The DC Bar Exam
In 2016, The DC Bar Exam became the 20th jurisdiction to adopt the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE®) format. The National Conference of Bar Examiners is responsible for coordinating the UBE, which consists of the Multistate Essay Examination (MEE®), the Multistate Performance Test (MPT®), and the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE®). As such, the Washington DC Bar Exam is uniformly administered, graded, and scored, making examinees' scores more easily transferable to participating jurisdictions.
Taking the exam and preparing your application is a serious undertaking. Fortunately, this article provides everything you need to know, including the information about admission, pass rates, results, scoring and grading, format, and of course, the DC bar exam application process.
DC Bar Exam Structure
The Washington DC Bar Exam consists of the MPT, MEE, and MBE. Like all UBE jurisdictions, the DC Bar Exam is conducted twice a year, in February and July—specifically, the last consecutive Tuesday and Wednesday in February and July.
The DC Bar Exam assesses examinees' knowledge and understanding of general legal principles, factual analysis, legal analysis and reasoning, and communication skills to evaluate their competencies and readiness to practice law in any jurisdiction.
|Exam Sessions||Exam Component||Format & Hours|
|Tuesday Morning||MPT||2 Items, 3 Hours|
|Tuesday Afternoon||MEE||6 Essays, 3 Hours|
|Wednesday Morning||MBE||100 Questions, 3 Hours|
|Wednesday Afternoon||MBE||100 Questions, 3 Hours|
The MPT is weighted at 20% and presents test-takers with a simulated case file based on a realistic scenario with a packet of various legal materials.
Examinees will show their lawyering skills using the materials provided to respond to the assignment(s). These assignments frequently involve law not tested on the bar exam (e.g., Professional Responsibility). Examinees will have to answer two such cases in 90 minutes each for a testing time of three hours.
The MEE is taken in the afternoon of the first day. It consists of six 30-minute essay questions and has a weight of 30%.
On the second day, examinees will have six hours to complete 200 multiple-choice questions (MCQs) on the MBE, which consists of two 3-hour sessions (morning and afternoon) testing 100 MCQs. The weightage of the MBE is 50%.
DC Bar Exam Requirements, Dates, and Scheduling
Make sure to schedule the requisite application deadline for your test. Washington DC does not have a late filing period, so if you miss the deadline, you cannot sit for the bar exam.
Applications open for the February and July exams on November 1, 2022, and May 12, 2023, respectively. The final deadline for the February exam is November 30, 2022, but July’s application deadline has yet to be announced. See the DC Bar Admissions website for updated information.
Washington DC requires bar examinees to have a JD or LL.B from an ABA-approved law school. Applicants with a JD or LL.B from a non-ABA-approved law school may be accepted if they have completed 26 credit hours in a program with academic standards and a duration commensurate with ABA-approved programs.
Furthermore, they must have completed a minimum of 83 credit hours of law courses, experiential learning, out-of-class work, co-curricular activities, or some combination of these. Applicants without a JD or LL.B from an ABA-approved law school should read the DC Committee on Admissions memo for more details.
General registration for ALL applicants typically opens on November 1 and May 12 for the February and July exams, respectively. The District of Columbia Court of Appeals has not updated information for July 2023 exams on their website. We will update as it becomes available.
Unlike other jurisdictions, Washington DC hasn’t had an official application closing date. Instead, closing occurs once all seats are filled. However, this has changed with the February 2023 exam. The application period is from November 1- 30, 2022. There is no late registration period. If you miss the deadline you cannot sit for the DC Bar Exam.
Please take note of the following relevant DC exam dates, location, and filing fees:
February 21-22, 2023 (Tuesday & Wednesday)
First-Time Applicant: $232.00
To schedule your Washington DC Bar Exam you must first create an account, complete eligibility screening requirements, and fill out the electronic application. You will then be prompted to pay your application fee with credit or debit card, or e-check, no other form of payment is accepted. After completing the filing process you must complete supplemental forms and additional documentation. Details here.
DC Bar Exam Costs and Fees
Your DC Bar Exam costs and fees must be paid via credit or debit card, or e-check, through your online account. Laptop fees are optional. Application fees are tabulated below.
|Application Type||Cost*||Exam Software Fee|
|Applications for Admission Without Examination||Cost*|
|Motion by 3-Year Provision
|UBE Score Transfer||$418|
|Special Legal Consultant||$450|
All payments must be submitted online with a credit card, debit card, or e-check. No other forms of payment will be accepted. Bank card transactions come with a 2.5% non-refundable transaction fee; E-checks have a non-refundable transaction fee of $1.00.
Law school is expensive enough; that’s why it’s imperative that graduating law students and law school graduates explore available resources to minimize costs related to the bar exam. From bar study loans to bar exam scholarships, we have compiled a list of financial aid options for you to consider:
Bar Study by American University Washington College of Law (AUWCL)Students who need additional financial aid to register and prepare for the DC Bar exam can elect to apply for private bar study loans. Bar study loans are meant to help you finance expenses such as exam fees, bar application fees, and bar preparation fees. Certified by AUWCL, these loans tend to be capped at $15,000, but this amount can vary depending on the jurisdiction where you will sit for the bar exam. For more information, visit AUWCL’s Bar Study web page.
Hispanic Bar Association of the District of Columbia (HBA-DC)Describing itself as “a local voluntary bar association in the District committed to the advancement and progress of Latinos in the legal profession,” HBA-DCl awards $5,000 scholarships through its HBA-DC Foundation. Students may use the scholarship to cover tuition, books, and bar exam fees while enrolled and in good standing in their final year pursuing a Juris Doctor at an ABA-approved law school in Washington, DC For more information, check out the HBA-DC Foundation website.
The American Bar Association (ABA)The American Bar Association (ABA) compiles a list of diversity scholarships for law school students with disabilities at all three levels. If you are a student with a disability and would like to apply for scholarships to assist with your bar exam costs, be sure to review and bookmark this valuable resource.
Pass the MBE Your First Time.
DC Bar Exam Subjects & Topics
The Washington DC Bar Exam is formatted according to the UBE. It consists of a written section on day one (MEE/MPT) and a 200 multiple choice question exam (MBE) on day two. Below is a detailed breakdown of each portion of the exam.
Testable Subjects on the MEE
The MEE challenges students in six 30-minute essays lasting three hours total. The MEE tests on the following subjects, which includes seven subjects that are also tested on the MBE:
Business Associations are nearly always tested on the MEE. You’ll want to brush up on the principles of agency as they relate to business relationships. Below is an outline of the subject.
- Agency relationships
- Power of agent to bind principal
- Vicarious liability of principal for acts of agent
- Fiduciary duties between principal and agent
- Creation of partnerships
- Power and liability of partners
- Rights of partners among themselves
- Special rules concerning limited partnerships
- Corporations and Limited Liability Companies
- Formation of organizations
- Pre-organization transactions
- Piercing the veil
- Financing the organization
- Management and control
If you confront Civil Procedure on the exam, assume that the sections of Title 28 of the US Code pertaining to trial appellate jurisdiction, venue, and transfer, are in effect, along with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
This subject has been tested often over the past ten years. Increase your odds by targeting the theoretical basis of the rules and the distinctions between personal matter and subject matter. See below for an overview of Civil Procedure.
- Jurisdiction and venue
- Law applied by federal courts
- Pretrial procedures
- Jury trials
- Verdicts and judgments
- Appealability and review
Conflict of Law questions frequently relate to the Klaxon Doctrine, recognition of marriage, full faith and credit clause, real and personal property, mergers, dissenters’ rights, foreign corporations, and transfer to a more appropriate forum.
It is the least tested UBE subject, and questions are always combined with other subjects, especially Civil Procedure, Family Law, Descendants Estate, and Corporations/LLCs.
- Jurisdiction of courts
- Choice of law
- Recognition and enforcement of other states’ judgments and foreign judgments
Examinees will likely confront Contracts on its own. Focus your studies on contract formation and performance obligations, and assume that articles 1 and 2 of the UCC are in effect. Here is a topic breakdown.
- Formation of contracts
- Defenses to enforceability
- Contract content and meaning
- Performance, breach, and discharge
- Third-party rights
Criminal Law and Procedure frequently appears on the MEE and typically tests issues regarding the defense of insanity, the Fifth and Fourth Amendments, and homicide. Review definitions of common concepts (e.g., “malice aforethought in murder, “Miranda warnings,” “Interrogation,” and “Custody”). See the topic breakdown below.
- Other crimes
- Inchoate crimes; parties
- General principles
- Constitutional protection of accused persons
Evidence is tested every year. It typically appears on its own but has been seen with Criminal Procedure on past MEEs. Commonly tested issues are hearsay and impeachment. Character evidence, relevancy, witness testimony, and policy exclusions are also essential to review. See the outline below.
- Presentation of evidence
- Relevancy and reasons for excluding relevant evidence
- Privileges and other policy exclusions
- Writings, recording, and photographs
- Hearsay and circumstances of its admissibility
The Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA) and the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) are typically applied to issues of Family Law. You may see this subject appear with Conflict of Laws issues, but it is more often tested on its own. See the outline below for details.
- Getting married
- Being married
- Separation, divorce, dissolution, and annulment
- Child custody
- Rights of unmarried cohabitants
- Parent, child, and state
- Alternatives to adoption
Real Property frequently appears alongside other subjects and is tested about every year. Brush up on deeds, recording acts, landlord-tenant law, and essential definitions (e.g., warranty deed, merger, quitclaim deed, etc.). Below is a topic breakdown.
- Ownership of real property
- Rights in real property
- Real estate contracts
- Mortgages/security devices
Torts will most likely be on your MEE. It’s been a favorite of those who create the exam for some time. It typically appears with Agencies regarding the vicarious liability of an employer. Review basic tort principles, negligence, children and duty, eggshell-skull rule, premises liability, negligence per se, and strict liability.
Examinees should assume survival actions and claims for wrongful death are available. Assume that relevant rules are joint unless stated. See the topic outline below.
- Intentional torts
- Strict liability and products liability
- Other torts
The MEE frequently features Trusts and Estates, and issues often regard validity, revocability, types of trusts, pour-over will, discretionary trusts, and charitable trusts.
- Descendants’ Estates
- Family protection
- Living wills and durable health care powers
- Future interests
- Construction problems
The NCBE has stated that you should assume the Official Texts of Articles 1 and 9 of the UCC are in effect if you confront this subject on the exam. Secured Transactions have appeared with Contracts and Sales, and Real Property, but it is more often independent. Review the four types of goods, attachment and perfection.
- General UCC principles
- Applicability and definitions
- Validity of security agreements and rights of parties
- Right of third parties; perfected and unperfected security interests; rules of priority
Note: Even though there are six essays, more than six subjects can be tested. In other words, a single fact pattern may have questions that implicate one or more different areas of the law. For instance, in the July 2020 UBE, Corporations was tested with Constitutional Law. With that being said, not all subjects are tested evenly.
While Civil Procedure is also tested on the MBE, it is the most frequently tested subject on the MEE. Since February 2014, Civil Procedure has been tested more than 71% of the time (either as a component or an entire essay). During this period, the top 5 most frequently tested subjects on the MEE have been:
- Civil Procedure (71%);
- Contracts (59%);
- Real Property (59%);
- Constitutional Law (53%); and
- Secured Transactions (53%)
Testable Subjects on the MBE
The MBE tests examinees across the following subjects in 200 multiple-choice questions lasting six hours:
- Constitutional Law
- Criminal Law and Procedure
- Civil Procedure
- Real Property
Out of the 200 questions, 25 questions are considered to be “experimental” questions for future bar exams. The other 175 questions are divided evenly so that 25 questions are counted toward your score for each subject. In other words, there would be 25 scored Contracts questions on the MBE.
DC Bar Exam Scoring/Grading
The passing score for the UBE in Washington DC is 266 out of 400. The UBE is divided into two sections, the written section (MEE/MPT) and the multiple choice section (MBE). Each section measures performance on a scaled score out of 200. Therefore, a scaled score of 133 on each section would add to a successful score of 266. However, you can get a 125, for example, on one section and a 141 on the other and still pass the UBE. Here is a breakdown of the weight of each of the three portions of the exam:
- MEE (30%) : 6 essays worth 6-points each.
- MPT (20%) : 2 tasks worth 6 points each.
- MBE (50%) : 200 multiple-choice questions. Each is worth 1 point; 25 are not scored.
Your MEE, MPT, and MBE raw scores are all converted into scaled scores via a statistical method known as equating. This is done to ensure fairness across exam versions. Bonuses or penalties are given based on the relative difficulty of your particular exam version. For example, you may get 133 answers correct on the MBE, but your scaled score could be 125 if your exam version is deemed less difficult than others.
Practice. Practice. Practice. See what the best practice questions truly look like.
DC MPRE Minimum Passing Score
You can become licensed in DC by achieving an MPRE score of 75 or higher either before or after you sit for the bar exam. Unlike many other jurisdictions, DC does not have a time limit for when a score becomes “stale.” In other words, you could use an MPRE score you achieved more than five years prior to applying for licensure in DC.
Transferring UBE score to and from DC
By July 2022, there will be 40 jurisdictions that administer the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE). Because each jurisdiction is ultimately responsible for the policies they enact for attorney licensure, each UBE jurisdiction has agreed to administer the same exam and accept the validity of the other jurisdictions’ UBE scores.
As a result, applicants who’ve sat for the UBE in one jurisdiction can transfer their score from that jurisdiction to other UBE jurisdictions to become licensed in them. However, each jurisdiction sets its own minimum score that an applicant would need to achieve. In other words, you can pass in one UBE jurisdiction but not pass in another UBE jurisdiction.
As long as you get the minimum passing score in your target jurisdiction(s), you can transfer your UBE score to become licensed (subject to other requirements imposed by the target jurisdiction(s), e.g., Character and Fitness). Here’s a table with information about the minimum UBE score for each jurisdiction:
|Minimum UBE Score||Jurisdiction(s)|
|260||Alabama, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, North Dakota|
|266||Connecticut, District of Columbia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Montana, New Jersey, New York, South Carolina, Virgin Islands|
|270||Arkansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, Wyoming|
|276||Colorado, Rhode Island|
*Note that Pennsylvania has not yet announced what their minimum UBE score will be. Since DC is a UBE jurisdiction and has agreed with all other UBE jurisdictions to accept the UBE scores of each others’ examinees, you can transfer your DC UBE score to become licensed in other UBE jurisdictions. You may also use the UBE score from another UBE jurisdiction to become licensed in DC, provided that you have at least the minimum score for the target jurisdiction.
If you are transferring from another jurisdiction to DC, your score would have to be at least 266. To transfer a UBE score, you would have to electronically submit a request for UBE score services through your NCBE Account and pay the transfer fee. You would also follow the target jurisdiction’s application process.
What is the time limit for accepting a transferred UBE score in DC?
You may transfer your UBE score from another jurisdiction to DC for bar admission as long as you do so within five years of obtaining a passing score. Other jurisdictions may be the same length of time or shorter. Here is a table with the maximum score age (the time limit for accepting the transferred UBE score) for each UBE jurisdiction:
|Maximum Age of Transferred UBE Score||Jurisdiction(s)|
|2 years||North Dakota, Rhode Island|
|2 years/5 years*||Iowa, Texas|
|3 years||Arkansas, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, South Carolina, Virgin Islands, West Virginia, Wyoming|
|3 years/5 years*||Colorado, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont|
|5 years||Alaska, Arizona, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Ohio|
DC Bar Exam Pass Rates
While DC has had low pass rates in the past decade, pass rates have been rising since its first UBE administration in July 2016. Below are the pass rates for the DC Bar Exam over the past several years:
Out of 1622 only 1165 applicants passed on the July 2022 exam, which represents a 72% pass rate overall.
Out of 384 only 162 applicants passed on the Feb 2022 exam, which represents a 42% pass rate overall.
DC Bar Exam Results
The Committee on Admissions typically releases DC Bar Exam results within 9-10 weeks of the exam date. You may check your results by visiting their website.
DC Bar Exam for Foreigners
Unlike most jurisdictions, DC permits foreign-trained attorneys to become licensed initially with a DC Bar License. However, below are a few other things that you should know about:
- 26 Credits in Bar-Subject-Focused Courses
- Additional Application Difference
- Special Legal Consultant
Firstly, unless a foreign-trained attorney or foreign LL.M has been awarded a J.D. or LL.B. from an ABA-accredited law school, they must have completed at least 26 credit hours at an ABA-accredited law school in UBE bar-subject-focused courses. Some examples of courses that would likely qualify would be criminal law, criminal procedure, contracts, professional responsibility, or business associations.
Further, these courses should either have been conducted in-person or comply with the definition of “distance education course” under the ABA Standards and Rules of Procedure for Approval of Law Schools. It is advisable to consult the registrar or dean of students at your ABA-accredited law school when considering distance courses to make sure that they comply with such definition.
In addition to the application components that ABA-accredited law school graduates need to complete, LL.M applicants must also submit the following documents:
- Declaration of Graduation from a non-ABA-Approved Law School
- Declaration of Completion/Anticipated Completion of 26 Credit Hours at an ABA-Approved Law School
- Copy of Diploma from non-ABA-Approved Law School
- Copy of Official Transcripts from non-ABA-Approved Law School
- Copy of Official Transcripts from ABA-Approved Law School
- Copy of Course Descriptions from ABA-Approved Law School
The “ABA-Approved Law School” would be the school where you received or are in the process of obtaining your LL.M. On the other hand, “non-ABA-Approved Law School” is where you received your initial law degree (unless it is an ABA-Approved Law School).
Further, since additional verification is necessary, the NCBE charges a higher amount for the C&F Investigation. For more information, review the NCBE’s fee schedule.
In general, this type of license allows a foreign-licensed attorney to establish an office in DC to practice their licensed jurisdiction’s law. However, this licensure does not permit one to practice US law, as defined under DCCA Rules 46(f)(6) and 49(b).
While the application mechanics are similar to full DC licensure, there are some differences. The following is a non-exhaustive list of the most significant differences:
- No MPRE requirement
- Proof of ability to practice in your licensed jurisdiction
- Evidence of being 26 years or older
- Summary of laws and customs to demonstrate how a DC licensed attorney would be able to establish offices and give legal advice to clients in the foreign jurisdiction within which you are licensed to practice
Foriegn Law Students without a first degree in law cannot sit for the Washington DC Bar exam.
What Makes DC Bar Licensure Process Unique?
DC has a jurisdiction-specific component that examinees must complete. Upon admission to the DC bar, all applicants must complete a mandatory course on DC Rules of Professional Conduct and DC Practice within 12 months of admission to the DC Bar.
DC’s rules provide for Admission on Motion, meaning an attorney licensed in other jurisdictions can be admitted into the DC bar without taking the DC Bar Exam when they have been a member of any other bar of any state or territory of the United States in good standing for at least three years immediately preceding the filing of the application.
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Law school is expensive, so graduating law students and law school graduates should explore available resources to minimize costs related to the bar exam, including scholarships. Also, make sure you set aside a sufficient amount of time to gather everything you need for the bar application's time-consuming Character and Fitness component.
Finally, the DC Bar Exam is challenging year over year; still, we are confident that you can pass with proper preparation and the right prep course.
We hope that this detailed article has given you helpful information to prepare for the DC Bar Exam. No matter how you choose to prepare for it, we wish you the best of luck!
Contact Details of DC State Bar
The District of Columbia Court of Appeals is open from Monday through Friday from 8:30 am to 5 pm. Phone operating hours are as follows:
- Monday and Wednesday-Friday — 8:30 am - 11:00 am and 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm
- Tuesday 8:30 a.m. - 9:30 a.m.; 11:00 a.m. - noon and 3:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Questions regarding application status must be made through your District of Columbia Court of Appeals account. All other inquiries can be made as tabulated below.
|District of Columbia Court of Appeals Contact Information|
|Upcoming Bar Exam Accommodation Questions||[email protected]|
|Foriegn Trained Applicants without a first law degree from an ABA approved school||[email protected]|
DC Court of Appeals, Room123
DC Bar Exam FAQs
Yes, unsuccessful applicants should submit the review request form to the Director within 30 days of the publication of the examination results. Here is the contact information of the DC Bar Examiners: DC Bar Admissions Contact Information.
It takes 400 hours to study for the DC Bar Exam. Most students cram these hours in 8-10 weeks before their exam, but if you’re looking for a more moderate schedule, start 4 months out (about 20 hours a week).
This time should be divided evenly between law study and outline memorization. The amount of time you will actually spend studying depends on your educational background and study techniques. Optimizing your bar exam study schedule is the best way to reduce the time you need.