About the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE)

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About the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE)

The Uniform Bar Exam (UBE) is administered, graded, and scored across all UBE member jurisdictions, allowing candidates to take and pass one UBE exam and conveniently transfer their scores to other member jurisdictions where they intend to practice law. The UBE evaluates a candidate’s readiness to practice law in any jurisdiction by assessing their competencies in general law principles, factual analysis, legal analysis and reasoning, and communication skills in these areas.
The UBE features the Multistate Performance Test (MPT), Multistate Essay Examination (MEE), and the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE). Each year, the UBE is scheduled on the last Tuesday and Wednesday of February and July.
Forty jurisdictions will have adopted this standardized non-state-specific 2-day bar exam as of July 2022. Some of those states include NY, NJ, MD, TX, DC, NC, OH, CO, WA, MN, AZ, and many others. PA and some other jurisdictions will adopt the UBE by July 2022.

Benefits of the UBE

Some of the most significant benefits of the UBE are:
  • Portability: If you pass the UBE in one jurisdiction, you can transfer your passing score to be admitted in any other UBE state, though passing scores, fees, and other requirements are set by each jurisdiction.

  • There is NO state-specific law tested on this exam – just general, federal, majority-minority common law, unlike state-specific exams like VA, CA, FL, GA, et al.

  • Fewer testable subjects: The number of testable subjects is less than in most non-UBE bar exams.

Structure and Format

The UBE is created and administered by the NCBE® (National Conference of Bar Examiners) like the MBE and the MPRE.
The UBE is a 2-Day, 400-point exam featuring three parts:

DAY ONE of the Uniform Bar Exam consists of its two written components worth a total of 200 points/400:

  1. The Multistate Performance Test (MPT) 20% of the total score, 80 points
  2. The Multistate Essay Exam (MEE) 30% of the total score, 120 points

1. Multistate Performance Test (MPT)

The MPT format consists of two 90-minute assignments; there is no timed cutoff on these, however, so applicants have a total of 3 hours to complete both tasks. The MPT is designed to test an examinee’s ability to use fundamental lawyering skills in a realistic situation and complete a written task that a beginning lawyer should be able to accomplish. The MPT is not a test of substantive knowledge; it is designed to evaluate certain fundamental skills lawyers are expected to demonstrate regardless of the area of law in which those skills are applied.

Below are the lawyering skills tested on the MPT:

  • Problem-solving. The examinee should demonstrate the ability to develop and evaluate strategies for solving a problem or accomplishing an objective.

  • Legal analysis and reasoning. The examinee should demonstrate the ability to analyze and apply legal rules and principles.

  • Factual analysis. The examinee should demonstrate the ability to analyze and use facts and to plan and direct factual investigation.

  • Communication. The examinee should demonstrate the ability to communicate effectively in writing. Communication includes the ability to 1) assess the perspective of the recipient of the communication; and B) organize and express ideas with precision, clarity, logic, and economy.

  • Organization and management of a legal task. The examinee should demonstrate the ability to organize and manage a legal task. Organization and management include the ability to (A) allocate time, effort, and resources efficiently; and (B) perform and complete tasks within time constraints.

  • Recognizing and resolving ethical dilemmas. The examinee should demonstrate the ability to represent a client consistently with applicable ethical standards.

2. Multistate Essay Exam (MEE)

It consists of six 30-minute essays, although there is no cut-off time per essay, meaning applicants can allocate as much or as little time for each essay out of the total amount of time given for the MEE.
The MEE tests the following subjects (the colored subjects are also on the MBE):
  • Business Associations (Agency and Partnership; Corporations);

  • Federal Civil Procedure;

  • Conflict of Laws;

  • Constitutional Law;

  • Contracts (including UCC Article 2 [Sales]);

  • Criminal Law and Procedure;

  • Evidence;

  • Family Law;

  • Real Property;

  • Torts;

  • Trusts and Estates (Decedents' Estates; Trusts and Future Interests); and

  • UCC Article 9 (Secured Transactions).
Note: Essays on the MEE may test multiple areas of the law within one essay. For instance, candidates might encounter an essay that assesses both Contracts and Conflict of Laws.
Below are the lawyering skills tested on the MEE:

Essays are intended to assess not only an applicant's understanding of fundamental legal principles and rules but also an applicant's ability to:

  • Identify legal issues raised by hypothetical facts;

  • Separate relevant material from irrelevant material;

  • Set out the legal rules applicable to the issues and facts;

  • Present a reasoned analysis of the relevant issues in a clear, concise, and well-organized composition;

  • Reach a conclusion that follows from your analysis.
Historically, 3-4 of the MEE essays test the MBE subjects. So, when preparing for the bar exam, emphasize these 7 MBE subjects since they are testable on the MEE and make up all of the content tested on Day 2 of your bar exam—the MBE.
DAY TWO of the Uniform Bar Exam is the Multistate Bar Exam (MBE), worth a total of 200 points/400.

3. Multistate Bar Exam (MBE)

The purpose of the MBE is to assess an examinee’s ability to apply fundamental legal principles and legal reasoning to analyze given fact patterns.

MBE Test Format

The MBE consists of 200 multiple-choice questions in 7 subjects. 175 are scored questions and 25 unscored pretest questions. These pre-test questions are indistinguishable from their scored counterparts.

Scoring the MBE

The total point value of the MBE is 200, as each of the 175 questions is weighted at 1.143. Your raw score is based on how many correct answers you achieved. However, the MBE bar examiners adjust applicants’ raw scores by a process called “scaling” so that the overall performance of all test takers on any given MBE is equated (not compared) to past MBE tests.

On each MBE administration, the raw scores will be adjusted or scaled to ensure exam-to-exam parity. Some points will be added to applicants’ raw scores depending on how difficult that exam was deemed compared to past MBE exams.

This scaled score is the score that counts, not the raw score. The Multistate Bar Exam is NOT graded on a curve.

The 175 scored questions on the MBE are distributed evenly, with 25 questions from each of these seven subject areas:

Passing the Uniform Bar Exam

  • Each of the three UBE sections is scored, scaled, and then added together to determine one’s total score.

  • There is no minimum cut score for any of the three UBE sections. After the examinee’s scaled MBE, MPT, and MEE scores are added, the total combined scores determine passing.

  • Each UBE jurisdiction sets its minimum passing score, ranging from 260/400 to 280/400 (see map below—the grey states are NOT UBE jurisdictions).
The following table organizes all of the current UBE jurisdictions by the respective minimum passing score requirements:
Minimum UBE Score Jurisdiction(s)
260 Alabama, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, North Dakota
264 Indiana, Oklahoma
266 Connecticut, District of Columbia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Montana, New Jersey, New York, South Carolina, Virgin Islands
270 Arkansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, Wyoming
272 Idaho
273 Arizona
276 Colorado
280 Alaska

Be aware of these state-specific requirements:

  • Some states have state-specific online required courses with online tests (NY, MD, TX)
  • Each state sets its required passing MPRE score
  • Each state releases bar results on its timetable, which varies
  • Each state sets how long UBE reciprocity lasts for waiving in
  • Each state has its own bar exam application and FILING DEADLINES!

Portability of the UBE

Because the UBE is a common bar exam between the 40 jurisdictions, passing examinees may transfer their scores to be admitted to the other UBE jurisdictions. Candidates should be mindful of these three things:

  1. Minimum passing score,
  2. Maximum age of the transferring score, and
  3. Jurisdiction-specific requirements.

To transfer your UBE score earned in one jurisdiction to become licensed in another UBE jurisdiction, you must have achieved the latter’s minimum passing score. The score must also not be older than the maximum age of the target jurisdiction. Finally, you must also meet the target jurisdiction’s licensure requirements.

Each UBE jurisdiction sets the maximum age that transferred UBE scores may be accepted (see map below).

The following table organizes the current UBE jurisdictions by the maximum age:
Maximum Age of Transferred UBE Score Jurisdiction(s)
2 years North Dakota, Rhode Island
2 years/5 years* Iowa, Texas
25 months Alabama
3 years Arkansas, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, South Carolina, Virgin Islands, West Virginia, Wyoming
3 years/5 years* Colorado, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont
37 months Idaho
40 months Washington
4 years Illinois
5 years Alaska, Arizona, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Ohio

For states with two numbers (eg, Texas: 2 yrs/5 yrs), the first number is the age of the UBE score transfer without any additional stipulations. The second is the age of the UBE score transfer, provided that the applicant has been “primarily engaged in the active practice of law” for a jurisdiction-dependent amount of time.

Jurisdictions that adopt the UBE also have a “look-back” rule that allows applicants to transfer a qualifying UBE score even though the applicant achieved the score before the target jurisdiction adopted the UBE. The look-back rule is jurisdiction-dependent but usually three years.

For instance, while Pennsylvania has not announced its UBE requirements (they are planning to adopt the UBE for the July 2022 administration), it is believed that they will accept a UBE score transfer from as far back as July 2019.

Licensure by Transferred UBE Score

Much like how each UBE jurisdiction sets its own UBE score or age of transferred score, each UBE jurisdiction has its unique process for licensure by UBE score transfer.

Often, applicants will have to complete some type of jurisdictional law component in addition to being determined to have good Character and Fitness to be a licensed attorney in that jurisdiction.

A. Jurisdictional Law Component

The jurisdictional law component can take the form of a course that you have to complete that teaches you specific laws of that jurisdiction. Alternatively, it could consist of passing an open-book multiple-choice test that tests your ability to recall that jurisdiction’s laws and apply them to different fact patterns (like a shorter MBE). Other jurisdictions may have a combination of both of these methods.

B. Character and Fitness Component

To become licensed in a jurisdiction, each applicant has to pass the Character & Fitness (C&F) component of the bar exam – this even applies to attorneys already licensed in another jurisdiction.

The C&F component is essentially a background check; an applicant will fill out information ranging from previous addresses to potentially moving violations. Then, that jurisdiction’s bar examiners will use that information to investigate the applicant.

Many jurisdictions require students to submit this information before sitting for the Bar Exam (DC is one such jurisdiction). On the other hand, some jurisdictions, like New York, don’t allow applicants to submit this information until after passing the Bar Exam. Be sure to look into these and other application requirements ahead of time.

  • Application deadlines for July 2021 and February 2022: link here.
  • Bar Exam Directory and links to each jurisdiction’s website: link here.

Whichever the jurisdiction, it is widespread for the C&F component of the bar exam to take a lot of time to complete, so make sure that you allow yourself enough time to complete it correctly.

Typical Character & Fitness Requirements

The following is a list of information a jurisdiction might ask for you to provide that is typically time-consuming to complete:

  • Residence history
    • All addresses where you have lived for the last X number of years or since you were of a certain age (whichever is longer).
  • Employment history
    • All places where you have worked for the last Y number of years or since you were of a certain age (whichever is shorter), often with names and contact information for supervisors, colleagues, or people who can substantiate your work.
  • Driving record
    • You would get one from each jurisdiction where you have had a driver's license (some DMVs will only mail the record).
  • Character references
    • Z number of people who have known you for Q number of years. There are frequently qualifications like “the references cannot be related to you by blood or marriage.”
  • School transcripts
    • Some jurisdictions require applicants to provide undergraduate transcripts, study abroad transcripts, law school transcripts, or a combination of the three.
  • Credit history
    • The credit history would be from one of the three credit bureaus. You would then provide context or explanations about any delinquencies or issues responsive to the bar examiners’ inquiries.
  • Military records
    • As with credit history, you would provide explanations or context about issues that the bar examiners might flag.
  • Any legal judgments, liens, bankruptcy, misconduct, arrests, convictions
    • Generally, you would provide documents in addition to an explanation.
  • Fingerprints
    • Depending on the jurisdiction that requires your fingerprints, it might be a card (eg, FD-258) or electronic.

Ultimately, the transfer and licensure processes are up to the jurisdiction(s) to which you are transferring your UBE score. For more specific information about their respective procedures, check out this Directory of State Bar Admission Agencies for links to the bar exam websites to find out more about your target jurisdiction(s).

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