Overview of Bar Exam Format, Subjects, and Topics

More and more states are administering the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE®). Though well known, you probably came across this exam when deciding which bar exam you wanted to take once you finished law school. The UBE topics must be familiar to you now that you're ready to begin your bar exam preparation.

First, let’s address the fundamentals. As of the February 2023 exam,the UBE has been adopted by 41 jurisdictions, barring a few states. The bar exam is specifically designed to test a candidate’s overall knowledge of the legal system. As you read on, we will delve further into the basics of the bar exam format, topics, and subjects.

Bar Exam Format for UBE

The primary purpose of a bar exam is to test a candidate's knowledge and ability to translate that knowledge into real-time legal scenarios. It may sound simple, but believe us when we say it is no cakewalk. So, in this section, we will discuss the overall bar exam format to help you understand the core components of the bar exam process.

How long is the UBE Exam?

The UBE is a 12 hour exam. It is administered for two days and is divided as follows:

Exam Morning: 3 hours Afternoon: 3 hours
Day 1: MPT® & MEE® Two 90-minute MPT tasks Six 30-minute MEE questions
Day 2:MBE® 100 multiple-choice questions 100 multiple-choice questions

Note: All UBE jurisdictions administer the bar exam for 2 days. Non-UBE states test the bar exam over 2.5 days (Delaware and Nevada) or 3 days (Louisiana and Palau).

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UBE Adopted States Bar Exam Weight and Subjects

If you’ve passed the bar exam in one UBE state but want to work in another state that administers the UBE, it’s important that you research the rules surrounding score portability.

Each state establishes its own criteria for admission to the bar, and many states have reciprocal agreements. If you want to work in a state that has reciprocity with the state where you've taken and passed the bar, you can do so without needing to retake the bar.

So, now let's discuss the three exams that comprise the UBE: MBE, MPT, and MEE. Below, we have outlined the format of each of these exams.

Note: UBE Bar Exam is divided into two parts. Part 1 is titled “The Written Portion” of the UBE is divided into two parts that are standardized across all 41 UBE states: the Multistate Essay Exam (MEE) and the Multistate Performance Test (MPT). Part 2 is the Multistate Bar Exam (MBE), which consists of multiple-choice questions.

Non-UBE States Bar Exam Format

Non-UBE states like California have individual state parameters that have to be met. It is therefore important that you reach out to the state-specific bodies to learn more. You can also view Chart 12 for non-UBE applicants to get clarity on the same.

What is a drafted exam?

Similar to the MEE in the UBE, the non-UBE states have an essay section called the "drafting section." The drafting section will come up on the first day of your bar exam. In most cases, you'll be asked to draft a report's findings in response to a query.

Pro Tip: Do as many sample exams as you can with drafting questions to prepare for such types of questions. To answer several of these questions, you’ll have to write up the complete case. As a rule of thumb, you don’t need to include all of these assertions to prepare for the exam; instead, you can only write the entête (the header) and then the conclusion.

It's also a good idea to go over all of the drafted exercises you did in law school. The questions you'll be asked will be similar to the ones you've already learned in law school. Do as many old examinations as you can with drafting questions to prepare for such questions.

To answer several of these questions, you must write up the entire case. As a rule of thumb, you don't need to include all of these assertions to prepare for the exam; instead, you can only write the entête (the header) and then the conclusion. It's also a good idea to go over all of the drafted exercises you did in law school. The questions you'll be asked will be similar to the ones you've already learned in law school.

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Frequently Asked Questions

It depends on the state in which you wish to practice. Some states require it, while some make do with the passing of the UBE itself. We would strongly advise you to reach out to your state authorities or the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE®) to better understand this. The list of UBE states that require a jurisdiction-specific component can also be found on the NCBE site.
UBE states have a total of 25 subjects, with an additional 12 subjects on the MPRE. The MBE comprises seven subjects, the MEE twelve, and the MPT six. Non-UBE states have pretty much the same; however, there may be some exceptions from state to state. Please visit the NCBE official website to know more.

You must refer to the state-wise requirements to understand which exam subjects you need to study. Please visit our page on the bar exam to learn more about your state’s requirements.

Enrolling in a full bar review course like Bar Review will help guide you through the topics you should study first, how often you should study them, and prepare you entirely for the exam as a whole.

The MBE consists of 200 MCQs, the MEE six essays, and the MPT comprises two 90-minute sections.
If you want to practice law in another state, but you’ve already passed the bar exam in your state, sitting for another bar exam is the last thing you need. So, to ease the process, the NCBE offers legal license holders (candidates that have passed the bar) a chance to research the state-specific reciprocity laws to leverage their license in many states that have accepted this system.

Read More about Bar Exam

Each state administers its own bar exam to find qualified lawyers. What’s the final step to becoming a licensed US attorney in your state? Find out here!
How are the MBE, MPT and MEE scheduled, when are the deadlines, and what about the non-UBE jurisdictions? Find out the A-Z of scheduling a bar exam here!
What are the costs and fees for UBE registration? The UBE has a one cost and one fees policy across the UBE states. Learn more about the steps and the fees involved.
The UBE scoring happens on a 400 point scale. Each state has its own scoring scale. But, how are these scores distributed, which sections are the highest scoring? Find out!
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