT) – 20%

Bar Exam Format and Structure

Section Allotted Time Format
Multistate Performance Test (MPT) 120 minutes 2 lawyering tasks (90 minutes each)
Multistate Essay Examination (MEE) 3 hours 6 essays
Multistate Bar Examination (MBE) Morning session: 3 hours

Afternoon session: 3 hours

Morning session: 100 questions

Afternoon session: 100 questions

The MBE bar exam is administered on the last Wednesday of February and July every year. Whereas the MEE and MPT are conducted on Tuesday prior to the MBE. Out of each of the three types of tests, an exam-taker may expect to be assessed on:

  • Business Associations
  • Civil Procedure
  • Conflict of Laws
  • Constitutional Law
  • Contracts and Sales
  • Criminal Law and Procedure
  • Evidence
  • Family Law
  • Real Property
  • Torts
  • Trusts and Estates
  • Uniform Commercial Code

Which jurisdiction has implemented the UBE?

There have been 36 states and territories in the United States that have implemented the UBE. The Uniform Bar Exam states include:

  • Alabama
  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • District of Columbia
  • Idaho
  • Illinois
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oregon
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Washington
  • West Virginia
  • Wyoming
  • Virgin Islands

Bar Exam Scoring System

The UBE is scored on a scale of 400 points, where the MBE is scored out of 200 points, and the written section (MEE and MPT) is scored out of 200 points. After that, your bar exam scores will then be added together. There is no minimum passing rate for either section of the test. However, states and jurisdictions have set their own bar exam pass rates. Passing scores range from 260 to 280 points. 

The table below indicates the minimum passing score and the bar exam pass rates by state:

State/Jurisdiction Pass Rate Took Passed Minimum Passing Score
Oklahoma 81.00% 421 341
Missouri 79.07% 946 748 260
Iowa 78.46% 260 204 266
New Mexico 76.95% 308 237 260
Montana 76.51% 149 114 266
Utah 76.07% 397 302 270
Oregon 75.26% 667 502 274
Kansas 75.00% 176 132 266
Idaho 74.48% 192 143 272
Nebraska 74.19% 217 161 270
Colorado 69.17% 1103 763 276
Wisconsin 68.81% 218 150
Illinois 68.80% 2740 1885 266
Delaware 68.54% 213 146 
Louisiana 68.47% 815 558
New Hampshire 68.38% 234 160 270
Minnesota 68.36% 825 564 260
Pennsylvania 67.72% 1865 1263
Washington 67.68% 1120 758 270
Hawaii 67.52% 274 185
Virginia 66.15% 1226 811
South Carolina 65.25% 682 445 266
Texas 64.88% 4208 2730  270
Ohio 64.72% 1372 888 270
West Virginia 64.58% 240 155 270
Connecticut 64.34% 544 350 266
District of Columbia 64.20% 1606 1031 266
Michigan 63.99% 1094 700
Massachusetts 63.94% 1872 1197 270
Wyoming 63.33% 90 57 270
Arkansas 63.19%  345 218 270
Maine 63.13% 160 101 276
Indiana 61.24% 792 485
New York 61.19% 14094 8624 266
Kentucky 60.61% 495 300
Tennessee 60.30% 1068 644 270
Vermont 58.56% 111 65 270
Nevada 58.51% 523 306
Georgia 58.27% 1718 1001
South Dakota 58.26% 115 67
New Jersey 57.59% 1351 778 266
Rhode Island 57.58% 165 95 276
Florida 55.40% 4415 2446
Maryland 55.33% 1605 888 266
North Dakota 53.98% 113 61 260
Alaska 53.00% 100 53 280
North Carolina 52.35% 1639 858 270
Mississippi 52.29% 262 137
Alabama 51.83% 766 397 260
Arizona 49.85% 971 484 273
California 44.42% 12985 5768

Bar Exam Registration

Registering for the bar examination itself varies from state to state. Each state charges something to register for a bar examination. Moreover, each state and jurisdiction also have their own set of requirements. The detail below indicates the bar exam cost and filing deadlines for each state:

Jurisdiction Application Filing Deadlines Bar Exam Fees
First filing deadline Late filing deadline Bar exam fee for first-time takers (non-attorneys) Bar exam fee for attorneys Bar exam fee for repeaters Fee for laptops, if permitted
Alabama Oct. 1 —  $575 $575 $575 $121
Alaska Dec. 1 Jan. 15 $800 $800 $500 $100
Arizona Aug. 15 Nov. 30 $880 $880 $580 $125
Arkansas Nov. 15 $500 $500 $500 $0
California Nov. 1 Jan. 15 $1,228  $1,534 $1,228 / $1,534 $153
Colorado Nov. 1 Dec. 1 $710 $710 $710 $0
Connecticut Oct. 31  Nov. 30  $800 $800 $800 $125
Delaware No February Exams $700 / $1,400 $800 / $1,600 $700 / $1,400 $100
District of Columbia Dec. 15 Dec. 30 $100 + $45 (MEE + MPT)+ $60 (MBE) $100 + $45 (MEE + MPT)+ $60 (MBE) $100 + $45 (MEE + MPT)+ $60 (MBE) $145
Florida Nov. 15 Dec. 15/ Jan. 15 $1,000 $1,600–$3,000 $450 $125
Georgia Jan. 2 Feb. 1 $350 + $64 (MBE)+ $28 (MPT) $350 + $28 (MPT) $350 + $64 (MBE)+ $28 (MPT) $100
Hawaii Nov. 1  —  $500 $500 $500 $133.50
Idaho Oct. 1 Nov. 15 $600 $800 $200 / $300 $125
Illinois Sept. 15 Nov. 1/ Dec. 15 $950 – $1,450 $950 – $1,450 $500 – $850 $105
Indiana Nov. 15 Nov. 30 $250 $250 $250 $110
Iowa Nov. 1  $550 $800 $550 / $800 $122
Kansas Oct. 1 Nov. 1 $700 $700 $700 $0
Kentucky Oct. 1 Dec. 1 $875 $1,200 $325 $125
Louisiana Nov. 1  Dec. 15 $750 / $875 $875 $875 $125
Maine Dec. 20 Dec. 27/ Jan. 3 $600 $650 $600 / $650 $110
Maryland Dec. 20 $750 $750 $400 $130
Massachusetts 75 days $815  $815  $815  $175
Michigan Nov. 1  Dec. 15 $775 $775 $775 varies
Minnesota Oct. 15 Dec. 2 $500 $950 $500 $100
Mississippi Sept. 1 Nov. 1 $525 / $825 $825 $550 varies
Missouri Oct. 1 Nov. 1/ Dec. 31 $485 / $910 $485 / $910 $485 / $585 $105
Montana Oct. 1 $620 $875 $310 $125
Nebraska Nov. 1 Dec. 1 $490 $490 $225 / $490 $150
Nevada Oct. 1 Dec. 1 $700 $1,000 $700 / $1,000 $150
New Hampshire Dec. 1 $725 $725 $725 $52.50
New Jersey Oct. 31 Nov. 15/ Nov. 30 $675 $675 $675 $0
New Mexico Sept. 20  Dec. 2 $500 / $1,000 $500 / $1,000 $100 $100
New York Nov. 30 $250 / $750 $250 / $750 $250 / $750 $100
North Carolina Oct. 1 Nov. 5 $850 $1,650 $400  $125 
North Dakota Nov. 1 Dec. 1 $150 $150 $150 $110
Ohio Nov. 1 Dec. 10 $358 $358 $358 $121
Oklahoma Sept. 1 Oct. 2/ Nov. 1 $400 $1,100 $400 $125
Oregon Nov. 15 Dec. 15 $750 $1,175 $750 / $1,125 $150
Pennsylvania Oct. 30 Nov. 15/ Nov. 30/ Dec. 15 $650 $650 $650 $115
Rhode Island Sept. 1/ Dec. 1 $975 $1,475 $975 $0
South Carolina Aug. 31 Sep. 30 $1,000 / $1,500 $1,000 / $1,500 + $750 $1,000 / $1,500 $125.50
South Dakota Nov. 1 $300 $300 $175 $100
Tennessee Dec. 1 Dec. 20 $575 $575 $375 $100
Texas Sep. 1 Nov. 1/ Dec. 1 $300 / $490 / $1,140 $1,040 / $1,140 $320 $120
Utah Oct. 1 Nov. 1 $550 $850 $550 / $850 $150
Vermont Dec. 1 $300 $300 $300 $50
Virginia Dec. 17 $950 $950 $650 / $950 $125
Washington Oct. 5 Nov. 6 $585 $620 $585 / $620 $134.50
West Virginia Nov. 1 Dec. 1 $500 $800 $500 / $800 $125
Wisconsin Dec. 1 Jan. 1 $450 / $850 $450 / $850 $450 $110
Wyoming Nov. 15 $600 $600 $600 $85
Guam Dec. 1 Jan. 1 $800 $800 $800 — 
Northern Mariana Islands Dec. 20 Jan. 3 $500  $1,000 $500 / $1,000 — 
Palau No February Exams $300 $300 $300 — 
Puerto Rico TBA $250 $250 $250 — 
Virgin Islands Dec. 1 Jan. 2 $1,100 $1,100 $500 / $500 $150 

Frequently Asked Questions

How long is the bar exam?

The Uniform Bar Exam is a 2-day test. Day One comprises of a written portion (MPT and MEE) and Day Two comprises of a multi-choice segment (MBE). Each day has six hours of testing in three hours interval.

Which state has the hardest bar exam?

Perhaps every law student would like to learn which countries are testing the most difficult bar exams. Sadly, no easy reply is available. You can, of course, look at the overall passing rate and determine which one is the lowest, but it doesn’t necessarily tell the entire story. States might administer extremely challenging exams, but if their takers study well, this will not be reflected in the pass rate. However, based on the test-takers feedback, below are the states with the hardest bar exams:

  • California
  • Delaware
  • Louisiana
  • Nevada
  • Virginia

Could you take the bar test without attending law school?

Currently, just four states — California, Virginia, Vermont, and Washington — allow aspiring law practitioners to take the bar exam without attending law school. Alternatively, an intern with a practicing lawyer or judge is offered the option.

Law School: Does law school prepare you to pass the bar exam?

Generally speaking, no. Law school classes rarely focus on specific rules. Instead, they focus on specific concepts and educate students on the values that exacerbate legal principles and how that doctrine has evolved.

How many hours does the bar exam take?

The Uniform Bar Exam or UBE usually occurs over a span of two days and involves 12 hours of testing.

Bar Exam Sample Questions

Question #1

In recent months, several high-profile cases involving elementary school children dying of drug-related causes have gripped the nation’s attention. In response, Congress has promulgated legislation requiring states to pass laws enhancing the penalties for drug-related offenses if they occur within a designated distance of an elementary school.

Is the federal statute constitutional?

  • Yes, because the law bears a rational relationship to a legitimate government end.
  • Yes, because Congress has the power to regulate drug offenses under the Commerce Clause.
  • No, because the Congressional scheme violates the Tenth Amendment and related concepts of federalism.
  • No, because federal legislation has occupied the field such that the state laws would be preempted by the federal scheme.

Question #2

Patrick, a resident of Ohio, set out to drive his car from his home to California. David, who lives in Oregon, attempted to drive from that state to New Mexico. On his way through Nevada, David sideswiped Patrick at great speed on the highway. Both men were badly injured and spent several weeks in a Nevada hospital. After his recovery, David decided to live in Nevada permanently. Although he is still in hospital in Nevada, Patrick plans to return to Ohio. Patrick has sued David in Nevada state court alleging $200,000 in personal injuries he suffered in the crash. David has now attempted to remove to federal court.

Is removal proper?

  • Yes, because there is diversity of citizenship and the case meets the amount in controversy requirement.
  • Yes, because Patrick has availed himself of the forum state by receiving medical care in Nevada hospitals.
  • No, because the case does not present a federal question.
  • No, because David lives in Nevada.

Question #3

A state criminal law prohibits the sale or supply of alcoholic beverages to individuals under the age of 21. Jeffrey was convicted of a misdemeanor charge under his statute for selling beer to Fred, a mature-looking 19-year-old college student from a neighboring town. Jeffrey had “carded” Fred, but reasonably believed that the fake identification Fred showed him was genuine. The identification stated that Fred was 22 years old and appeared to be a valid driver’s license. Jeffrey has appealed his conviction to the state supreme court.

If the court upholds conviction, on which of the following doctrines did it most likely rely?

  • Strict liability.
  • Respondeat superior.
  • Willful ignorance.
  • Negligence.
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