NextGen Bar Exam
The NextGen bar exam is slated to debut as the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE®) new bar exam in July 2026. The NCBE has been cautious about what bar exam changes it publishes to avoid committing to features that may change. While the NCBE won't publish its official blueprint until 2024, it has released a draft of its Content Scope Outlines. To save you the headache of pouring over thirty-six pages of content, we've filtered out the most relevant details regarding the NCBE NextGen bar exam's content (subjects and skill areas), structure and format, scoring, and more.
What is the NextGen bar exam?
The NextGen bar exam is the culmination of a years-long overhaul of the Uniform Bar Examination (UBE®). This overhaul began partly in response to increasing discontent among examinees who felt that the current UBE is more a test of one's ability to memorize doctrinal law than a measurement of one's competency to practice it.
With this in mind, the NCBE tasked a Content Scope Committee to conduct a three-year study ensuring that the bar exam "continues to test the knowledge, skills, and abilities required for competent entry-level legal practice." The result of this study was the Content Scope Outlines for the NextGen bar exam.
NextGen bar exam Content, Format, Scoring, and Delivery
NCBE President and CEO Judith A. Gundersen has commented that the most significant bar exam changes are the adjustments to the subject matter, increased skills testing, integration, and computer-based testing. Here is a snapshot of what that means.
The most dramatic changes, and the most important to examinees, involve content modifications. The Committee made the following considerations regarding the "breadth" and "depth" of the Foundational Concepts and Principles and Foundational Skills featured on the new exam.
Details regarding NextGen bar exam content will continue to emerge as new data is collected. Pilot testing began in 2022 and will continue throughout 2023, allowing the NCBE to determine the most equitable and efficient way to distribute the legal resources (e.g., Federal Rules of Evidence), determine the best way to test more subjective issues, and make timing decisions for various item types and the exam as a whole.
Foundational Concepts & Principles (Subjects)
The eight NextGen bar exam subjects have been labeled as Foundational Concepts & Principles. These subjects are not new but are an abbreviated version of the 14 subjects that currently appear on the UBE.
The pruning of subject matter comes on the heels of complaints that much of the legal knowledge tested on the UBE is unnecessary to have memorized in practice. The remaining subjects have been deemed more universally relevant. They are:
- Business Associations (including Agency)
- Civil Procedure (including constitutional protections and proceedings before administrative agencies)
- Constitutional Law* (excluding principles covered under Civil Procedure and Criminal Law)
- Contract Law (including Art. 2 of the UCC)
- Criminal Law and Constitutional Protections Impacting Criminal Proceedings (excluding coverage of criminal procedure beyond constitutional protections)
- Real Property
*While Constitutional Law issues may not be a common practice area for first-year attorneys, the Committee views lawyers as “custodians of the Constitution,” a consideration they have integrated as part of their evaluation of the scope of tested topics.
Foundational Skills Testing
Foundational Skills will likely be measured in the context of Foundational Concepts and Principles. Any skill tested outside of this context will provide appropriate legal resources, much like the MPT component of the UBE. The Foundational Skills are as follows:
Foundational Skills Group 1
– Issue Spotting and Analysis
– Investigation and Evaluation
Foundational Skills Group 2
– Client Counseling and Advising
– Negotiation and Dispute Resolution
– Client Relationship and Management
– Professional Responsibility Issues*
*Professional Responsibility will not be assessed in stand-alone questions, but may be assessed with other Foundational Skills from Group 2.
Notice that some Foundational Skills include performance skills like "client interviewing" and "negotiation." To ensure that competency is measured objectively, examinees will be provided uniform content and assessed based on their written or selected responses.
Foundational Skills testing will offer examinees a number of ways to demonstrate their ability. For example, an "Issue Spotting and Analysis" item may ask you to assess the probability of an outcome of a claim based on relevant legal rules and standards. Alternatively, you may be provided a collection of legal resources from a client file and asked to identify critical issues that require resolution to demonstrate skill in "Legal Research."
|Foundational Skills Considerations|
|Practice Analysis Continuity||What simulated tasks are best oriented towards those that are important to new lawyers?|
|Universality/Balance||What simulated tasks have the most overlap with the greatest number of real-world lawyering tasks, and which provide the best balance between different types of practice?|
|Cost/Practicality||Which Foundational Skills can be realistically tested in a written exam while remaining affordable?|
The Committee recommended that item sets include stand-alone questions alongside a variety of formats, such as but not limited to:
- Extended constructed-response items
The item set format allows for a collection of questions to be based around a single scenario and developed as a unit. This format is a departure from the standalone questions present in components of the UBE and the siloing of question types (multiple choice, essay, performance) into those components: the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE®), the Multistate Essay Examination (MEE®), and the Multistate Performance Test (MPT®).
An integrated format allows the NCBE to more faithfully replicate situations that newly minted lawyers will encounter at the beginning of their careers. To ensure that the new format faithfully reflects competency, the NCBE has been pilot-testing item sets to collect performance data and adjusting accordingly.
The Committee has specifically recommended that “the bar exam be given as a single event at or near the point of licensure." In other words, candidates will take the NextGen bar exam following graduation and cannot take portions of the exam during their time in law school. However, jurisdictions will still have the last say as to whether or not examinees can apply for the new bar exam in their final semester.
The NextGen bar exam is expected to be no longer, and perhaps shorter, than the current 12-hour, two-day exam, so long as validity and score reliability can be maintained.
The NextGen bar exam will be scored using a compensatory scoring model that is designed to holistically assess an examinee's competency by allowing areas of strength to compensate for areas of weakness.
Furthermore, scaled scoring will still be used to convert raw scores based on an exam version's relative difficulty. For example, exam version "A" administered in the winter may be deemed more difficult than exam version "B" administered in summer. Therefore, exam B’s results will be adjusted to resolve the discrepancy and ensure fairness.
The NextGen bar exam will be administered biannually. Furthermore, the exam will be entirely computer-based and proctored at jurisdiction-managed facilities or approved testing centers.
NextGen Bar Exam vs. UBE: Differences and Similarities
While the NextGen bar exam will be markedly different from its predecessor, there are some notable similarities.
*Information regarding the NextGen bar exam is subject to change.
The greatest differences between the two bar exams lie in content and item format. The UBE’s current iteration consists of fourteen subjects between the MEE and MBE. In contrast, the NextGen bar exam will test eight Foundational Concepts and Principles. Furthermore, the NCBE has suggested that the remaining subjects will not be as comprehensive.
The Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE®) is still required on the NextGen Bar Exam. It’s important to recognize that you will be expected to have the law memorized for some of the topics within these subjects. For others, however, you will only need enough familiarity to be able to work with legal sources.
|Conflict of Laws|
|Trusts and Estates|
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The first administration of the NextGen bar exam is scheduled for July 2026. Notable events leading up to that point include the administration of a prototype exam at the end of 2024 through early 2025, and a standard-setting exercise and release of recommendations for passing scores in Q3 of 2025.
|Glossary of Terms|
|Item Set||A group of questions revolving around a single scenario or stimulus.|
|Pilot Testing||Administration of proto-item formats under simulated conditions to small groups of law students and/or licensed practicing lawyers.|
|Field Testing||Large-scale administration of finalized new items under realistic conditions.|
|Prototype Exam||Large-scale administration of a full-length exam.|
Why is the Bar Exam changing?
The bar exam is changing as a response to the increasing consensus that the existing bar exam is not an accurate assessment of one’s ability to practice law at the entry level. The proposed solution is to emphasize skills assessment over rote memorization.
Would states have a choice to implement NextGen/Current Bar Exam
Eventually, the NCBE will develop and administer only the NextGen bar exam, which will become the UBE. However, there will be a temporary transition period of up to 3-4 years where states will have a choice between administering the NextGen bar exam and the existing bar exam.
How can Themis + UWorld Full Bar Prep help me for the NextGen bar exam?
As soon as the NCBE announced their plans for the NextGen bar exam, Themis and UWorld assembled a team of bar exam and educational experts to begin adapting, developing, and pilot testing skills-based content.
Themis Bar Review debuted the first bar exam course designed to be delivered online. Themis was also the first to introduce segmented lectures and spaced repetition, and the first to design separate study tracks to allow for learning differences.
Now, backed by the technology and resources of UWorld, Themis is uniquely positioned to help our students face the NextGen bar exam head on.