The Iowa Bar Exam
Structure, Topics, Dates, Cost, Scores, and Eligibility
The Iowa Bar Exam switched to the Uniform Bar Examination (UBE®) format in February 2016. The UBE is made up of three parts: the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE®), the Multistate Performance Test (MPT®), and the Multistate Essay Examination (MEE®). This standardized test format allows individuals to transfer their scores to participating states more easily. This article provides more information about the IA Bar Exam, including dates, deadlines, fees, applications, results, and more.
Iowa Bar Exam Structure
The UBE spans two days, each day consists of 6 testing hours. The writing portion of the UBE (MPT/MEE) is administered on the first day and the MBE on the second. Here is a detailed breakdown of the exam schedule.
Iowa Bar Exam Dates, Requirements, and Scheduling
It’s important to thoroughly review the eligibility requirements and mark the appropriate dates and deadlines on your calendar, because, of course, you can’t pass an exam that you don’t take. Gather your documents and begin your application as soon as you can, it will save you a ton of stress.
Iowa requires a Mandatory Orientation Session on the day before the first day of the exam. Orientation session dates are TBD. All application dates are firm. There are no expectations made for late submissions and no late filing periods so be sure to reference the chart below and start gathering your necessary documents early.
|First & Only
To sit for the Iowa Bar Exam, you must have:
- Graduated with a Juris Doctorate (JD) or LL.B from a law school accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA)
- Scored 80 or above on the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE®)
- Demonstrate the intention to practice law in Iowa or another UBE jurisdiction
- Receive a Certificate of Good Standing from the Clerk of the Supreme Court of Iowa
You must mail or hand-deliver all required documentation with the requires fee no later than the filing deadline to:
The Office of Professional Regulation
The documentation below must be submitted in an envelope as one application, you can find the requisite forms on in the Bar Exam Cover Sheet and Instructions:
- Iowa Bar Exam Cover Sheet and Checklist
- Application Fee
- National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE®) Character and Fitness Application form & Associated Documents
- Affidavit of Intent to Practice in Iowa or Another UBE jurisdiction
- Attestation Form
- Original Signed Release
- State of Iowa Criminal History Record Check Request Form
- Certificates of Good Standing (for those licensed in another US jurisdiction)
- Laptop Enrollment and Release Form (if applicable)
- Test Accommodation Request Forms (if applicable)
If you fail the Iowa Bar Exam and want to retake it, you must file a new application within 30 days of the date the applicant’s score is posted in the Office of Professional Regulation or by the filing deadline, whichever is later.
There are two additional documents that must be submitted for you:
- Dean’s Affidavit — Must be submitted to the dean of your law school for completion.
- MPRE Score — The NCBE must submit your MPRE score report before the filing deadline.
Iowa Bar Exam Cost and Fees
Iowa requires attorneys to pay an additional $250 to submit their application. There are no late filing fees, as there is no late filing period. If you don’t submit your application on time, you simply cannot take the exam. See below for fees associated with applications, Admission on Motion, Character and Fitness, UBE Score Transfer, and more.
|Other Application Fees
|Admission on Motion
|Certificate of Good Standing
|Character and Fitness
|UBE Score Transfer
|Laptop Computer Use
Application fees must be made by check or money order and made payable to the Iowa Board of Law Examiners. Fees are non-refundable and cannot be transferred to future bar exam applications. Most applicants will pay an $800 fee. The fee is reduced for candidates who have never been licensed to practice law in any US jurisdiction and meet one of the following requirements:
- Filed a Law Student Registration with the Office of Professional Regulation on or before January 15, 2021
- Have submitted a prior application and fee to take the Iowa Bar Exam
The journey to becoming an attorney is rewarding but also long and expensive. Fortunately, there are cost-saving options for eligible individuals. For example, Iowa College of Law offers bar exam loans for third-year students and a number of scholarships and fellowships.
If you don't qualify for the scholarship above, try browsing the AccessLex Institute Law School Scholarship Databank for options better suited to you. You can also check out the ABA, which offers 100+ opportunities and programs for young lawyers and law students. Even if you can't obtain a scholarship, there are some basic things you can do to save money while preparing for the bar exam:
- Join a study group and split the cost of bar exam preparation materials among group members.
- Research free or low-cost study online study materials like past bar exam questions and answers to supplement commercial study aids.
- Some bar exam prep companies offer discounts or promotions to students who register early or refer friends to their program.
Iowa Bar Exam Subjects and Topics
The IA Bar Exam tests a candidate's legal knowledge, analytical skills, and competence to practice law. It covers a range of subjects, from Constitutional Law and Contracts to Criminal Law, and Evidence. Candidates will be assessed by their ability to apply legal principles, draft legal documents, and effectively solve problems to ensure they can competently represent clients and complete entry-level legal tasks.
The MEE requires candidates to identify legal issues, apply relevant legal principles, and demonstrate their ability to analyze fact patterns and compose well-reasoned, organized, and concise written responses. MEE subjects include:
Some subjects may be tested together. Others may not be tested at all. What subjects the NCBE chooses for any administration are not made public before the exam. Historically, some have been tested more often than others. For example, Civil Procedure has been tested on almost every MEE for the past 10 years, while Criminal Law has only appeared a few times. However, subjects that occur less frequently may still be paired with others.
Check out our MEE Study Guide for details on planning your studies and determining what's essential so you use your time efficiently. Also, check out our MEE Subject Matter Outline for in-depth explanations of MEE subjects and sub-topics.
Testable subjects on the MBE
The MBE contains 200 multiple-choice questions divided evenly over 7 subjects. You'll notice that 7 x 25 does not equal 200. That's because 25 MBE questions are unscored questions that the NCBE field tests for future exams. There is no way to identify which questions are scored or unscored, so it's best just to imagine that they are all just as important. MBE subjects are as follows:
MPT: Testable items
The MPT is designed to test an examinee's "lawyering skills" using only the materials provided. These tasks are conducted in a closed-universe, fictional jurisdiction called "Franklin." The laws of the real world do not apply, so your critical thinking skills and understanding of fundamental legal principles are key. You'll receive faux reference material, which you'll use to solve two tasks, each graded on a scale from 0 to 6.
Iowa MPRE Requirements
The Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE®) is a 2-hour, 60-multiple-choice question exam that assesses an examinee's knowledge of the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct. Candidates must pass the MPRE before they can sit for the Iowa Bar Exam. Registration for the exam is done through the NCBE.
Iowa MPRE minimum passing score
Iowa has an MPRE minimum passing score of 80. Candidates are responsible for requesting a copy of their MPRE score report be sent to The Office of Professional Regulation. Scores are only valid if transferred directly from the MPRE testing authority.
Iowa Bar Exam Scoring, Results and Pass Rates
The UBE uses a special scoring system called scaled scoring to make sure that everyone's scores are graded fairly, even if some exams are harder than others. For instance, the exam in February might be harder than the one in July. It wouldn't be right if you didn't pass just because you got a tougher exam. To prevent this, your raw scores are converted to scaled scores using a process known as equating. Unfortunately, the NCBE doesn't share how they calculate these scaled scores.
Iowa Bar Exam scoring/grading
You must achieve a minimum score of 266 out of 400 for admission to the Iowa Bar. Since the UBE is divided into two equally weighted sections—writing (MPT/MEE) and the MBE—you want to aim for a 133 on each section. However, you do not need to score 133 on each section to pass the IA bar exam. For example, an exceptional score on the MBE can balance out a subpar score on the writing section. What's important is that the sum of your two scores is 266 or higher.
Iowa Bar Exam results and pass rates
You'll notice that The Iowa Bar Exam's repeater pass rates are substantially lower than the first-timer pass rates. This discrepancy between first-timer and repeater pass rates is common across all jurisdictions and is likely due to the fact that many who fail their first bar exam don't change the way they study.
Here are the annual pass rates for the Iowa Bar Exam since 2017 divided into first-time examinees and repeaters:
Iowa Bar Exam results are typically released 7 weeks following an exam administration. Results were released on April 7, 2023, and September 1, 2023, for the February 2023 and July 2023 exams, respectively.
Iowa Bar Exam Reciprocity
Admission on Motion is not based on reciprocity. In other words, candidates from any US jurisdiction can apply to the Iowa Bar via Admission on Motion, this includes candidates who were initially admitted by diploma privilege or did not graduate from ABA-accredited law school. However, to be admitted without examination, you must:
- Have been admitted to the bar of any US jurisdiction or the District of Columbia and have practice law for 5 of the 7 years immediately preceding the date of the application
- Meet the character and fitness requirements outlined in Iowa Court Rule 31.12
Candidates who are currently subject to lawyer discipline, have failed the Iowa Bar Exam within 5 years of the date of their application, or have failed 5 or more bar exams cannot apply for Admission on Motion.
Learn common question types and essay writing skills with Themis’s Performance Test Workshop.
What Makes the Iowa Bar Exam Unique?
Many jurisdictions require a passing MPRE score for admission to the Bar, but Iowa requires that you successfully pass the MPRE with a score of 80 or higher just to sit for the Iowa Bar Exam. It’s important that you schedule your MPRE appropriately and before you begin your application.
Iowa Bar Exam for foreigners
Graduates of foreign law schools are not eligible for admission by examination. Graduates from foreign law schools who obtain an LLM. or other graduate law degree from an ABA-accredited law school are not eligible to take the bar exam on this basis alone. However, Iowa offers “foreign legal consultant licensure” to non-US attorneys if they:
- Are a recognized legal professional in another country and are in good standing
- Subject to regulation and discipline by a duly constituted professional body or public authority
- Have been lawfully practicing for at least five years in the non-US country or elsewhere
- Are of good moral character and fit to practice law
- Intended to practice and maintain an office as a foreign legal consultant in Iowa
The difference between those who fail the Iowa Bar Examination and those who pass is the right study plan. A quality full bar review course will help improve your score, whether it's your first, second, or even third time taking the Iowa Bar Exam.
Themis + UWorld gets you exam-ready with content and questions curated by an in-house team of lawyers and legal experts. Our in-depth answer explanations for each answer choice and industry-leading images make the hard stuff easy to understand. Here's an overview of what you'll get:
Contact details of the Iowa State Bar
If you wish to contact the Iowa Judicial Branch with inquiries regarding the Iowa Bar Exam, please see the details below.
Dan Saar, Director of Admissions
Office of Professional Regulation
Judicial Branch Building
1111 East Court Avenue
Des Moines IA 50319