What is the Bar Exam? (2023)

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

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SectionAllotted TimeFormat
Multistate Performance Test (MPT)120 minutes2 lawyering tasks (90 minutes each)
Multistate Essay Examination (MEE)3 hours6 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/JurisdictionPass RateTookPassedMinimum Passing Score
Iowa78.46%260 204266
New Mexico76.95%308237260
New Hampshire68.38%234160270
South Carolina65.25%682445266
West Virginia64.58%240155270
District of Columbia64.20%16061031266
New York61.19%140948624266
South Dakota58.26%11567
New Jersey57.59%1351778266
Rhode Island57.58%16595276
North Dakota53.98%11361260
North Carolina52.35%1639858270

Bar Exam Registration

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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:

JurisdictionApplication Filing DeadlinesBar Exam Fees
First filing deadlineLate filing deadlineBar exam fee for first-time takers (non-attorneys)Bar exam fee for attorneysBar exam fee for repeatersFee for laptops, if permitted
AlabamaOct. 1$575$575$575$121
AlaskaDec. 1Jan. 15$800$800$500$100
ArizonaAug. 15Nov. 30$880$880$580$125
ArkansasNov. 15$500$500$500$0
CaliforniaNov. 1Jan. 15$1,228$1,534$1,228 / $1,534$153
ColoradoNov. 1Dec. 1$710$710$710$0
ConnecticutOct. 31Nov. 30$800$800$800$125
DelawareNo February Exams$700 / $1,400$800 / $1,600$700 / $1,400$100
District of ColumbiaDec. 15Dec. 30$100 + $45 (MEE + MPT)+ $60 (MBE)$100 + $45 (MEE + MPT)+ $60 (MBE)$100 + $45 (MEE + MPT)+ $60 (MBE)$145
FloridaNov. 15Dec. 15/ Jan. 15$1,000$1,600–$3,000$450$125
GeorgiaJan. 2Feb. 1$350 + $64 (MBE)+ $28 (MPT)$350 + $28 (MPT)$350 + $64 (MBE)+ $28 (MPT)$100
HawaiiNov. 1$500$500$500$133.50
IdahoOct. 1Nov. 15$600$800$200 / $300$125
IllinoisSept. 15Nov. 1/ Dec. 15$950 – $1,450$950 – $1,450$500 – $850$105
IndianaNov. 15Nov. 30$250$250$250$110
IowaNov. 1$550$800$550 / $800$122
KansasOct. 1Nov. 1$700$700$700$0
KentuckyOct. 1Dec. 1$875$1,200$325$125
LouisianaNov. 1Dec. 15$750 / $875$875$875$125
MaineDec. 20Dec. 27/ Jan. 3$600$650$600 / $650$110
MarylandDec. 20$750$750$400$130
Massachusetts75 days$815$815$815$175
MichiganNov. 1Dec. 15$775$775$775varies
MinnesotaOct. 15Dec. 2$500$950$500$100
MississippiSept. 1Nov. 1$525 / $825$825$550varies
MissouriOct. 1Nov. 1/ Dec. 31$485 / $910$485 / $910$485 / $585$105
MontanaOct. 1$620$875$310$125
NebraskaNov. 1Dec. 1$490$490$225 / $490$150
NevadaOct. 1Dec. 1$700$1,000$700 / $1,000$150
New HampshireDec. 1$725$725$725$52.50
New JerseyOct. 31Nov. 15/ Nov. 30$675$675$675$0
New MexicoSept. 20Dec. 2$500 / $1,000$500 / $1,000$100$100
New YorkNov. 30$250 / $750$250 / $750$250 / $750$100
North CarolinaOct. 1Nov. 5$850$1,650$400$125
North DakotaNov. 1Dec. 1$150$150$150$110
OhioNov. 1Dec. 10$358$358$358$121
OklahomaSept. 1Oct. 2/ Nov. 1$400$1,100$400$125
OregonNov. 15Dec. 15$750$1,175$750 / $1,125$150
PennsylvaniaOct. 30Nov. 15/ Nov. 30/ Dec. 15$650$650$650$115
Rhode IslandSept. 1/ Dec. 1$975$1,475$975$0
South CarolinaAug. 31Sep. 30$1,000 / $1,500$1,000 / $1,500 + $750$1,000 / $1,500$125.50
South DakotaNov. 1$300$300$175$100
TennesseeDec. 1Dec. 20$575$575$375$100
TexasSep. 1Nov. 1/ Dec. 1$300 / $490 / $1,140$1,040 / $1,140$320$120
UtahOct. 1Nov. 1$550$850$550 / $850$150
VermontDec. 1$300$300$300$50
VirginiaDec. 17$950$950$650 / $950$125
WashingtonOct. 5Nov. 6$585$620$585 / $620$134.50
West VirginiaNov. 1Dec. 1$500$800$500 / $800$125
WisconsinDec. 1Jan. 1$450 / $850$450 / $850$450$110
WyomingNov. 15$600$600$600$85
GuamDec. 1Jan. 1$800$800$800
Northern Mariana IslandsDec. 20Jan. 3$500$1,000$500 / $1,000
PalauNo February Exams$300$300$300
Puerto RicoTBA$250$250$250
Virgin IslandsDec. 1Jan. 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.

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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?

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  • 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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