Pennsylvania Bar Exam

Structure, Topics, Dates, Cost, Scores, and Eligibility

The Pennsylvania Bar Exam adopted the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE®) in 2018 and began administering it in July 2020. The UBE is divided into three sections—the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE®), the Multistate Performance Test (MPT®), and the Multistate Essay Examination (MEE®).

Bar candidates that may want to eventually practice law in another state benefit from score portability between the 41 jurisdictions that have adopted the UBE. This article provides every piece of information you need regarding PA bar exam results, dates, deadlines, fees, applications, and more.

Pennsylvania Bar Exam Structure

The Uniform Bar Exam is administered over two days and consists of a writing section (MPT/MEE) and a multiple-choice section (MBE).

  • Day 1 : MPT/MEE
  • Day 2 : MBE

MPT

The MPT is weighted at 20% of the UBE and is administered on day one. Examinees are provided with faux case files imitating realistic scenarios and a folder with various legal documents, which they must use to respond to assignments.

MEE

The MEE is weighted at 30% of the UBE and is administered on day one. Examinees have 3 hours to answer six 30-minute essay questions.

MBE

The MBE is weighted at 50% of the UBE, making it the most heavily weighted section of the PA Bar Exam. Examinees will have two 3-hour sessions to answer a total of 200 multiple-choice questions.

Pennsylvania Bar Exam Dates, Requirements, and Scheduling

Preparing your application for the Pennsylvania Bar Exam and submitting it before the first deadline will save you hundreds of dollars. Applications open on September 1, 2022, and January 3, 2023, for the 2023 February and July exams, respectively.

Exam Dates

The Pennsylvania State Bar Exam offers three late filing deadlines. Fees increase gradually within each filing period. However, the difference between timely filing and the final filing period is steep—$850.

Filing Periods February 21-22, 2023 July 26-27, 2023 Fee
Application Opens September 1, 2022 January 3, 2023 N/A
Timely Filing Deadline October 30, 2022 April 15, 2023 $650
First Late Filing November 15, 2022 April 30, 2023 $800
Second Late Filing November 30, 2022 May 15, 2023 $1,100
Final Late Filing December 15, 2022 May 30, 2023 $1,500

Requirements

To be eligible to sit for the PA bar exam, you must meet the following general requirements:

  1. Have received an undergraduate degree from an accredited college or university, or completed a level of education which, in the opinion of the Board, is equivalent to an undergraduate college or a university education.
  2. Have completed the study of law at and earned a Bachelor of Law or JD degree from an accredited law school, or one that was accredited at the time the applicant enrolled or graduated.
  3. Can present a certificate of good standing from the highest court or the agency having jurisdiction over admission to the bar and the practice of law in every state or jurisdiction where the applicant has been admitted to practice law.

Foreign attorneys may also be eligible to sit for the PA Bar Exam provided they meet all of the requirements under Pennsylvania Bar Examiners’ Rule 205 - Admission of Foreign Attorneys and Graduates of Foreign Institutions.

Scheduling

To apply for the Pennsylvania Bar Exam, you must:

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Pennsylvania Bar Exam Costs and Fees

Each of Pennsylvania's three late filing deadlines triggers higher and higher late fees. If you apply to take the Pennsylvania Bar Exam, we recommend submitting your application early, as it costs nearly three times as much to file during the final period.

Timely Bar Exam Application Fee
First Time $650
Re-application $650
Late Fees – February Exam Application
Filed Oct 31 – Nov 15 $150
Filed between November 16-30 $350
Filed between December 1-15 $850
Late Fees – July Exam Application
Filed between April 16-30 $150
Filed between May 1-15 $350
Filed between May 16-30 $850
Computer Based Testing Application filed after the bar exam $50
Admission by Bar Examination Score Transfer $650
Application for Admission by Reciprocity $1325
Supplemental Application for Character and Fitness Determination $325
Computer Based Testing $115
MBE Score Transfer $30
Copy of Completed Application $30
Corrective Certificate $50
Duplicate Bar Examination Results Packet $30

Payment Policies

Certified checks, corporate checks, cashier's checks, and money orders must be made payable to the "Pennsylvania Board of Law Examiners." Otherwise, applicants must pay fees via credit card upon online filing. Payments are non-refundable and non-transferable.

Cost-Saving Options

Bar exam costs can quickly add up. Thankfully, scholarships and grants are available to help reduce the financial burden of pursuing a legal license.

Many Pennsylvania area organizations, including universities, foundations, and law firms, offer law students in the region various scholarships and grants to help with legal education and bar exam costs. For example, The Pennsylvania Bar Foundation annually provides several compelling scholarships and grants to PA law students.

Temple University’s Beasley School of Law has done an excellent job compiling a host of scholarships and grants here: Outside Scholarships - Temple Law.

We strongly encourage all candidates who plan on taking the Pennsylvania Bar Exam to apply to as many of these scholarships as possible for which they are eligible.

Pennsylvania Bar Exam Subjects and Topics

The PA bar exam tests an examinee's ability to analyze and reason alongside their knowledge and understanding of fundamental legal principles. Furthermore, since Pennsylvania has adopted the UBE, a successful exam score represents one's competency and readiness to practice law in the 40 other participating jurisdictions.

Multistate Essay Exam (MEE)

The MEE consists of six essay questions. Each question involves one or more of the subjects listed below. Some subjects may be paired together. Other subjects could be omitted. While it's impossible to know which subjects the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE®) will choose on any given exam version, some have been tested more frequently than others, historically.

For example, Civil Procedure has appeared on nearly every MEE in the past decade, while Criminal Law has only appeared several times. However, subjects that occur less frequently on their own may be paired with others

  • Business Associations
  • Civil Procedure
  • Conflict of Laws
  • Constitutional Law
  • Contracts
  • Criminal Law and Procedure
  • Evidence
  • Family Law
  • Real Property
  • Secured Transactions
  • Torts
  • Trusts and Estates

Check out our MEE Subject Matter Outline for detailed explanations of MEE subjects and sub-topics.

Multistate Bar Exam (MBE)

The MBE tests the following subjects across two 100-question sessions:

  • Constitutional Law
  • Contracts/Sales
  • Criminal Law/Procedure
  • Evidence
  • Federal Civil Procedure
  • Real Property
  • Torts

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

Multistate Performance Test (MPT)

The PA Bar Exam tests applicants with two 90-minute performance legal case scenarios challenging them to determine the correct course of action an attorney should take in response to the case details. The questions will provide detailed instructions, factual data, statutes, and other references to assess your ability to use legal analysis to distinguish between relevant and irrelevant case facts. In a nutshell, the MPT assesses your ability to think like a lawyer.

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Illustration of partial performance in a contract.

Pennsylvania Bar Exam Scoring/Grading

To be admitted into the Pennsylvania Bar, applicants must pass the UBE with a minimum scaled score of 272 out of 400. Exam weightage is divided between the three sections as follows:

MBE
50%
MEE
30%
MPT
20%

The MEE and MPT are combined into half the weight of the test and graded as such. Therefore, the writing section (MEE/MPT) and the multiple-choice section (MBE) each comprise 50%, or 200 points, of your total scaled score. If you do poorly on one section of the exam, you can make up for it on the other, as long as these scores combine to a sum of 272 or more.

Note that getting 136 of 200 MPT questions correct does not necessarily mean you've earned 136 scaled points. Scaled scoring is employed to ensure fairness across exam versions. This scoring model is true for all three sections of the bar exam.

For example, July's exam may be more difficult than February's. It would be unfair to allow someone to pass or fail based on the relative difficulty of their exam version. Therefore, examinees' raw scores are transformed into scaled scores through a statistical method called equating. Unfortunately, the NCBE does not release data on the calculations it uses to determine scaled scores.

Pennsylvania MPRE Minimum Passing Score

Before you can practice law in Pennsylvania, you must also pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE®), which you must take before submitting your bar application. All PA bar applicants must earn a scaled score of 75 to be admitted to the Pennsylvania Bar.

Pennsylvania Bar Exam Pass Rates

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

  • Of the 336 applicants who took the February 2022 exam, 125 passed (37%)
  • Of the 1,490 applicants who took the July 2022 exam, 1,008 passed (68%)
Exam Overall Pass Rate First-Timer Pass Rate Repeater Pass Rate Results Release Date
July 2022 68% 75% 27% October 7, 2022
Feb 2022 37% 56% 27% April 8, 2022

Below are the annual pass rates for the Pennsylvania Bar Exam since 2016 divided into first-time examinees and repeaters:

*The board has not released data for first time/repeat examinees for the 2022 bar exam.

Pennsylvania Bar Exam Results

Pennsylvania Bar Exam results are typically released in mid-April and mid-October for the February and July exams, respectively. The July 2022 exam results were released on October 7, 2022, and April 8, 2022, for the February 2022 exam.

Pennsylvania Bar Exam Reciprocity

Admission by MBE Score Transfer

Pennsylvania does not accept MBE scores from exams taken in other jurisdictions. Still, an applicant who is a member in good standing in another jurisdiction may be admitted on motion if they have actively practiced or taught law for five of the seven years preceding their application.

Admission by UBE Score Transfer

There is a proposal to amend the Pennsylvania Bar Admission Rules to allow admission to the Pennsylvania Bar by UBE score transfer. If adopted, this amendment would make it possible for applicants who have met the passing UBE score requirements in another jurisdiction to gain entry into the Pennsylvania Bar by UBE score transfer as long as they submit their application within 30 months of their exam.

The Pennsylvania Board of Law Examiners is considering the amendment; if they decide to adopt it, the Board will begin accepting applications for admission by UBE score transfer after the upcoming July 2022 PA Bar Exam.

Visit Reciprocity Information - List of Reciprocal states for a full list of states with and without PA Bar Exam reciprocity.

What Makes the Pennsylvania Bar Exam Unique?

Although some UBE jurisdictions, such as New York and Massachusetts, add state-specific testing to their exams, Pennsylvania will not be adding this component to the PA Bar Exam. Also, Pennsylvania will keep its minimum passing score of 272 for all applicants who desire to practice law in Pennsylvania; most UBE jurisdictions have a minimum passing score between 260 and 280.

Pennsylvania Bar Exam for Foreigners

Foreigners may sit for the Pennsylvania Bar Exam provided that they meet the same educational requirements set by the Pennsylvania Board of Law Examiners for domestic law school graduates.

Applicants who have studied at a non-ABA-approved law school may take the exam if they have been admitted to practice law in a non-Pennsylvania jurisdiction (foreign or domestic) and is in good standing in said jurisdiction. They must also have actively practiced law for a minimum of 5 out of the 8 years immediately preceding the submission of their bar exam application.

Final Takeaways

Judging by the most recent PA bar exam results, the Pennsylvania Bar Exam poses a significant challenge to PA bar applicants. This underscores why it is important 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 PA Bar Exam is to prepare 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 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 PA State Bar

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court answers calls Monday through Friday from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm, except for state and federal holidays.

Pennsylvania Board of Bar Examiners Contact Information
Medium Info
Phone Number 717-795-7270
Fax Number 717-231-3351
Email [email protected]
Address Pennsylvania Board of Law Examiners
Pennsylvania Judicial Center
601 Commonwealth Ave., Suite 3600
Harrisburg, PA 17120-0901
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Pennsylvania Bar Exam FAQs

To take the Pennsylvania Bar Exam, applicants must have completed 24 hours on the campus of a US law school accredited by the ABA.
The PA Bar Exam lasts two days, with the MEE and MPT lasting 3 hours each on day one, and the MBE lasting 6 hours on day two.

Pennsylvania does not have a set limit on the number of times you can take the PA State Bar Exam, so if you fail the exam on your first attempt, you should revise your strategy and strive to do better the next time.

The Pennsylvania Bar exam is offered biannually, once in February, and again in July.
Applications for the PA February and July exams open on September 1, 2022, and January 3, 2023, respectively. The base application fee is $650, but it increases as you get closer to the final filing deadline.
To request special accommodations for the Pennsylvania Bar Exam, you must have a disability as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act, and request Nonstandard Testing Accommodation by the filing deadline for the Application to Sit for the Bar Exam.
Judging by the pass rates from the past three administrations (February 2022, July 2021, and February 2021), the PA Bar Exam may be even more challenging than those administered in other UBE jurisdictions.
Pennsylvania UBE Bar Exam is scored on a 400-point scale, with a minimum passing score of 272 or greater. Both MPT questions are worth 20% total, the MEE 30%, and the MBE 50%.
It takes approximately 400 hours to study for the PA Bar Exam. Most students begin studying 8-10 weeks out. However, beginning sooner can increase retention and decrease burnout, so we recommend starting as early as 4-6 months out, if possible.

The most recent July 2022 pass rates were 68% for all test-takers, 75% for first-time, and 27% for repeats.

Pennsylvania has reciprocity with the following states: AK, CO, CT, DC, GA, IL, IN, IA, KY, MA, MI, MN, MO, NE, NH, NY, NC, ND, OH, OK, TN, TX, UT, VT, VA, WA, WV, WI, and WY.

Yes, as long as they meet all the requirements under the Board of Law Examiners Rule 205.

No, you cannot practice law in New Jersey without a law degree (Juris Doctorate).
To become a licensed attorney in PA, you must graduate from an ABA-approved law school, pass the UBE and the MPRE, and apply for the state bar. In contrast, you may also transfer your UBE results from another jurisdiction.
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