Chapter 3: What is the MBE?

As we saw in the last post, the Multistate Bar Exam (MBE) is just one of three parts of the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE).1Many non-UBE states also use the MBE as part of their Bar Exam as well. Let’s start with some basics about the MBE. The MBE is tested on Day 2 of the UBE and consists of 200 multiple choice questions. Day 2 of the UBE is divided into 100 MBE questions in the morning and 100 multiple choice questions in the afternoon.  You have three hours to complete each section. The MBE can account for a different percentage of your total bar exam score, depending on the state you are taking the bar exam. In most states the MBE is worth 50% of your total score. 

Now to the questions you will see on this portion of the exam. The MBE covers the following topics in mostly equal parts: 

  1. Civil Procedure
  2. Constitutional Law 
  3. Torts 
  4. Contracts 
  5. Criminal Law/Criminal Procedure2For the purposes of the MBE, Criminal Law and Criminal Procedure are counted as one topic.
  6. Evidence 
  7. Real Property


Got all that? Great, let’s throw a curveball at you now. The 200 MBE questions will also include 25 ungraded, experimental questions that are mixed into the total 200 questions. This means that only 175 MBE questions will actually count towards your final MBE score, but you are not able to distinguish between the experimental questions and the actual scored questions.3So don’t even try! This means that you will get a scaled score on only 175 of the MBE questions, but you will not be able to figure out which ones will be scored. 

How about another curveball? Let’s not forget about the all-important aspect of timing on this portion of the UBE. As I have mentioned before, timing is a huge factor on the Bar Exam and you should be training yourself to complete these exam tasks within the allotted time from your first day of bar prep. On the exam, you have 200 MBE questions over six hours, which means that you have approximately 1.8 minutes to complete each question. But not every question is equal on the MBE. You are going to see a mix of hard, medium hard, and easy-ish hard questions on the exam.4As you will notice, I do not call any questions “easy” on the exam because there are not really “easy” questions. Only questions that you can learn to spot and figure out the answer a little easier. So some may take less than 1.8 minutes and some may take more. The way to perfect this timing is through practice, both with the substance and the timing. We will get into some actual study tips in future posts, but it’s important to know now that you should always do your practice questions in easy-to-time blocks so you can work on your timing as you test your knowledge of the law.5For example, you should do a practice set of 33 questions in one hour, 50 questions in 90 minutes, 66 questions in two hours, etc. This repetition and constant practice will ensure that you are always training yourself to get through the questions timely as you would on exam day. 

There is light at the end of this UBE tunnel though. When you are done with a full day of MBEs, you are done with the Bar Exam. Yay! Congrats to you because you have finished a HUGE undertaking and can now go celebrate.6Or sleep. Most people sleep. But that is “future you” that gets to celebrate this Bar Exam accomplishment. For now, you can celebrate knowing what the MBE is and start to get excited for the next UBE section we will discuss!

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    Meet the Author
    Stephen Iannacone is Director of Academic Success at Cardozo School of Law and a Bar Exam Coach at Vinco. Prior to joining Cardozo School of Law, Stephen was a trial attorney at the law firm of Spiegel & Barbato, LLP. He specialized in civil litigation in all New York venues and argued several appeals in the First Department. He was also an adjunct professor at Pace Law School where he taught classes to third-year students preparing for the Bar Exam as well as classes to second-year students focusing on legal writing and analysis. Read more about Stephen >