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What You Should Know About the Virginia Bar Exam

The Virginia Bar Exam assesses law graduates and prospective Virginia bar applicants' understanding of legal concepts related to the laws and statutes of the Commonwealth of Virginia. This article will cover the Virginia Bar Exam in detail to ensure that you are positioned to pass this high-stakes exam.

Eligibility & Registration

To submit an application with the Virginia Board of Bar Examiners, you must first create an account on the official website. The site offers detailed application filing instructions, so be sure to read all the rules and requirements to ensure that you register correctly.

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Exam Dates & Schedule

The VA Bar Exam takes place over two days in morning and afternoon sessions.

Day 1 consists of nine essay questions and ten short answer/multiple-choice questions focusing on Virginia Law. The schedule breaks down as follows: :

  • Five essay questions in the morning session lasting 3 hours.
  • Four essay questions, plus ten short answer/multiple-choice questions, lasting 3 hours.
Day 2 features the 200-question, multiple-choice Multistate Bar Exam (MBE), with 100 questions in the morning and 100 in the afternoon. Applicants will have 3 hours to complete each session.
Filling Deadline Exam Date Filing Fee Location
May 10, 2022 July 26-27, 2022 $475 Berglund Center
(Roanoke Civic Center)
710 Williamson Road, NE Roanoke, Virginia 24016
(540) 853-2241
December 15, 2022 February 21-22, 2023 $475 TBD

Source: VBBE - Bar Exam - Dates • Locations • Deadlines
Filling Deadline May 10, 2022 December 15, 2022
Exam Date May 10, 2022 February 21-22, 2023
Filling Fee $475 $475
Location Berglund Center
(Roanoke Civic Center)
710 Williamson Road, NE Roanoke, Virginia 24016
(540) 853-2241
TBD

Source: VBBE - Bar Exam - Dates • Locations • Deadlines

Structure & Subjects

1. Multistate Bar Exam (MBE)

The following MBE subjects are tested on the Virginia Bar Exam:

  • 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.

2. Virginia-Specific Essays

Both the long-form and short-answer questions will test VA Bar Exam applicants on these subjects:

  • Contracts
  • Domestic Relations
  • Professional Responsibility
  • VA Civil and Criminal Procedure
  • Business Organizations
  • Evidence
  • Real and Personal Property
  • Creditor's Rights
  • Federal Practice and Procedure
  • Torts
  • Criminal Law
  • Local Government Law
  • Uniform Commercial Code (Articles 2, 3A & 9A)
  • Wills
  • Trusts and Estates

Note: Before you can practice law in Virginia, you must also pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE). The MPRE features 60 multiple-choice questions administered over two hours, and candidates must earn a scaled score of 85 or higher within two calendar years of passing the Virginia Bar Exam.

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Scoring and Pass Rates

VA Bar Exam Scoring

Admission into the Virginia Bar requires applicants to pass with a scaled score of 140.

The VA Bar Exam is weighted as follows:

  • Virginia Essays - 60%
  • MBE - 40%

With a 40% weighting, it is critical that you prepare to ace the MBE since a high score increases your chances of passing the VA Bar Exam.

VA Bar Exam Pass Rates

Virginia Bar Exam Results Overall Pass Rate First-Timer Pass Rate Repeater Pass Rate Results Release Date
February 2022 66% 76% N/A April 22, 2022
July 2021 74.77% 79% 38% October 15, 2022
February 2021 59.91% 69.17% N/A April 23, 2021

Virginia Bar Exam Results February 2022 July 2021 February 2021
Overall Pass Rate 66% 74.77% 59.91%
First-Timer Pass Rate 76% 79% 69.17%
Repeater Pass Rate N/A 38% N/A
Results Release Date April 22, 2022 October 15, 2022 April 23, 2021

Virginia Bar Exam Reciprocity

Applicants from other jurisdictions can be admitted to the Virginia Bar in the following ways:

  1. MBE Score Transfer

    Virginia will let you transfer your MBE scaled score if it is 133 or higher, and you earned said score within three years of your Virginia Bar Exam date. This score transfer allows you to bypass the MBE portion of the VA Bar Exam and only sit for the essay portion.
  2. Practicing Attorneys in Other Jurisdictions.

    Attorneys in other jurisdictions may also sit for just the essay portion of the Virginia Bar Exam without needing an MBE score as long as they: passed the bar exam in their home jurisdiction, maintain an active license, and are in good standing. If this status applies to you, you must pass the Virginia essay portion of the bar exam with a minimum score of 64 on a scale of 0-100.
  3. Admission on Motion

    Applicants in good standing in a reciprocating jurisdiction who have been practicing law full-time for the past three years leading up to their application are eligible for admission on motion (without examination) to the Virginia Bar. For a list of Virginia's reciprocal jurisdictions, visit VBBE - Admission Without Exam - Reciprocal Jurisdictions. Applying for admission on motion will cost applicants a $2,500 fee.

What Makes the Virginia Bar Exam Unique?

Virginia is not part of the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE), hence its two-part examination structure featuring Virginia-focused essays weighted at 60%, with the MBE the only component from the UBE at 40%.

Virginia has a dedicated laptop program, which lets applicants use their own laptops for the Virginia Bar Exam Essay portion for a fee paid directly to the third-party software company that handles the registration. Virginia's Board of Bar Examiners is strict regarding the mandate that all applicants timely and properly register for the laptop program. Failing to do so according to the laptop program requirements would mean answering the essay portion on exam day using pen and paper.

Costs & Fees and Filing Deadlines

Registration fees are $475 for the VA Bar Exam. Virginia also assesses a $475 fee for Character and Fitness.

Cost-Saving Options

It's no secret that the entire law school journey is an expensive proposition. Thankfully, many scholarships are available to law students and graduates to help offset some of the costs associated with legal education and the early stages of a legal career.

For example, the Virginia State Bar offers a VSB Corporate Counsel Award to recent law graduates planning to go in-house and sit for the Virginia Bar Exam. One successful applicant will be awarded $3,000 to offset expenses such as application fees for the Virginia bar exam, the cost of bar prep courses or materials, and first-year bar membership dues. Law students who intend to sit for either the February or July bar exams are eligible to apply.

The University of Virginia School of Law has compiled a comprehensive list of external scholarships designed to help law students with the costs associated with law school, bar exam registration, and bar preparation. You may view the list here: External Scholarships | University of Virginia School of Law.

As a Virginia Bar Exam applicant, it's in your best interest to research these and other resources and apply to as many available scholarships to help you with your bar exam registration and/or bar prep costs.

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Virginia Bar Exam FAQs

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

With overall pass rates of 66%, 75%, and 59% for all February 2022, July 2021, and February 2021 test-takers, respectively, your odds of passing may seem higher than in other jurisdictions. Still, being primarily a state-specific exam and with up to 24 different areas of law tested, it will be a challenge.

For the most recently released results (July 2021), the overall pass rate was 74.77% for all test-takers and 79% for first-time test-takers.

The VA Bar Exam lasts two days, with Day 1’s Virginia-specific essays and short-answer/multiple-choice questions lasting 6 hours (3 hours per morning and afternoon session), and Day 2’s MBE sessions lasting 3 hours each for a total of 6 hours.

Unlike most jurisdictions, Virginia has a discretionary limit of five attempts, meaning you can only sit for the VA Bar Exam four more times if you fail the bar exam the first time. That’s why it is crucial that you prepare with a comprehensive bar prep provider.

The Virginia Essays are weighted at 60%, while the MBE is 40%. Applicants must earn a total scaled score of 140 or higher to pass the Virginia Bar Exam.

The Virginia Bar Exam results are typically released according to the following schedule: February exam results in April and July exam results in October.

Yes. You may transfer an MBE scaled score of 133 or higher as long as you earned the score within three years of your Virginia Bar Exam date.

Final Takeaways

With 24 different areas tested across the Virginia Essay and MBE portions of the exam, the VA Bar Exam is a rigorous experience. That is not to suggest that you can't be among those applicants who pass the first time. A carefully crafted study plan and the right bar prep review will help you perform well on the MBE and Virginia essays, boosting your chances of passing the VA Bar Exam. Good luck!

We wish you the best of luck!

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