The Multistate Bar Exam(MBE®)- Here’s What to Expect

They say time flies when you’re having fun. Well, soon law school will be in your rearview mirror and a three-year thrill ride will have come to its conclusion. But the climax of this story still awaits the bar exam. As you probably know by now, as a law student, you must first pass the bar exam before you can begin practicing law as an attorney. By this point in your law school journey, you’ve already earned your stripes as a lawyer in all but name. With this last conquest, your dream will become a reality. Here are some insights into what is arguably the most important component of the bar exam, the Multistate Bar Exam (MBE), and what to expect.

What is the Multistate Bar Exam (MBE)?

The MBE is a six-hour, 200-question multiple-choice examination developed by the National Conference of Bar Examiners® (NCBE®). The MBE assesses the extent to which you can apply fundamental legal principles and legal reasoning to analyze given fact patterns. All U.S. jurisdictions (states, regions, and territories), except for Louisiana and Puerto Rico, administer the MBE to examinees seeking a law license in the respective jurisdiction.

What does the MBE exam measure?

The MBE exam is only one of several measures that a board of bar examiners may use to determine a prospective lawyer’s competence to practice law. Each jurisdiction determines its own criteria regarding the relative weight it gives to the MBE and other components of the bar exam. The MBE is a component of the Uniform Bar Examination (UBE). Jurisdictions that administer the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE) give the MBE component a 50% weight. This means that the MBE accounts for half of an examinee’s overall score on the bar exam in UBE jurisdictions.  

When is the MBE exam offered?

The MBE component of the bar exam is administered twice a year on the last Wednesday in February and the last Wednesday in July of each year.

What is the format of the MBE exam?

The MBE is a standardized exam featuring 200 multiple-choice questions. Of the 200 questions, 175 questions are scored and 25 are unscored questions you encounter in the exam’s pretest section. There’s no way to tell the scored from the unscored questions so you should answer all questions on the test. Also, the 175 scored questions break down into seven subject areas, each with 25 questions. The seven subject areas are:

  1. Civil Procedure
  2. Constitutional Law
  3. Contracts
  4. Criminal Law and Procedure
  5. Evidence
  6. Real Property
  7. Torts

For a detailed breakdown of the subjects, visit the 2021 Subject Matter Outline and for sample questions, visit sample questions.

What should I expect on my MBE exam day?

On exam day, the MBE is administered in two sessions: one morning and one afternoon. Each session features 100 questions and each lasts three hours. This gives students an average of 1.8 minutes to answer each question. As of the writing of this post, there are no breaks in either session. That’s why practicing under exam-like conditions as you study for the MBE is critical for your success. You must condition your mind and body to develop the required stamina to sit through the six-hour exam. For a list of which items are allowed and prohibited in the testing center on exam day, review the MBE test day policies.

How is the MBE exam scored?

Each multiple-choice question on the MBE provides four possible answer choices. You must choose the best answer among the four. Select only one answer choice for each question. Multiple answers will result in an incorrect score. Unless otherwise stated in the question, you must answer all questions based on established fundamental legal principles. Also, your scores are based on the number of questions you answer correctly. This means you won’t be penalized for incorrect answers.

How are my MBE exam scores reported?

NCBE reports your MBE scores to the jurisdiction in which you tested. NCBE does not report scores to you directly or other jurisdictions unless authorized by the testing jurisdiction. For more information on MBE scoring, visit MBE Score Services.

Where do you take the MBE exam?

You may take the MBE at the testing center specified by your jurisdiction. You must apply directly to the jurisdiction(s) in which you plan to take the MBE. Be sure to enter the jurisdiction where you will be taking the MBE and the exam date in the ‘Bar Exams’ tab of your NCBE Account. Note that each testing jurisdiction makes all decisions and arrangements for accommodations. 


If you are prepping for an upcoming MBE® exam, and you want to make sure you are thoroughly prepared, click here for our FREE trial. We’ll have you ready to ace the MBE on exam day.

MBE® is a registered trademark of The National Conference of Bar Examiners® (NCBE®). NCBE does not endorse, promote, or warrant the accuracy or quality of the products or services offered by UWorld Legal.

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