MBE Subjects and Format
All you need to know about MBE’s most tested subjects!

Now that you've gotten the ball rolling on your bar exam preparation, you need to dive into your research of what each exam requires. The subjects and format of the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE®) should be your first stop because this multiple-choice portion is administered in every jurisdiction except for Louisiana and Puerto Rico. So, we're sure you're aware that the Uniform Bar Examination (UBE®) is a certain format of the bar exam and administered by the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE®) for 41 different jurisdictions. Furthermore, the UBE consists of two parts: the MBE and the written section. So, let's get a clearer picture of this...

MBE Exam Format

The MBE is conducted for a time period of 6 hours, divided into two 3-hour intervals. It consists of 200 questions in total, 175 of which are scored, and 25 are unscored pretest questions. Each question presents four alternatives to select from, with only one answer being the most correct. Selecting multiple answers results in an incorrect mark. So, please ensure that you weigh out all the possible answers before selecting the answer.

MBE Test Day

The MBE is administered by user jurisdictions on the last Wednesday in February and the last Wednesday in July of each year. NCBE's registered trademarks protect the MBE and its content, and exam content may be reused in future examinations or copyrighted instructional publications. Both exam topic disclosure and exam cheating are illegal because they damage the integrity and fairness of the testing process.

The following actions are banned and may result in instant expulsion from the testing facility and/or the nullification of the candidate's score:

  • Introducing prohibited electronic devices (whether active or inactive) or prohibited items into the examination room
  • Removing examination items from the testing room
  • Instigating a disruption or disturbance
  • Copying another candidate's responses or sharing answers with another candidate
  • Examinees who continue to write after a supervisor has asked them to stop

Please visit the NCBE outlined MBE Test Day Policies to learn more about the restrictions on items, and other particulars on the day of your MBE.

MBE Session Duration Number of Questions
Session 1 3 Hours 100 Questions
Session 2 3 Hours 100 Questions

MBE Exam Subjects

Broadly speaking, the MBE covers the following seven subject areas:

Civil Procedure

The 2015 edition of Civil Procedure is devoted to the procedures followed by the court in civil cases. Jurisdiction and venue, pretrial processes, and motions are the most frequently tested subjects. Keep in mind that the NCBE requires you to presume that the current Federal Rules of Civil Procedure apply, as well as the applicable provisions of Title 28 of the United States Code governing trial and appellate jurisdiction, venue, and transfer. Pay close attention to the federal rules you learned in your first year of law school because now is when you'll need them.

Subtopic Topic Distribution No. of Questions
Jurisdiction and Venue 22.20% 5-6
Pretrial Procedures 22.20% 5-6
Motions 22.20% 5-6
Law Applied by Federal Courts 8.30% 2-3
Jury Trials 8.30% 2-3
Verdicts and Judgments 8.30% 2-3
Appealability and Review 8.30% 2-3

Constitutional Law

Constitutional law examines the various provisions of the United States Constitution as well as other laws and legal issues that arise in their interpretation and application. Unless otherwise specified, the Constitution mentioned on the MBE strictly refers to the United States federal Constitution. Approximately half of the constitutional law questions deal with individual rights, so it is important to focus on that aspect. Freedom of the press, due process, and equal protection are just a few of the First Amendment rights that will be covered.

Subtopic Topic Distribution No. of Questions
Individual Rights 50% 12–13
The Nature of Judicial Review 16.70% 4–5
The Separation of Powers 16.70% 4–5
The Relation of Nation and States
in a Federal System
16.70% 4–5


Contract law primarily focuses on the drafting of legal contracts and their subsequent legal enforcement. Please assume that UCC Articles 1 and 2 apply. About half of the questions in this section will focus on the formation of contracts and performance, breach, and discharge of contracts; the remaining 50% will cover the other content areas, as shown in the following table:

Subtopic Topic Distribution No. of Questions
Formation of Contracts 25% 6–7
Performance, Breach, and Discharge 25% 6–7
Defenses to Enforceability 12.50% 3–4
Contract Content and Meaning 12.50% 3–4
Remedies 12.50% 3–4
Third-Party Rights 12.50% 3–4

Criminal Law and Procedure

When it comes to defending and prosecuting individuals or corporate leaders accused of committing illegal acts, criminal law and procedure is where this will be covered. The steps leading up to an arrest are examined as well, along with those taken during the arrest itself, including arraignment, bail, trial, sentence, and appeal. Roughly half of the questions in this section will focus on the constitutional protections of those who have been accused of a crime, while the other half will cover a wide range of topics, including homicide, robbery, burglary, arson, kidnapping, and other similar offenses, as well as incipient criminal activity and related parties, and more abstract concepts like criminal intent, culpability, and the reach of the law.

Subtopic Topic Distribution No. of Questions
Constitutional Protection of Accused Persons 50% 12–13
Homicide 12.50% 3–4
Other Crimes 12.50% 3–4
Inchoate Crimes, Parties 12.50% 3–4
General Principles 12.50% 3–4


In both civil and criminal proceedings, knowledge of the rules and principles governing the admission or exclusion of evidence is essential. It is important to remember that the Federal Rules of Evidence must be applied while answering these questions and not the evidentiary standards of your home state. More than 80% of the questions in this topic pertains to the presentation of evidence, the relevancy and reasons for excluding relevant evidence, hearsay and circumstances of admissibility. The remaining questions cover the below subtopics:

Subtopic Topic Distribution No. of Questions
Relevancy and Reasons for excluding
relevant evidence
33.30% 8–9
Hearsay and Circumstances of its
25% 6–7
Presentation of Evidence 25% 6–7
Privileges and Other Policy Exclusions 8.30% 2
Writings, Recordings, and Photographs 8.30% 2

Real Property

As the name implies, real property law is concerned with land and its physical aspects. Five or six questions will be asked about ownership, rights, contracts, mortgage/security devices, and titles, which is a far more even distribution than in the other MBE areas.

Subtopic Topic Distribution No. of Questions
Ownership of Real Property 20% 44687
Rights in Real Property 20% 44687
Real Estate Contracts 20% 44687
Mortgages/Security Devices 20% 44687
Titles 20% 44687


In general, the goal of tort law is to compensate victims of physical or financial wrongdoing. About half the questions will focus on negligence, while the remaining questions will cover intentional torts, strict responsibility, product liability, and other torts (nuisance, defamation, invasion of privacy, etc.) Assume, under the NCBE, that:

  1. Survival actions and wrongful death claims can be brought where appropriate.
  2. Pure comparative fault and joint and several responsibility standards apply to absent a contrary statement.
Subtopic Topic Distribution No. of Questions
Negligence 50% 12-13
Intentional Torts 16.70% 4-5
Strict Liability and Products Liability 16.70% 4-5
Other Torts 16.70% 4-5

What are the hardest and easiest MBE Subjects?

Each MBE topic inevitably has its own unique set of difficulties, making it difficult to objectively rank them. In their own ways, all those taking the bar exam possess unique skill sets. Some candidates may find it very simple, while others may find it rather challenging.

Many aspiring attorneys who have taken or are presently studying for the bar exam, however, appear to agree that the following three topics are the most difficult:

  1. Real Property
  2. Contracts
  3. Civil Procedure

To learn the tips and tricks to approaching these three exams, visit our page, “The hardest MBE Subject”.

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Read More about MBE Exam

What is the difference between the MBE and the Bar exam? Are you eligible to sit for the MBE? Discover your state specific approach to the MBE and more!
Is the MBE the most difficult exam in the UBE? What are the latest MBE pass rates? Find out here, and discover the MBE’s unique scoring system!
What does it take to pass the bar exam? Which course-preps to refer to? Find out what you need to know to become the next attorney in your state!
Stay up to date with the newest exam windows and dates and schedule your bar exam today! Better late than never! Learn about the newest NCBE guidelines.
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