Bar Exam

Graduating law school doesn’t guarantee your ability to be a lawyer.  The Bar Exam is likely the most important test of an aspiring lawyer’s legal career.  It’s a rigorous and intensive exam held over the course of two or three days (depending on the test taker’s jurisdiction). Passing a state’s Bar Exam is a key step toward being licensed to practice law within that state.  Essay questions requiring detailed answers to complex fact patterns, testing the test taker on both general legal principles and that state’s particular laws.   The Multistate Bar Examination, or MBE, which is currently given in 48 states,  is made up of 200 multiple choice questions that test  knowledge of common law principles in seven substantive areas – Torts, Contracts, Real Property, Constitutional Law, Evidence, Criminal Law and Criminal Procedure.

Brief history of the Bar Exam: The first state to introduce a Bar exam was Delaware in 1763 – 25 years before it was the first state to ratify the Constitution.   This milestone set into motion the process of other states instituting a legal careers entrance exam. The MBE was introduced in 1972 to test subjects based upon principles of common law and Article 2 of the Uniform Commercial Code (covering sales of goods) that apply throughout the United States.

  • Number of exams administered in 2009 (most recently recorded year): 68,887
  • Length of exam: varies by state
  • Exam format: paper-and-pencil
  • Sections on exam: varies by state
  • Score range: pass or fail, though some give exact grading for MBA section.
  • Cost of exam: varies by state
  • How often the exam it administered: twice a year in every state – the last week of February and the last week of July
  • Administrator of exam: Each state bar organization administers own exam
  • Interesting fact about the exam: The only states that do not administer the MBE are Louisiana and Washington.