Bar Exam Guide

To practice law, law school graduates must pass a bar exam administered by a state board of bar examiners. The Uniform Bar Exam (UBE) is an examination made by the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) and acts as the standardized test that prospective lawyers must complete.

The UBE tests the basic knowledge and analysis skills that all lawyers should have after finishing law school before becoming licensed as a practicing lawyer. Some people will pay thousands of dollars to get help with the UBE, but below are some of the best resources available to you for free!

Recommended Study Resources for the BAR

 Resource Notes  Provider 
 Official Bar Admissions Guide  Check out this official Bar Admissions Guide for more information.  NCBE
 MBE Sample Questions  Official sample test questions from the NCBE.  NCBE
 MEE Sample Questions  Official sample test questions from the NCBE.  NCBE
 MPT Sample Questions  Official sample test questions from the NCBE.  NCBE
 UBE Flashcards  Review 145+ flashcards for the UBE Bar exam.   Quizlet

Check out our free practice tests page for more free BAR practice tests.

Where the UBE is Accepted

The following jurisdictions have accepted the UBE:

  • 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

The following jurisdictions have NOT adopted the UBE:

  • California
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii
  • Indiana
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Michigan
  • Mississippi
  • Nevada
  • Oklahoma
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Dakota
  • Virginia
  • Wisconsin
  • Guam
  • Northern Mariana Islands
  • Palau
  • Puerto Rico

Content Outline - What is the Bar Exam?

The UBE will test your general knowledge of the basis of law as well as legal analysis skills, factual analysis, and your ability to effectively communicate accurate information. To test all of these areas, the UBE is made up of three subtests: Multistate Performance Test (MPT), Multistate Essay Examination (MEE), and Multistate Bar Examination (MBE).

The entirety of the UBE contains 200 multiple-choice questions, six 30-minute essays, and two 90-minute case studies. The Unified Bar Examination is broken down as follows.

The Multistate Performance Test

The MPT is the portion of the test that contains the two 90-minute case studies to test your ability to read through case files and effectively analyze the case in question. This portion of the UBE is most concerned with testing your fundamental skills as a lawyer rather than any particular law or jurisdiction. 

The total time allowed for the MPT is 3 hours, broken down into two 90-minute segments for each examination of the case files. The MPT accounts for 20% of your total examination score on the UBE, the least weighted of the three sections.

The Multistate Essay Examination

The MEE portion of the UBE consists of six essay questions, of which you are allotted 30 minutes for each one. The purpose of the MEE is to test your ability to effectively communicate your legal abilities in writing, a vastly important skill to master for anyone hoping to become a lawyer. 

The potential essay subjects are known beforehand so that you have a better idea of the types of questions you may see on the MEE. The topics that the essay questions may be about could cover any of the following:

  • Contracts
  • Constitutional Law
  • Criminal Law and Procedure
  • Evidence
  • Real Property
  • Torts
  • Civil Procedure
  • Business Associations
  • Conflict of Laws
  • Family Law
  • Secured Transactions
  • Trusts and Estates

As you can see from the list, although you know the topics that may be covered on the MEE, the list is extensive and will require you to have a wide breadth of knowledge of many facets of law to do well on this portion of the UBE. The Multistate Essay Examination accounts for 30% of your overall UBE score.

The Multistate Bar Examination 

The MBE portion of the UBE is the meat and potatoes of the whole thing with an allotted time of six hours. Typically when someone thinks of the Bar exam, the extensive and exhaustive multiple-choice question portion of the test is what comes to mind. 

This subtest contains multiple-choice questions over a wide range of subjects. The subjects covered on the MBE are a portion of the list of potential topics for the MEE, so studying for one will inherently help you prepare for the other. The topics covered on the MBE include:

  • Contracts
  • Constitutional Law
  • Criminal Law and Procedure
  • Evidence
  • Real Property
  • Torts
  • Civil Procedure

The overall purpose of the MBE is to test your knowledge of the fundamentals of law and how you use that knowledge to come up with the right answer. The MBE is the largest portion of the UBE and is weighted to account for 50% of your overall UBE performance.

Administrative Aspects of the UBE

How to Register for the UBE

The first step to registering for the UBE is to create an account with NCBE on their website to obtain your NCBE Number. This number will be your unique identifier throughout the process and you will use it to then apply to take the bar exam with the jurisdiction you’re planning on testing in. 

The common practice for the UBE is to be administered only twice a year, so you don’t want to miss registration as it’s a long wait for the next cycle of testing. The UBE is offered in the last week of February and the last week of July every year.

The current fee for taking the Bar exam varies from state to state since they are different testing jurisdictions. Depending on which jurisdiction you're testing in, the prices can range from $150 up to $1,500. Be sure to check the NCBE’s website to see the total cost of taking the UBE in your state or jurisdiction.

How is the Bar Administered?

The UBE is typically offered twice a year (in February and July). The examination is broken down over two days. During the week that it's being offered, the testing days will be Tuesday and Wednesday. Each day will be further broken as follow:

Tuesday:

  • Multistate Essay Examination - 3 hours
  • Multistate Performance Test - 3 hours

Wednesday:

  • Multistate Bar Examination (first 100 questions) - 3 hours
  • Multistate Bar Examination (last 100 questions) - 3 hours

Keep in mind that these subtests are all entirely separate from one another. So you won’t be able to use any spare time you have after finishing the MPT on Tuesday afternoon to go back and finish up the MEE. Use your time wisely!

Requirements Needed to Take the Bar Exam

Per the NCBE, there aren't any strict requirements on age ubiquitously, most states require lawyers to be at least 21 years old to receive their license. Considering the required education prerequisites, the age rule rarely comes into play. There are two main requirements needed to take the UBE:

  • You should have completed at least 75% of the coursework required to receive a bachelor’s degree in college.
  • You should have completed all required coursework needed to obtain a law degree from an accredited law school. 

Scoring the UBE and What the Score Means

How the Scores are Calculated

The scoring of the UBE is separated between the subtests. The NBCE scores the main portion, the MBE. The MPT and MEE are scored separately by the jurisdictions in which the exam was taken. 

With the aforementioned weighting in mind, scores are scaled as needed and the final calculations are done by the NCBE. The finals scores are calculated on a 400-point scale, with the NCBE reporting them to the jurisdictions who then report the scores to the test takers.

Meaning of The Score

Possible scores on the UBE can range from 0 to 400, but each state or jurisdiction defines the minimum score needed to be considered a "passing" score. The most common score that is needed across the country is between 266-270.

Frequently Asked Questions

What makes the UBE “uniform”?

Since it is a standardized test, the UBE allows you to transfer between jurisdictions (that have adopted the UBE) without having to retake the Bar exam in each new jurisdiction.

Are all questions on the UBE scored?

175 out of the 200 multiple-choice questions are scored, the remaining 25 will not affect your score and they are on there for the NCBE’s use. You won’t know which ones are unscored so do your best on every question!

Will jurisdictions still get my score even if I do poorly on it or can I void my scores?

The jurisdictions will get your score before you do, so yes. The NCBE reports your score to the jurisdiction, who will then report the score to you.

Last Updated: 1/12/2021