About the MBE®: What Is It & Why Is It Important?

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What is the MBE (Multistate Bar Exam)?

The Multistate Bar Exam® (MBE®) is one common component of a legal certification exam, commonly known as the bar exam, that a prospective attorney must pass to practice law in a specific jurisdiction in the United States. The Multistate Bar Exam is a standardized multiple-choice examination that assesses a candidate’s ability to apply fundamental legal principles and reasoning in the practice of law.

How does the MBE fit within the bar exam?

The MBE makes up one section of the bar exam in nearly every United States jurisdiction, including jurisdictions that have adopted the Uniform Bar Examination® (UBE®). This means that the MBE is one of the multiple criteria that a state board of bar examiners may use to evaluate whether prospective lawyers should be admitted into the bar. As with other components of the bar exam, each jurisdiction sets its own rules on the relative weight that it assigns to the MBE. 

Why is the MBE important?

With most jurisdictions assigning a 50% weight to the MBE, this high-stakes exam is one of the essential requirements for admission into the bar. Because the MBE may account for half of a candidate’s overall bar exam score, improving your performance on the MBE can significantly increase your chances of passing the bar exam. 

Who administers the MBE?

The MBE is administered by the National Conference of Bar Examiners® across 56 U.S. jurisdictions, including states, territories, and the District of Columbia. The MBE is offered twice a year: in February and July. Due to the 2020 global COVID-19 pandemic, some jurisdictions elected to administer their July MBE in September and October of 2020. 

What’s the format of the MBE?

The MBE standardized test features 200 multiple-choice questions. Of the 200 questions, 175 are scored while the other 25 are unscored pretest questions that may be used in future MBEs. The MBE is administered to examinees in two sessions: one morning and one afternoon. Each session features 100 questions and examinees have three hours to complete them. Altogether, the MBE is a six-hour exam. For more on what to expect on the MBE, check out our blog post, The MBE® Exam: Here’s What to Expect.

What are the subjects tested on the MBE?

The MBE tests the following subjects:

  1. Federal Rules of Civil Procedure
    1. Jurisdiction and venue
    2. Law applied by federal courts
    3. Pretrial procedures
    4. Jury trials
    5. Motions
    6. Verdicts and judgments
    7. Appealability and review
  2. Constitutional Law
    1. The nature of judicial review
    2. The separation of powers
    3. The relation of nation and states in a federal system
    4. Individual rights
  3. Contracts
    1. Formation of contracts
    2. Defenses to enforceability
    3. Contract content and meaning
    4. Performance, breach, and discharge
    5. Remedies
    6. Third-party rights
  4. Criminal Law and Procedure
    1. Homicide
    2. Other crimes
    3. Inchoate crimes; parties
    4. General principles
    5. Constitutional protection of accused persons
  5. Federal Rules of Evidence
    1. Presentation of evidence
    2. Relevancy and reasons for excluding relevant evidence
    3. Privileges and other policy exclusions
    4. Writings, recordings, and photographs
    5. Hearsay and circumstances of its admissibility
  6. Real Property
    1. Ownership of real property
    2. Rights in real property
    3. Real estate contracts
    4. Mortgages/security devices
    5. Titles
  7. Torts
    1. Intentional torts
    2. Negligence
    3. Strict liability and products liability
    4. Other torts

For a detailed breakdown of the specific legal concepts tested within each MBE subject, take a look at the 2020 MBE Subject Matter Outline.

Studying for the MBE

There’s no one size fits all solution to prepare for the Multistate Bar Examinationbecause each individual has different learning styles and preferences. However, many commercial bar prep providers offer MBE prep resources you can use to study for the high-stakes exam. The UWorld MBE QBank is one such resource that can help remove anxiety from your bar exam preparation.

With over 1,700 practice questions, 1,350 of which are licensed from the NCBE®, plus in-depth explanations for correct and incorrect answers, the UWorld MBE QBank helps you master difficult legal principles and improve your reasoning to analyze MBE fact patterns. Understanding the “why” for each answer prepares you for any question on that subject, boosting your confidence on exam day.

Below you will find some articles we’ve written to give you some tips on preparing for the MBE: 

  1. How to Optimize Your Bar Prep Study Time
    Time is one of your most valuable assets while preparing for the bar exam, and the 10ish weeks that you spend studying will be over before you know it. With that in mind, here are a few ideas on how to optimize your bar prep study time.
  2. Ways to Remember All the Rules Tested on the MBE®
    At some point during bar prep, you will inevitably ask yourself, “How am I ever going to remember all of this information?” Although it may feel impossible to learn the numerous rules tested on the MBE® and bar exam generally, many study tools can help you conquer this challenge. Here are some ways to remember all the rules tested on the MBE.
  3. Study Smart for the Bar Exam and MBE®
    The bar exam is the last hurdle between you and a successful legal career, and the MBE is arguably the most critical component of the exam. Here are some tips on how to study smart for the bar exam and MBE.
  4. Bar Exam Stress: Six Ways to Manage Stress While Studying
    Are you feeling stressed as you prepare for the bar exam? Don’t worry—you’re not alone. But we’ve got you, and you’ve got this. Here are six tips for managing bar exam stress to help you get to a place of calm and confidence.
  5. How to Ace Multiple-Choice Questions on the MBE®
    The Multistate Bar Exam® (MBE®) is likely the last multiple-choice test you will take before starting your legal career. This bar exam component is crucial because it can account for up to 50% of your total test scores. But don’t despair—UWorld is in your corner! Here are some strategies you can use to ace multiple-choice questions on the MBE.
  6. Is It Too Late to Improve Your MBE® Performance?
    As the bar exam draws nearer, it’s reasonable to be concerned about your performance—especially on the MBE. Luckily, it’s not too late to improve your MBE performance! Now is the perfect time to buckle down and elevate your studying. Here are some ways to improve your MBE performance.
  7. MBE® Exam Day: Seven Things You Should Do
    What you do on test day is just as important as what you do in the weeks leading to it. Here are some tips that will help you succeed on MBE exam day.

For more on what to expect on the MPT, check out NCBE’s Preparing for the MPT page.

Studying for the MBE with active learning

Active learning has become quite the buzzword amongst educators in recent years, but what exactly is active learning? How does it differ from traditional education? Active learning is a teaching method that disrupts conventional teaching methods, putting students in the driver’s seat instead of being passengers. Instead of passive methods such as sitting through a long lecture or watching boring videos, active learning requires active participation in the learning process, focusing on daily practice and repetition to improve retention and concept mastery. When it comes to bar review and MBE prep, students can actively participate in their learning by analyzing facts or applying concepts to realistic scenarios versus just watching video lectures or reading dry outlines. To learn more about active learning and how we implement this proven teaching method at UWorld, check out our article, Active Learning the UWorld Way

MBE® and NCBE® are registered trademarks 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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