The Virginia Bar Exam
The Virginia Bar Exam is developed and administered by The Virginia Board of Bar Examiners and the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE®). The Virginia Essay Exam assesses an examinee's understanding of the rules of law of the Commonwealth of Virginia, while the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE®) is a component of the Uniform Bar Examination (UBE®).
This article will cover the details of the Virginia Bar Exam, including exam results, requirements, important dates and deadlines, subjects, costs and fees, format, and scoring.
Virginia Bar Exam Structure
The VA Bar Exam is split between two days. Each day is divided into two three-hour sessions.
|Virginia Bar Exam Format|
|Day One||5 essay questions||4 essay questions + 10 multiple choice questions|
|Day Two||100 MBE multiple-choice questions||100 MBE multiple-choice questions|
On day one, you'll have three hours to answer five essay questions in the morning, and another three hours to answer four essay questions and ten multiple choice questions in the afternoon. These time constraints give you approximately 36 minutes to complete each item.
On day two, you'll have three hours to answer 100 MBE multiple-choice questions in the morning and again in the afternoon, giving you about 1 minute and 48 seconds to answer each question.
Virginia Bar Exam Dates, Requirements, and Scheduling
The Virginia Bar Exam is administered twice a year. Once in February and again in July. Preparing your application and submitting it before the deadline is of ultimate importance. Virginia does not have a late filing period. If you fail to meet the filing deadline, you must wait for the next bar exam.
Dates for the 2023 Virginia Bar Exam are February 21-22 and July 25-26. Applications, along with fees and attachments, must be submitted to the Office of the Secretary on or before the filing deadline. First-time applicants must also submit a completed Character and Fitness Questionnaire.
|Filing Periods||Application Opens||Filing Deadline|
|February Bar Exam (Feb 21-22, 2023)||90 days prior to deadline||December 15, 2022|
|July Bar Exam(July 25-26, 2023)||90 days prior to deadline||May 10, 2023|
For more information, including required document list visit the Virginia Board of Bar Examiners website.
To sit for the VA Bar Exam, applicants must submit evidence that they meet at least one of the following requirements:
- Have a Juris Doctorate (JD) degree from an American Bar Association (ABA)/Virginia Board of Bar Examiners approved law school
- Be enrolled and in good standing at a law school approved by the ABA or the Board, and have completed at least five semesters (or its equivalent) of full-time study
- Get approved by the Board and complete a required period of law study (see the Law Reader Program Rule and Regulations of the Virginia Board of Bar Examiners)
- Complete a degree from a non-ABA approved law school, then complete an LL.M. degree from an ABA-approved law school, and be admitted to practice law before the highest court in any jurisdiction in the US
To schedule Virginia Bar Exam, you must fill out an application, submit all the proper documentation, pay requisite fees, and carefully follow instructions enumerated on the Board's website.
Virginia Bar Exam Costs and Fees
Filing an original application for the Virginia Bar Exam costs $575. There is an additional $575 fee to submit a Character and Fitness Questionnaire. All important fees are tabulated below.
|Update Previously Filed Application||$175|
|Character and Fitness Questionnaire||$575|
|Character and Fitness Update||$175|
|Admission without Examination||$2,500|
|MBE Score Advisory Request||$30|
|MBE Score Transfer Request||$50|
|Incorrect Payment Fee||$50|
Payments must be made payable to "The Virginia Board of Bar Examiners" via one or more money orders, cashier's checks, or certified checks. Fees must be paid before the filing deadline upon submission of an application.
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. 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. You may view the list here: External Scholarships | University of Virginia School of Law.
Virginia Bar Exam Subjects and Topics
The VA Bar Exam tests an examinee's knowledge and understanding of foundational legal principles and the unique rules of law of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Furthermore, Virginia has adopted the MBE component of the UBE, which covers federal law across seven subjects.
The following MBE subjects are tested on the Virginia Bar Exam:
- Civil Procedure
- Constitutional Law
- Criminal Law and Procedure
- Real Property
You may find a complete list of subjects, subtopics, and summaries on our MBE Subject Matter Outline.
Both the long-form and short-answer questions will test VA Bar Exam applicants on the following fourteen subjects:
Virginia Bar Exam Scoring/Grading
Admission to the Virginia Bar requires applicants to pass with a scaled score of 140 on a 200-point scale.
The VA Bar Exam is weighted as follows:
Performance on each component of the Virginia Bar Exam is measured via scaled scoring. Scaled scores are determined by a statistical method called equating to ensure fairness. For example, the exam version administered in February 2019 might be deemed more difficult than July 2022's exam version. Raw scores receive bonuses or penalties based on the relative difficulty of the exam version and are converted into scaled scores to remedy this discrepancy.
Virginia MPRE Minimum Passing Score
Before you can practice law in Virginia, you must also pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination. 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.
VA Bar Exam Pass Rates
75% of examinees passed the July 2022 Virginia Bar Exam and 66% passed the February 2022 exam. You’ll notice in the table below that pass rates are markedly lower for repeat takers. This phenomena likely occurs when examinees fail to change their study habits.
VA Bar Exam results
VA Bar Exam results are typically released in April and October for the February and July exams, respectively.
Virginia Bar Exam Reciprocity
Virginia has reciprocity with these jurisdictions.
Admission on Motion
Virginia allows applicants to apply for admission to the bar without taking the bar exam (admission to motion) if they:
- Have been practicing law full-time for three years leading up to their application
- Have remained in good standing
- Have been practicing in one a jurisdiction that has reciprocity with Virginia
- Pay an application fee of $2,500
Practicing attorneys in other jurisdictions
Attorneys in other jurisdictions may skip the MBE component of the Virginia Bar Exam if they have passed another jurisdiction's bar exam, maintain an active license, and are in good standing in their jurisdiction. They still must pass the Virginia Essay Exam with a minimum score of 64 out of 100.
MBE score transfer
You can skip the MBE component of the Virginia Bar Exam if you have received a scaled MBE score of 133 or greater within three years preceding your exam date.
What Makes the Virginia Bar Exam Unique?
Virginia remains one of the few jurisdictions that has not adopted the Uniform Bar Exam. While its two-part exam features a UBE component (the MBE), the writing component is unique to Virginia.
Virginia Bar Exam for Foreigners
Foreigners can sit for the Virginia Bar Exam if they graduate from law school, obtain an LL.M. from an ABA-accredited law school, and are admitted to practice law in the highest court of a US jurisdiction.
A carefully crafted study plan and the right bar prep review will help you perform well on the MBE and the Virginia Essay Exam, boosting your chances of passing. Good luck!
Contact Details of Virginia State Bar
The Virginia Board of Bar Examiners' phone lines are open from Monday until Friday from 9-12pm and 1-4pm EST.
|Virginia Board of Bar Examiners Contact Information|
|Address||Virginia Board of Bar Examiners
2201 West Broad Street
Richmond, VA 23220
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