What Is the Uniform Bar Exam?

The uniform bar exam is something that many current law students and graduates of law school have heard about, but may not completely understand. As there are several different jurisdiction-specific versions of the bar examination, it is important to understand the pros and cons of each test; this will allow you to make more informed decisions and study more accurately for each exam.

In this article, we will be telling you everything you need to know about the uniform bar exam. You will learn exactly what is on this rigorous test, the states that administer it, and what the specific benefits of taking this exam are. We’ll also give you some tips on starting to study for the uniform bar exam, so you can begin to prepare yourself for a successful test day.

Understanding the Uniform Bar Exam

The uniform bar exam (UBE) is a standardized test designed by the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) to test the legal knowledge and skills of its test-takers. It covers essential skills that lawyers will need to use in practice, in addition to basic legal concepts, and it is a vital step into obtaining a license to practice law.

As you might expect from the name, the uniform bar exam is uniformly administered. This means that the test content will be the same in every state where it is offered and that it will be scored similarly in every state. However, states will set their own passing scores, which can differ greatly from location to location. Some states may also require additional exams or have local testing requirements that need to be taken alongside the UBE.

The Content of the Uniform Bar Exam

The UBE consists of 3 separate parts and is administered over the course of 2 days. Below, we will give you more information about each component of the test and what you can expect from it.

Multistate Bar Exam (MBE)

The multistate bar exam is a 200-question multiple-choice exam that you are given 6 hours to complete. This test will cover fundamental legal principles and knowledge, legal reasoning questions, and fact pattern analysis.

You can expect to be asked questions about any of the following legal subjects: business associations, constitutional law, contracts, torts, criminal law, civil procedure, evidence, property, and trusts. This isn’t an extensive list of the legal subjects covered on the MBE, but it should give you an idea of the type of test it is. The legal subjects will be split evenly between the 200 questions on the test.

Additionally, out of the 200 questions on the MBE, 175 are scored. The other 25 are used by the NCBE to test future exam questions out for difficulty level. However, you will not be able to tell the difference between scored and non-scored questions, so you should try your hardest on the entire exam.

Multistate Essay Examination (MEE)

The multistate essay examination consists of 6 questions, each timed at 30 minutes, that are designed to test effective written communication. Questions will you’re your knowledge in identifying legal issues, differentiating between relevant and irrelevant information, creating clear, well-reasoned written analyses, and showing an understanding of fundamental legal issues in writing.

It is important to note that you may also see the MEE being administered on local state bar exams, not just the UBE, so you should try your hardest to study for and understand this exam component. The NCBE does provide a helpful studying outline for you to go over when preparing for this section.

Multistate Performance Test (MPT)

The multistate performance test is composed of 2 separate 90-minute tests that are designed to examine your lawyering skills and knowledge in realistic scenarios. Questions are not created to test legal knowledge, but rather to test how you would apply that knowledge when practicing as a lawyer. You may be asked to draft a client letter, complaint, or memorandum as part of this exam.

A unique aspect of the MPT is that you do not need to bring any outside knowledge to the test. The exam questions provide you with the information and facts you need, and then you will be asked to complete questions based on them. This article can provide more information about studying for the MPT and specific question content.

Grading of the Uniform Bar Exam

Because the UBE is uniform, it will be graded the same across all jurisdictions. The MBE portion of the test will weigh 50 percent of your final score, while the MEE weighs 30 percent, and the MPT weighs 20 percent.

There are a total of 400 points available for the UBE across all tests. The NCBE exclusively scores all test-takers’ MBE test; this makes up for 200 points of your exam. The MEE and MPT will be scored by the jurisdiction in which you take the UBE. Keep in mind that states may have different scoring criteria, so be sure to understand this when studying so that you know what you are aiming for.

In terms of passing scores, states also set different minimum requirements. The lowest average score you will need to pass is 260, and the highest score needed to pass is 280. You can see which passing score belongs to which state here.

Uniform Bar Exam Test Schedule

The uniform bar exam is administered during the last Tuesday and Wednesday in February and July. The MBE is given on the last Wednesday and takes up the entire day (6 hours of testing broken into two 3-hour components) and the MEE and MPT will be given the Tuesday prior, with each component taking up 3 hours of a 6-hour testing day.

Registration information for the UBE can be found through the NCBE’s website. It is important that you create an account with the NCBE before you register to take the UBE in any available jurisdiction, as your unique NCBE number will be used to identify your scores.

Uniform Bar Exam Score Portability

One of the most important things to understand about the UBE is that the score you receive is portable to any other state that also administers the UBE. This allows you greater versatility to practice in jurisdictions other than the one you tested or went to law school in, giving you more control over your career. When transferring your UBE score to a different jurisdiction, you will not have to retake a specific state’s bar exam before being allowed to practice in the area, but you may need to take additional local tests.

Additionally, if you are unable to achieve a passing score in your specific jurisdiction, you can transfer your UBE score to a jurisdiction where it is passing. This can be a good alternative for someone who doesn’t care too much about where they practice and doesn’t want to have to retake the UBE.

States That Have Adopted the Uniform Bar Exam

The following 36 jurisdictions have all adopted the uniform bar exam. If you take the UBE in one of these jurisdictions, you can transfer your score to any of the other listed jurisdictions, contingent on obtaining a passing score in that area. Keep in mind that you may have to take additional local professional testing after transferring your score to gain full admission to the bar.

  • Alabama
  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • District of Columbia
  • Idaho
  • Illinois
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oregon
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Washington
  • West Virginia
  • Wyoming
  • Virgin Islands

The Uniform Bar Exam vs. State Bar Exams

woman doing legal work on laptop

Many students choose to take the UBE over state bar exams because it is easier to transfer the score and is generally regarded as being a little easier than state-specific exams. This is because the UBE is standardized and there will not be any questions about local laws or state-specific questions; the UBE is more of a general legal knowledge test, which allows students to prepare for it more easily.

The added benefit of having score portability after taking the UBE makes it a prime choice for bar candidates who aren’t sure which jurisdiction they would like to practice in and who would like to keep their career options as open as possible.

This being said, state-designed bar exams can be beneficial for test-takers who know they want to practice in a specific area and want to demonstrate knowledge of the jurisdiction’s local laws and legal knowledge requirements.

What about the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam?

The multistate professional responsibility exam (MPRE) is a required component of obtaining your license to practice as a lawyer. This exam is required for admission to the bar in every jurisdiction except for Wisconsin and Puerto Rico and is administered 3 times a year. After you take the UBE or a state bar exam, you will need to take the MPRE to officially gain admission to the bar.

The test itself consists of 60 questions over a 2-hour period and examines the takers’ professional knowledge and understanding of the code of conduct frequently applied across all areas of the legal field. Each jurisdiction will set its own passing score. You can read more about the MPRE on the NCBE website here.

How to Study for the Uniform Bar Exam

If the uniform bar exam sounds like a great option for you, you may be wondering what you can do to start preparing yourself for it. We give you some pro studying tips below so you can get ready for this intensive exam.

Invest in Bar Prep Courses

Due to the nature of the UBE, and all bar exam variations, you will need to study extensively. One of the best ways to do that is to purchase a bar preparation course or other bar preparation materials. These things can help point you in the correct direction with your studies and give you complete outlines on essential testing topics.

In the case that your bar prep course is taught by a teacher or tutor, you will be able to get live feedback and individualized tips to help you target weak areas and improve your overall testing abilities.

Take Practice Exams

Taking practice exams is one of the best ways to build up your testing stamina and familiarize yourself with the UBE. The more practice exams you take, the easier you will find it to answer exam questions with fluidity and consistently score high. Practice exams can also help you discover topics that you are unfamiliar with, allowing you a chance to study up on them before your official testing day.

Tailor Your Study Schedule

Tailoring your study schedule to your personal availability can help you keep studying consistently and without cramming in too much information at once. A well-paced, organized schedule that works around your life can make it easier to study day after day without burnout and can help you prepare for the UBE with much less stress.

Check out our article on bar preparation tips for more help in tailoring your studying and effectively preparing yourself to take the UBE.

Paving Your Way to Professional Success

The bar examination is one of the final hurdles for many students who are ready to start their legal careers, and the uniform bar exam is one of the more popular choices of bar exams thanks to its score transferability and versatility. If you decide to take the uniform bar exam, make sure that you understand exactly what is on the test and where you can use your score before embarking on the long study process to succeed on this exam. Do this, and you will be on your way to professional success in no time.