The Uniform Bar Exam (UBE) is a standardized two-day exam created by the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) that allows for admission to become a lawyer into the states that accept this exam. It is offered twice per year on the last Tuesday and Wednesday of February and July. It is made up of three sections tested across two days. Day One includes the Multistate Essay Exam (MEE) which is composed of six essay questions and the Multistate Performance Test (MPT) which includes two “real life” lawyer tasks designed to simulate an assignment a newly admitted attorney may have to complete. Day Two includes the Multistate Bar Exam which consists of 200 multiple-choice questions. We will delve deeper into these three components and the law that each covers in later posts.
While this exam is uniformly administered across all the states that accept it, each state is responsible to actually manage and grade the exam in their jurisdiction. Each state is also responsible for setting their own minimum passing score out of a possible 400 points. For example, New York’s minimum passing score is 266 whereas Pennsylvania’s minimum passing scores is 272.
This exam score is portable, meaning that an applicant can take the exam in any UBE state and transfer their score to any other state that accepts the UBE as long as the applicant meets the minimum score in that state. Currently, there are 26 states that accept UBE scores (and the District of Columbia). 1You can see a list of those states that accept the UBE here: https://www.ncbex.org/exams/ube/. It is important to note that many states that accept the UBE scores also have other requirements in order to be admitted as an attorney so you should visit the Board of Bar Examiner’s website in the jurisdiction you plan to become an attorney to see if they have other requirements.
The UBE is not only a test of your ability to retain an obscene amount of legal knowledge and be able to apply it on essays and multiple-choice questions, but also your time management and stress handling skills. You will be asked to do a lot in a very short amount of time, so practicing your timing and ability to manage your test anxiety will be just as important as studying the law. 2Something else we will discuss in future posts! While we will spend some time breaking down each section in future posts, knowing how each day is broken down is important as well. Each section of the Bar Exam is broken into three-hour blocks, but you are responsible for timing yourself within each three-hour block. This is where practicing your timing during your two months of bar preparation becomes crucial. Your two days will look something like this:
DAY ONE: 2 MPTs in the morning (3 hours 🡪 90 mins per MPT)
6 MEEs in the afternoon (3 hours 🡪 30 mins per MEE)
DAY TWO: 100 MBE questions in the morning (3 hours 🡪1.8 mins per question)
100 MBE questions in the afternoon (3 hours 🡪1.8 mins per question)
These two days will test you on approximately 13 areas of law. I say approximately because 8 areas of law are guaranteed to be tested on the Bar Exam every year, but the other 5 are only possibilities each year. The areas of law that you are guaranteed to see on your exam are: Torts, Contracts, Property, Constitutional Law, Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure, Evidence, and Federal Civil Procedure. You may see one or several of the following: Corporations, Secured Transactions, Family Law, Conflicts of Law, and Trust & Estates. We will get into when you will see these areas in future posts so stay tuned!
Now that you know all about the UBE, you’re probably an expert, right? Wrong. Because this test will likely change soon(ish). The NCBE has recently announced that it is in the preliminary stages of creating a new version of the UBE called the “NextGen” Bar Exam. While we don’t know specifics of the exam, the NCBE hopes that its new version of the UBE will rely less on a student’s rote memorization of the law and focus more on testing skills that a new associate attorney should possess including, but not limited to, legal research, legal writing, issue spotting/analysis, investigation/evaluation, and client counseling/advising. This NextGen exam is still early in the process of its creation, but the target administration date is 2026. 3You can find out more about the NextGen Bar Exam including a content outline here: https://nextgenbarexam.ncbex.org/. It is important to keep track of this information for prospective law students because this could be the exam you have to take if you are in the 2023 Fall 1L Class at your law school.
For those of you taking the UBE, the next step is to learn about each of the three UBE sections. Check back next month as we dive into our first section of the UBE!