The Virginia Bar Exam

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

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
Morning
(3-hour session)
Afternoon
(3-hour session)
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.

Exam Dates

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
Fee $575

For more information, including required document list visit the Virginia Board of Bar Examiners website.

Requirements

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

Scheduling

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.

It’s not watching a lengthy video lecture or reading a textbook. It’s practicing with real MBE questions!
Pass the MBE by practicing with real MBE questions.

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.

Application Type Fees
Original Application $575
Re-application $575
Update Previously Filed Application $175
Character and Fitness Questionnaire $575
Character and Fitness Update $175
Others Fees
Admission without Examination $2,500
MBE Score Advisory Request $30
MBE Score Transfer Request $50
Incorrect Payment Fee $50
Laptop Program $125

Payment Policies

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.

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. 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.

MBE

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

  • Civil Procedure
  • Constitutional Law
  • Contracts
  • Criminal Law and Procedure
  • Evidence
  • Real Property
  • Torts

You may find a complete list of subjects, subtopics, and summaries on our MBE Subject Matter Outline.

Virginia-Specific Essays

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

Study formation of contracts, third-party rights, defenses to enforceability, and performance, breach, and discharge.
You’ll be tested on corporate law, agency and partnership, corporations, and limited liability companies.
Covers laws which mediate the relationship between creditor and debtor. Brush up on loan terms, right to collect repayment, collateral, and secured and unsecured loans.
Covers constitutional protections for individuals accused of a crime, the details of what constitutes various crimes (i.e. homicide, robbery, burglary, arson, kidnapping, etc.), and steps leading up to a legal arrest.
In common law, domestic relations covers matters such as divorce, alimony, paternity and parental rights, emancipation of minors, property settlements, adoption, and custody.
Assesses knowledge regarding admission or exclusion of evidence, the presentation of evidence, hearsay, and relevancy.
Covers federal civil, criminal and appellate procedure including rules of evidence, jurisdiction of federal courts, venue, relation of state and federal courts, res judicata, and how rules of law are interpreted and applied by federal courts.
Local governments in Virginia do not have their own authority, but act as agents of the state. Make sure to familiarize yourself with the framework and laws for local governments (Article VII of the Constitution of Virgina and Title 15.2 of the Code of Virginia).
Covers the scope of representation and allocation of authority between client and lawyer, confidentiality, conflicts of interest, and rules arbitrating professional standards of conduct.
Focuses on land and all tangible improvements. Expect to be tested on ownerships, rights, contracts, mortgage/security devices, titles, deeds, recording acts, and landlord-tenant law.
Tort laws protect individuals who have been wronged physically or financially and allow them to legally seek recourse. Brush up on intentional torts, strict responsibility, products liability, and other common torts.
The Uniform Commercial Code regulates security of personal property and is intended to harmonize commercial transactions and sales laws across the US.
Covers civil and criminal procedures of the Commonwealth of Virginia and stipulated in the Rules of Supreme Court of Virginia.
Tests knowledge of decedents’ estates, family protection, living wills, and trusts.
Master legal rules easier with effective answer explanations and visuals.
Illustration of larceny - the unlawful taking requirement.

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:

Virginia Essay Exam
60%
MBE
40%

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.

Final Takeaways

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
Fax (804) 367-0416
Phone (804) 367-0412
Address Virginia Board of Bar Examiners
2201 West Broad Street
Suite 101
Richmond, VA 23220

Virginia Bar Exam FAQs

The bar exam in Virginia spans two six-hour days.
To take the bar exam in Virginia, you must have a JD or LL.M. degree from an approved law school or get approved by the Board to complete a required period of law study.
The Virginia Bar Exam is administered twice a year—on the last Tuesday and Wednesday in February and July.
With overall pass rates of 75%, 66%, and 75% for all July 2022, February 2022, and July 2021 test-takers, respectively, your odds of passing may seem higher than in other jurisdictions. Still, being primarily a state-specific exam and with a range of different legal subjects tested, it will be a challenge.
There is a $575 base fee to apply for the Virginia Bar Exam. Final filing deadlines are December 15, 2022, and May 10, 2023, for the February and July exams, respectively.
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.
To request special accommodations for the Virginia Bar Exam, you must fill out a Petition for Non-Standard Testing Accommodations, available here.
Students typically take about 8-10 weeks of full-time study leading up to the Virginia Bar Exam.
For the most recently released results (July 2022), the overall pass rate was 75% for all test-takers and 80% for first-time test-takers.
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.
Yes. Along with Washington, Vermont, and California—Virginia is one of the few states where you can practice law without a law degree.
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.
Taking the Virginia Bar Exam after graduating from an approved law school is the typical route, but Virginia is one of only four states that allow you to sit for the bar exam without completing law school.
Scroll to Top