Bar Exam FAQs
Each state sets its own requirements for admission to practice law in that jurisdiction, including the administration of the bar exam.
However, in an attempt to create a uniform, portable bar exam score, the NCBE (National Conference of Bar Examiners) created the UBE (Uniform Bar Exam). The UBE has three components: (1) the MEE (Multistate Essay Exam), (2) the MPT (Multistate Performance Test), and (3) the MBE (Multistate Bar Exam). In the MEE portion of the Exam, applicants answer six 30-min essay questions, and in the MPT portion of the Exam, applicants have 3 hours to answer two essay questions focused on practical legal analysis and lawyering skills. The MBE portion of the exam consists of 100 multiple-choice questions, administered in two three-hour blocks.
Jurisdictions can choose to use portions of the UBE or the entire exam. As of July 2020, 36 jurisdictions have adopted the UBE.
See here for a current list of UBE jurisdictions.
The majority of jurisdictions, including those jurisdictions that have chosen to adopt the UBE, administer a 2-day bar exam. If you are testing in a UBE jurisdiction, you will take the written components on the first day, with the MEE administered in a three-hour session in the morning, followed by a lunch break, and then the MPT administered in a three-hour session in the afternoon. You will take the MBE on the second day, with one hundred questions over three hours in the morning, then the hour for lunch break, then one hundred questions over three hours in the afternoon.
Delaware, Nevada, Ohio, and Louisiana each administer three-day bar exams.
The bar exam is offered in February and July each year in almost all jurisdictions. North Dakota will only offer the February exam if there are 10 or more applicants. Delaware and Palau only offer the July exam. Puerto Rico offers the exam in March and September.
The bar exam is administered by individual jurisdictions, and each jurisdiction sets its own requirements for bar admission. Some jurisdictions have chosen to have additional requirements before a student can sit for the bar exam and/or before a student can be admitted to that jurisdiction’s bar. For example, Alaska requires that applicants attend a presentation on attorney ethics prior to admission, Virginia requires that newly admitted attorneys take a professionalism course within 12 months of admission, and New York requires that bar applicants complete fifty hours of pro bono service prior to being sworn in.
The NCBE publishes a “Comprehensive Guide to Bar Admissions” online at its website (www.ncbex.org) that provides a guide to bar admission requirements for every jurisdiction in the United States; it is an excellent starting point for bar application research.
You can also review this document for a breakdown of unique requirements.
After you have decided in which jurisdiction you will sit for the bar exam, visit that jurisdiction’s bar website to begin the application process.
Bar applications are created by individual jurisdictions; however, in all jurisdictions, filling out a bar application is usually a very extensive and time-consuming process that you should start several months before the state-determined application deadline.
For example, in Utah, you must provide a background check, DMV records, six references, and information and reports regarding criminal records, military records, credit history, bankruptcy, taxes, civil cases, traffic violations for the past ten years, professional discipline, child and spousal support, physical addresses for the past ten years, educational discipline, and employment history for the past ten years. Therefore, you should plan to start early and set aside some significant time to fill out your bar application carefully and thoroughly.
Each jurisdiction sets its own costs, but the price ranges from $150.00 – $1,500.00, with the average cost being around $700.00. Note that this cost does not include the cost of a bar preparation course or the cost of applying to be admitted to the state’s bar after you pass the exam.
Each jurisdiction chooses what it tests on the bar exam.
If your jurisdiction has adopted the UBE, the topics tested on the MEE and MBE include Business Associations, Civil Procedure, Conflict of Laws, Constitutional Law, Contracts, Criminal Law and Procedure, Evidence, Family Law, Real Property, Torts, Trusts and Estates, and Secured Transactions.
In addition, the MPT tests seven fundamental lawyering skills:
- Problem Solving
- Factual Analysis
- Legal Analysis
- Written Communication
- Organization and management of a legal task
- Recognizing and resolving ethical dilemmas
While it is impossible to predict exactly the topics that will be covered on any particular administration of the bar exam, you can review this document for frequently tested topics on the MEE and MPT.
The bar exam is an intense and challenging exam that students should take very seriously. We advise BYU Law School students to study for twelve full weeks following graduation and treat their study for the bar as a full-time job during that time (forty hours per week, five hundred hours in sum). Students should not plan to work or vacation or casually study during their twelve weeks of study.
Additionally, students should take a comprehensive commercial bar preparation course as part of their twelve-week study plan, which will provide them with both the materials for studying (outlines, lectures, practice questions, practice exams, etc.) and a structured schedule for their study.
While it is not necessary to sign up for more than one comprehensive bar preparation course, some students may wish to purchase supplemental study programs in order to have access to more practice problems and explanations.
See this handout for an an overview of supplemental study programs.
BYU Law School has historically enjoyed a very high rate of passage on the bar exam, and this is a direct result of the significant effort our students put into bar study. Though a BYU Law School education will provide you with an excellent foundation to be successful on the bar exam, you must still dedicate sufficient time to prepare specifically for the bar exam.
Do not take the bar exam unless you are fully prepared to do so. Do not take the bar exam just to “try it out” or because you hope you may get lucky and pass. Failing the bar often has a significant impact on students’ mental and emotional health and can negatively affect their employment prospects. Therefore, please set aside the time, money, and energy necessary to prepare for and pass the bar exam in your chosen jurisdiction on your first attempt. Then plan a wonderful celebration when you pass!
Every graduate of BYU Law School is capable of passing the bar exam.
Yes, to ensure that every student can take a comprehensive bar prep class, BYU Law School provides a “Bar Prep Woolley Loan” that will cover the full cost of a bar class.
Review this handout for more details including how to apply and what exactly the loan covers.
Each jurisdiction sets its own passing scores. Check the NCBE Comprehensive Guide to Bar Admission Requirements for a complete explanation of each jurisdiction’s scoring system (www.ncbex.org).
A UBE score can be transferred between the jurisdictions that have adopted the UBE. However, each jurisdiction determines its own minimum score. For example, the minimum acceptable score in Utah is 270, while it is 260 in New Mexico and 280 in Alaska.
Each jurisdiction also determines the maximum age for a transferred UBE score. Maximum age limits across the country range from 2-5 years.
Finally, some jurisdictions require applicants to take an additional exam focused on local law prior to being admitted.
NOTE: Some jurisdictions have reciprocity agreements that allow attorneys licensed in one jurisdiction to apply for admission in the reciprocal jurisdiction. Such agreements usually include practice requirements, however. For example, Utah requires that applicants have been working as an attorney full-time for 60 of the last 84 months in the reciprocal jurisdiction.
Each jurisdiction varies in how long it takes to score exams. The range is between five to fourteen weeks.