What is the Bar Exam?
The Uniform Bar Examination (UBE) is a standardized bar exam created by the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE). It is designed to test knowledge and skills that every lawyer should have before becoming licensed to practice law.
The UBE is uniformly administered and scored, and the UBE score is portable, meaning it can be used to apply in multiple jurisdictions that have adopted the UBE. Some jurisdictions that use the UBE may also require applicants to complete additional educational components or exams. Each jurisdiction sets its own passing score.
The UBE consists of three parts: the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE), the Multistate Essay Examination (MEE), and the Multistate Performance Test (MPT). You can read more details about each of these sections below.
The UBE is administered twice a year over the course of two days.
The first administration of the MBE falls on the last Wednesday of February, with the MEE and MPT being administered the Tuesday prior to that. The second administration of the MBE is on the last Wednesday of July, with the MEE and MPT on the Tuesday prior to that.
What’s on the UBE
The UBE is comprised of the following three sections, weighted as follows:
- The Multistate Bar Examination (MBE) 50%
- The Multistate Essay Examination (MEE) 30%
- The Multistate Performance Test (MPT) 20%
The Multistate Bar Examination (MBE) is one component of the Uniform Bar Exam. It is a 200-question, multiple-choice exam that is administered over a six-hour period on two dates per year: the last Wednesday of February and the last Wednesday of July.
The MBE is used to help bar examiners determine competence to practice law. Specifically, it is used to assess an examinee’s ability to apply fundamental legal principles, exercise legal reasoning, and analyze fact patterns. Jurisdictions that administer the UBE weight the MBE component 50%.
The Multistate Essay Examination (MEE) consists of six 30-minute questions that are administered on the Tuesday before the last Wednesday in February and the Tuesday before the last Wednesday in July of each year (when the MBE is administered).
The MEE is used to determine effective communication in writing, specifically the ability to:
- identify legal issues raised by real-life, factual scenarios
- differentiate between relevant and non-relevant information
- present a reasoned analysis of relevant information through clarity in writing and composition
- demonstrate an understanding of the fundamental legal principles that are relevant to the issues tested
Jurisdictions that administer the UBE weight the MEE component 30%.
What are the UBE essay subjects?
The Multistate Essay Examination (MEE) may cover any of the following content areas:
- Business Associations – Agency and Partnership, Corporations, Limited Liability Companies
- Conflict of Laws
- Criminal Law and Procedure
- Family Law
- Federal Civil Procedure
- Real Property
- Trusts and Estates – Decedents' Estates; Trusts and Future Interests
- Uniform Commercial Code – Article 9, Secured Transactions
Unlike the MBE, which is graded and scored by the NCBE, the MEE is graded exclusively by the jurisdiction that administers the bar examination.
The Multistate Performance Test (MPT)
The Multistate Performance Test (MPT) is one component of the Uniform Bar Exam. It consists of two 90-minute exams that are administered together on the Tuesday before the last Wednesday in February and the Tuesday before the last Wednesday in July of each year (when the MBE is administered).
Jurisdictions that administer the UBE use both MPT items.
The MPT is used to determine the application of lawyering skills in realistic situations that beginning lawyers should be equipped to handle. Instead of being a test of substantive knowledge, it is designed to evaluate fundamental skills and the application of those skills, not specific to any particular area of law. Jurisdictions that administer the UBE weight the MPT component 20%.
UBE states and UBE jurisdictions
[ READ: What's the Bar Exam like in your state? ]
The U.S. states and districts that accept the UBE are:
- District of Columbia
- Massachusetts (beginning July 2018)
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Dakota
- South Carolina
- West Virginia
The UBE is uniformly administered across these jurisdictions, but the jurisdictions themselves are responsible for certain aspects of the exam and its administration, including, but not limited to:
- determining who can sit for the exam and how many times they can take it
- scoring the MEE and MPT components
- setting score release policies
- requiring additional jurisdiction-specific exams or educational components
- setting passing score rates and determining how long scores will be accepted
Why does the UBE matter?
The Uniform Bar Examination provides a standardized bar exam that has been adopted in 26 states and the District of Columbia. Examinees who take the UBE earn a portable score that can be transferred to seek admission in other UBE jurisdictions.
For more information about the UBE and its sections, scoring, and jurisdictions, visit the NBCE’s site.