About the Multistate Bar Examination
The Ultimate Guide to the MBE®
The Multistate Bar Exam (MBE®) is a component of a legal certification exam, also known as the bar exam, that a prospective attorney must pass in order to practice law in a particular jurisdiction in the United States. The MBE is a standardized 200-question multiple-choice exam that evaluates a candidate's ability to apply fundamental legal principles and reasoning in legal practice. The MBE's significance in comparison to other scores is a matter of policy that is left to the discretion of each individual jurisdiction. The MBE is designed to assess an examinee's ability to apply fundamental legal principles and legal reasoning to analyze given fact patterns.
Who administers the MBE?
The National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE®) developed the MBE, a six-hour, 200-question multiple-choice examination administered as part of the bar examination by user jurisdictions on the last Wednesday in February and the last Wednesday in July of each year. The MBE is tested in 54 US jurisdictions, including states, territories, and the District of Columbia.
Why is MBE Important?
The MBE is the gold standard of legal examinations; it is truly a "make or break" exam among the legal proficiency exams. In the majority of US jurisdictions, the MBE section carries a subject weight of 50% of the total score. However, some non-UBE jurisdictions have different score distributions.
The MBE is one section of the bar exam that has been adopted in nearly every jurisdiction in the United States, including those states that have adopted the UBE. The MBE is one of several criteria that a state board of bar examiners may use to determine whether or not prospective lawyers should be admitted to the bar. As with other components of the bar exam, each jurisdiction determines the relative weight assigned to the MBE. In other words, the NCBE does not provide a "raw" passing score. Instead, your raw score will be "converted" into a scaled score by adding a certain number of points. In other words, if the minimum score required to pass the MBE in your state is 135, you do not need to get 135 correct answers out of 200.
The relative importance that individual states place on MBE scores varies widely. About half of the states include it in their calculations, although South Carolina, for example, has it as barely a tenth of the total. Although the minimum scaled score needed to pass may vary by state, it is often between 130 and 140. Sixty to eighty percent of those who take the MBE succeed nationally. Please look at the table below to get the state-wide MBE score distribution.
Which jurisdictions accept the MBE?
Besides the two exceptions of Louisiana and Puerto Rico, every state in the United States uses the MBE. The NCBE uses the MBE to assess candidates' federal and common law knowledge. It does not call into question any local regulations. Due to significant differences between their civil law systems and those of other states, neither Louisiana nor Puerto Rico uses the MBE. Refer to the below table to learn which states administer the MBE:
MBE Eligibility and Registration
In most cases, you must hold a bachelor's degree to be eligible for the MBE. In addition, other requirements like credit hours, character fitness, and so forth may play a part in the admission process. Some states may accept an apprenticeship instead of a bachelor's degree. However, eligibility for the MBE is left to each jurisdiction's discretion. You must reach out to your state's board of examiners for more clarity on the same.
How to Apply for an MBE?
To apply for the MBE, follow these steps:
- Step 1: Create an NCBE Account on the official portal.
- Step 2: Make note of the NCBE Number for future reference
- Step 3: Select your preferred jurisdiction
- Step 4: Schedule your bar exam online, telephonically, or in-person
- Step 5: Pay the registration fee and all other associated costs
MBE Format and Subjects
The MBE is a multiple choice exam that tests your ability to apply fundamental legal principles to fact patterns. Though tricky in some areas, the MBE has a straightforward rule: one question, one answer, meaning any given question has only one correct answer. See the overview below to learn about the MBE format and outline.
The MBE is administered throughout the day in two sessions: morning and afternoon, with 100 questions in each. Each session is three hours long. So the MBE consists of 200 questions, 175 of which are scored and 25 of which are unscored pretest questions. Each question is followed by four possible answers. Because the pretest questions are identical to the scored questions, examinees should answer all of them. You are not entitled to any scheduled breaks during either session.
MBE Tested Subjects
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure
Criminal Law and Procedure
Federal Rules of Evidence
Why is the MBE Bar so hard?
The National Conference of Bar Examiners intentionally makes MBE questions difficult; thus, it can be challenging to eliminate incorrect answer choices. One issue for examinees is not knowing which questions count toward their final score and which do not. The NCBE includes 25 "test" or experimental questions that are not scored but may be used in future bar exams.
Some students' confidence may be negatively affected if they encounter a complicated question at the start of the exam. It's critical to learn how to recognize and avoid tempting red herrings. Another concern for students is recognizing the subtopic of the MBE subject the question is testing; this can be difficult because some MBE questions involve multiple subtopics, and the primary subject can get lost in the mix. Knowing and understanding the laws underlying the subjects tested is the best way to find the correct answer on the MBE.
Tips to Study for the MBE Exam
The tried and tested mantra for approaching any exam is the “positive mindset” rule. Take those breathers in between your study hours and declutter your mind. Set aside some ‘me-time’ and get those Bon Jovi playlists going! It goes without saying that exam day will be stressful and tedious. However, hitting the panic button in the preceding days isn’t a wise thing to do. At UWorld, we encourage you to follow the “PRK Rule”: Prepare well, Rest well, and Keep your eyes on the prize!
Here are some helpful tips for you:
- Start by studying the most tested MBE subjects like Negligence, Criminal Procedure, Individual Rights, etc.
- Memorize the law. The MBE does not award points for general knowledge. It's a cold, hard memorization test. You must devote the time required to drill specific definitions into your memory. UWorld Flashcards are a great way to ensure you're learning and remembering everything you need for the MBE.
- Practice mock exams, and focus on the answers you don’t get right, and reattempt those multiple times.
- Set a target of answering at least 70-100 questions in a day.
- Take timed tests to prepare for the real-time experience.
- Accomplish the 3 Rules: Review, Revise, Repeat.
No, the MBE is a component of the bar exam as a whole. The UBE is a format of that bar exam. As of the February 2023 bar exam, the UBE is the standardized bar exam across 41 jurisdictions, including the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands. It consists of three parts: MEE, MPT, and MBE. To understand the differences between MBE and UBE, read our page on MBE vs. UBE.