What You Should Know About the 2022 Illinois Bar Exam

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As of June 8, 2018, Illinois became the 30th state to adopt the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE) when the Illinois Supreme Court approved the UBE as the main component for bar admission. Like its counterparts, the Illinois Bar Exam is tough, especially after raising its cutout score in recent years. This article will offer critical information about the Illinois Bar Exam so you know how to prepare, and what to expect before and on exam day.

Eligibility & Registration

To submit an application with the Illinois Board of Admissions to the Bar, you must first create a personal IL Bar Admission Registration account on their official website. Your account lets you register for the Illinois State Bar Exam, and schedule your exam date.

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Exam Dates & Schedule

The Illinois Bar Exam is administered over a two day period.

Day 1 is structured as follows:

  • Six 30-minute Multistate Essay Exam (MEE) questions,
  • Three Illinois drafted essay questions, each lasting 30 minutes, and
  • Two 90-minute Multistate Performance Test (MPT) questions.
Day 2 features the 200-question, multiple-choice Multistate Bar Exam (MBE), administered in two 3-hour sessions (morning and afternoon).
First-time Illinois Bar Exam Applicants
Through February 15 $950
February 16 - April 1 $1150
April 2 - May 15 $1450
Previously Registered Bar Exam Applicants
Through May 1 $500
May 2 - May 15 $850

Source: Illinois Board of Admissions to the Bar - Information For Bar Exam Applicants

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.

Structure & Subjects

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

1. Multistate Essay Exam (MEE)

The MEE consists of three 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 (Agency, Partnership & Corporations)
  • Civil Procedure
  • Conflicts of Law
  • Constitutional Law
  • Contracts
  • Criminal Law & Procedure
  • Evidence
  • Family Law
  • Real Property
  • Secured Transactions
  • Torts
  • Trusts & Estates

2. Multistate Performance Test (MPT)

Illinois offers two 90-minute performance test questions that present a legal scenario challenging you to identify the correct course of action an attorney should take in response to that scenario. The questions will provide you with 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.

3. 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:

  1. Civil Procedure
  2. Constitutional Law
  3. Contracts
  4. Criminal Law and Procedure
  5. Evidence
  6. Real Property
  7. Torts

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

Note: 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.

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Scoring and Pass Rates

For the most recent February 2022 bar exam, the pass rate for all test-takers was 43%, 56% for first-time test-takers, and 36% for repeat test-takers, underscoring just how rigorous the Illinois Bar Exam is.

The table below shows the past two administrations’ results:

Illinois Bar Exam Results Overall Pass Rate First-Timer Pass Rate Repeater Pass Rate Results Release Date
February 2022 43% 56% 36% April 1, 2022
July 2021 67% 79% 17% October 7, 2021

Illinois Bar Exam Results February 2022 July 2021
Overall Pass Rate 43% 67%
First-Timer Pass Rate 56% 79%
Repeater Pass Rate 36% 17%
Results Release Date April 1, 2022 October 7, 2021

Illinois Bar Exam Reciprocity

According to BarReciprocity.com, 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.

Source: Illinois Bar Reciprocity - BarReciprocity.com

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?

Illinois has Supreme Court Rule 715 - For qualifying graduates of foreign law schools, which allows graduates of foreign law schools to request the Board's permission to sit for the Illinois bar examination, provided they meet a threshold of three requirements.

Threshold Requirements

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.

Source: Illinois Board of Admissions to the Bar - Rule 715 Qualifying Graduates of Foreign Law Schools General Information

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Illinois Bar Exam FAQs

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

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.
The most recent February 2022 pass rates were 43% for all test-takers, 56% for first-time test-takers, and 36% for repeat test-takers.

The Illinois Bar Exam lasts two days, with the MEE and MPT lasting 3 hours, and the MBE lasting 6 hours (3 hours per session).

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.

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.

Illinois UBE Bar Exam is scored on a 400-point scale, with a minimum passing score of 266 or greater. Both MPT questions are worth 20% total, the MEE 30%, and the MBE 50%.

The Illinois Bar Exam February 2022 exam results were released on April 1, 2022. The Illinois July 2021 exam results were released on October 7, 2021.

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.

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.

We wish you the best of luck!

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