The Illinois Bar Exam
Structure, Topics, Dates, Cost, Scores, and Eligibility

The Illinois Bar Exam adopted the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE® ) on June 8, 2018, and began administering it in July 2019. The UBE is broken into three sections—the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE®), the Multistate Performance Test (MPT®), and the Multistate Essay Examination (MEE®). The UBE has been adopted by 41 jurisdictions to date, enabling successful examinees to transfer scores more easily between jurisdictions. This article provides everything you need regarding IL Bar Exam results, dates, deadlines, fees, applications, and more.

Illinois Bar Exam Structure

The Illinois Bar Exam follows the same structure as all UBE administering jurisdictions.

  • Day 1 : Multistate Performance Test (MPT), Multistate Essay Exam (MEE)
  • Day 2 : Multistate Bar Exam (MBE)

MEE

The MEE is weighted at 30% of the UBE. Examinees will have 3 hours to answer six 30-minute essay questions on the afternoon of the first exam day.

MPT

The MPT is weighted at 20% of the UBE and is administered on the first day of the exam. Examinees have to complete two items in 90 minutes each using a file of legal materials.

MBE

The MBE is weighted at 50% of the UBE and consists of 200 multiple-choice questions administered in 2 three-hour sessions on the second exam day.

Illinois Bar Exam Dates, Requirements, and Scheduling

Preparing your application for the Illinois Bar Exam and submitting it before the first deadline will save you hundreds of dollars. See below for important deadlines, dates, and fees.

Exam Dates

The first filing deadlines for applications for the Illinois State Bar Exam are September 15, 2022, and February 15, 2023, for the 2023 February and July exams, respectively. You may submit your application after the first deadline; however, you will incur additional fees for timely or late filing.

Filing Periods February 21-22, 2023 July 26-27, 2023 Fee
First Filing Deadline September 15, 2022 February 15, 2023 $950
Timely Filing September 16 -
November 1, 2022
February 16 - April 1, 2023 $1,150
Late Filing November 2, 2022 - December 5, 2022 April 2 - May 15, 2023 $1,450

Requirements

Applicants seeking to sit for the Illinois Bar Exam must have completed a minimum of 90 semester hours at a college or university approved by the Board of Admissions to the Bar or from a program commensurate with such standards. In addition, applicants must obtain a JD from an American Bar Association (ABA) approved law school.

Additionally, one must prove that they are of good moral character and fitness by filing a character and fitness application with the Board of Admissions.

Scheduling

To schedule your IL State Bar Exam, you must complete a two-part application consisting of (1) an online application and (2) paper documents that must be sent to the Illinois Board of Admissions to the Bar. These documents must include the following:

  • Your driving record for the previous 10 years for any jurisdiction you held a driver's license
  • Per your Character and Fitness questionnaire, any police reports/citations and court records/documents.
  • Testing accommodation forms (if necessary)

You can begin the application process at the Illinois Board of Admissions website.

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Illinois Bar Exam Costs and Fees

Illinois Bar Exam application fees are broken down into three graduated tiers depending on filing periods. The later you file, the more you pay. All fees are tabulated below:

Timely Bar Exam Application Fee

  • First Time: $950
  • Re-application: $500
  • Admission to Motion: $1,250
  • UBE Score Transfer: $1,250
  • February Exam App. filed between September 16 – November 1: $200
  • February Exam App filed between November 2 – December 15: $500
  • July Exam App. filed between February 16 – April 1: $200
  • July Exam App. filed between April 2 – May 15: $500
  • February Laptop App. filed between January 16-23: $75
  • February Laptop App. filed between January 24-31: $150
  • February Re-App. Filed between November 2 – December 15: $350
  • July Re-App: Filed between May 2 – May 15: $350
  • UBE Unofficial Score Transcript: $25
  • Laptop Registration Fee: $120

Payment Policies

Payments must be made with a credit or debit card (Mastercard, Visa, or Discover) following completion of your application, or with a cashier’s check, certified check, or money order in US dollars. All filing fees are nonrefundable and cannot be transferred. If your payment is not received by the filing deadline, your application will be considered invalid.

Cost-Saving Options

With filing fees and exam preparation costs, gaining admission into any bar can be expensive. Thankfully, options such as scholarships and grants are available to mitigate your fees or avoid paying for them yourself.

For example, the Chicago Bar Foundation awards scholarships and fellowship programs to make it easier for committed attorneys to pursue their chosen line of work by easing the burden of the financial challenges they face with surging law school debt.

Other Illinois Bar Exam cost-savings resources include:

As an Illinois Bar Exam applicant, we encourage you to explore these and other resources and apply to as many available scholarships for which you are eligible to help you with bar exam and/or bar prep costs.

Illinois Bar Exam Subjects and Topics

The Illinois Bar Exam requires candidates to answer questions on the sections and subjects listed below.

Multistate Essay Exam (MEE)

The MEE consists of six 30-minute essay questions designed to assess your ability to:

  • analyze the facts of a hypothetical case,
  • distinguish between relevant and irrelevant materials to the case,
  • articulate in writing a rational analysis of the relevant legal issues presented in a well-reasoned essay, and
  • show an understanding of the legal principles pertinent to the resolution of the case based on the facts presented

Ultimately, these essays test your ability to think like a lawyer, using logical reasoning to arrive at evidence-based conclusions from the details and facts in a case.

Among the topics tested on the MEE are:

  • Business Associations
  • Civil Procedure
  • Conflicts of Law
  • Constitutional Law
  • Contracts
  • Criminal Law & Procedure
  • Evidence
  • Family Law
  • Real Property
  • Secured Transactions
  • Torts
  • Trusts & Estates

MEE subjects are different on every exam version. For example, subjects may be paired or omitted altogether. Historically, some subjects (e.g., civil procedure) have appeared frequently, while others (e.g., criminal law) are rarely tested. Additional information on the list of subjects and subtopics can be found on our MEE Subject Matter Outline page.

Multistate Performance Test (MPT)

Illinois offers two 90-minute performance test questions that present a legal scenario and challenge you to identify the correct course of action an attorney should take in response to that scenario. The questions will provide detailed instructions on completing the case, documents containing relevant and irrelevant facts, and the relevant and irrelevant legal authorities required to complete the case.

Both MPT questions assess your legal analytics competencies and ability to distinguish between relevant and irrelevant facts, evaluate their reliability, and determine if the given facts are enough to reach a logical conclusion.

Multistate Bar Exam (MBE)

The MBE is a six-hour, 200-question multiple-choice examination administered in two sessions, one in the morning and the other in the afternoon. Each three-hour session consists of 100 questions. The MBE evaluates a bar applicant's ability to apply fundamental legal principles and legal reasoning to analyze given fact patterns. The following is a list of subjects tested on the MBE:

You may find a complete list of subjects and subtopics here: MBE Subject Matter Outline.

Illinois Bar Exam Scoring/Grading

The Illinois Bar Exam passing score is 266 out of 400. This total scaled score is split between two scaled scores of 200—the written section (MPT/MEE) and the MBE section. Therefore, you can slightly underperform in one section and make up for it in the other, as long as the sum of the two scores equals or exceeds 266.

The score you receive on each section of the exam does not reflect your raw score. For example, a score of 133 on the MBE may not equal 133 correct answers out of 200. The UBE is graded using a statistical method known as equating to converting raw scores into scaled scores. Scaled scoring is used to ensure fairness across exam versions.

In other words, the July 2020 exam may have been deemed more difficult than the February 2019 exam. To manage this discrepancy, examinees who sat for the July 2020 exam would be awarded bonus points. If an exam version is considered easier relative to past exam versions, scores will be penalized. Unfortunately, the NCBE does not release the calculations it uses to generate scaled scores.

Illinois MPRE Minimum Passing Score

Before you can practice law in Illinois, you must also pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE®). The MPRE features 60 multiple-choice questions administered over two hours. Illinois requires a minimum MPRE passing score of 80 or more.

Illinois Bar Exam Pass Rates

As is typical with bar exams across the country, the Illinois Bar Exam's repeater pass rate is markedly lower than the first-timer pass rate. This phenomenon is likely because many students who failed the first time haven't changed their study habits significantly.

Exam Overall Pass Rate First-Timer Pass Rate Repeater Pass Rate Results Release Date
July 2022 68% 77% 20% September 30, 2022
Feb. 2022 43% 56% 36% April 1, 2022

Illinois Bar Exam Results

Illinois Bar Exam results are typically released approximately six weeks following the February exam and 8-10 weeks following the July exam. For example, the February 2022 exam results were released on April 1, 2022 while the Illinois July 2022 exam results were released on September 30, 2022. Results are posted on the examinee's private user accounts.

Illinois Bar Exam Reciprocity

Illinois's Admission on Motion Procedure is no longer based on bar reciprocity. Instead, attorneys meeting the following requirements may apply for admission:

  • Preliminary Education and Undergraduate Degree: Have completed four years of high school education, or have met other requirements to enroll in a college or university with similar admission requirements to the University of Illinois. Attorneys must have completed at least 90 semester hours of college coursework.
  • Law Degree: Have earned a professional Juris Doctorate from an ABA-approved law school.
  • Character and Fitness: Have met all appropriate character and fitness standards.
  • Good Standing and Prior Bar Exam: Have not failed the Illinois Bar Exam within the past five years.
  • The Practice of Law: Have been practicing law actively and continuously over five of the past seven years, and are currently on active status in at least one jurisdiction.

Attorneys from the following states may be admitted on motion to the Illinois Bar: AK, CO, CT, DC, GA, GU, IN, IA, KY, MA, MI, MN, MO, NE, NH, NMI, NY, NC, ND, OH, OK, PA, TN, TX, USVI, UT, VT, VA, WA, WV, WI, and WY.

What Makes the Illinois Bar Exam Unique?

The Illinois Bar Exam adheres to the uniform bar exam structure adopted by 41 other jurisdictions. However, the state of Illinois requires that successful bar applicants take 30 hours of post-admission mandatory continuing legal education every 2 years. Members of the Illinois State Bar Association (ISBA) can earn credit hours by completing on-demand courses provided by the ISBA.

Illinois Bar Exam for Foreigners

According to the Illinois Board of Admissions, lawyers who completed their legal education in a foreign country (outside the US) must meet the following three requirements in order to sit for the Illinois bar examination. To gain eligibility to attempt the Illinois Bar Exam as a foreign lawyer, you must:

  1. Must have maintained a license to practice law in the country where you received your law degree and/or the highest court of law in any US state, territory, or the District of Columbia for a minimum of 5 years;
  2. Must be currently in good standing as an attorney or equivalent in that country, and/or any US jurisdiction you are admitted to practice;
  3. Must have verifiably devoted a minimum of 1,000 hours annually to practicing law in the country where you are licensed, and/or in any US jurisdiction(s) where you've been licensed for 5 of the 7 years immediately before applying in Illinois.

Note: You can only become eligible to apply for permission to sit for the bar examination under Rule 715 If you meet ALL three of the above threshold requirements.

Final Takeaways

Recent pass rates suggest that the Illinois State Bar Exam is challenging; so it is critical to prepare with the right bar prep review that helps you practice with proven MBE Strategies and tactics.

Whether you are taking the UBE for the first time or you are a repeater, the best way to be among those who pass the Illinois Bar Exam is to study with questions and mock exams that imitate the actual exam. If practice feels like the real thing, the real thing will feel like practice. The Themis + UWorld full bar review bundle offers 4000+ MBE practice questions. Each question has been curated by our premier team of legal professionals or is licensed by the NCBE.

You'll gain access to 100+ MEE practice essays and 22 MPT practice questions from past bar exams. In addition, our platform offers customizable flashcards, performance tracking, QBanks filled with detailed illustrations, readings paired with bite-sized video lectures, and thorough explanations for each question.

Contact Details of Illinois State Bar

The Board of Admissions answers calls Monday through Friday from 8:30 am to 4 pm CST, except for state and federal holidays.

Illinois Board of Bar Examiners Contact Information
Medium Info
Phone Number 217-522-5917
Fax Number 217-522-3728
Address Illinois Board of Admissions to the Bar
625 S College Street
Springfield IL 62704-2521
Practice. Practice. Practice. See what the best practice questions truly look like.

Illinois Bar Exam FAQs

The Illinois Bar Exam is administered twice a year, on the last Tuesday and Wednesday in February and July.

The Illinois Bar Exam lasts two days, with the MEE and MPT lasting 3 hours each, and the MBE lasting 6 hours (Two 3-hour sessions).

To take the Bar Exam in Illinois, applicants must have obtained a JD from an ABA-approved law school.

The first filing deadlines for the Illinois Bar Exam application are September 15, 2022, and February 15, 2023, for the 2023 February and July exams, respectively. Applications require a $950 fee, which increases to $1,150 or $1,450, depending on when you file.

Illinois does not have a set limit on the number of times you can take the IL State Bar Exam; so, if you fail the bar exam on your first attempt, you can come up with a new game plan and perform better the next time.

Judging by the pass rates from the past three administrations (February 2022, July 2021, and February 2021), the Illinois Bar Exam is as challenging as those administered in other UBE jurisdictions.

It takes 400 hours to study for the Illinois State Bar Exam. Study time will vary depending on your educational background and study habits. Many examinees begin studying 8-10 weeks out. However, starting 4-6 months out will decrease burnout and increase retention.

Illinois UBE Bar Exam is scored on a 400-point scale, with a minimum passing score of 266 or greater. Weightages are as follows: MPT 20%, MEE 30%, and MBE 50%.

The most recent July 2022 pass rates were 68% for all test-takers, 77% for first-time test-takers, and 20% for repeat test-takers.

Illinois does not accept concurrent testing with other jurisdictions. UBE applicants from other jurisdictions must take the MEE, MPT, and MBE in Illinois. For any jurisdiction, UBE applicants must take all three portions of the examination (MPT, MEE, and MBE) in the same UBE jurisdiction and in the same exam administration to earn a portable UBE score.

Attorneys from the following states may be admitted on motion to the Illinois Bar: AK, CO, CT, DC, GA, GU, IN, IA, KY, MA, MI, MN, MO, NE, NH, NMI, NY, NC, ND, OH, OK, PA, TN, TX, USVI, UT, VT, VA, WA, WV, WI, and WY.

To become a licensed attorney in Illinois, you must graduate with a JD from an ABA-approved law school, score over 80 on the MPRE and over 266 on the UBE, and be deemed to be of good moral character and fitness.

No, you cannot practice law without a law degree in Illinois.

To request special accommodations for the Illinois Bar Exam, you must request “nonstandard testing accommodations” (NTA) through the Applicant Request for NTA form before the final filing deadline of your respective exam.

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