Studying for the bar exam is one of the toughest challenges aspiring lawyers face. While the multi-day test itself will feel like it goes by in a flash, the days leading up to this brutal exam can feel like an eternity. Although study guides and bar outlines can assist you in navigating this journey, practice bar exam questions will arm you with the skills and experience you'll need to succeed on test day.
Generally, bar exams are divided into three parts: essays, performance tests, and multiple choice questions. The bar taker's score on all three areas are combined and the weighted score must be at a certain level in order to pass. By learning the ins-and-outs of each type of test, you can gain a better understanding of the test as a whole and develop strategies to attack it.
Essays are the most common type of written test used by state bar exams. They usually consist of a 2-3 paragraph fact pattern followed by a call of the question. The topics of the essays depend on the jurisdiction where you'll be taking the test. Each essay can either consist of one area of law or multiple areas of law, often called "crossovers." While the topics tend to vary by state, the Multistate Essay Examination (MEE) and most of the states focus on these areas of law:
- Business associations
- Conflict of laws
- Constitutional law
- Criminal law and procedure
- Family law
- Federal civil procedure
- Real property
- Trusts and estates
- Uniform Commercial Code
The particular areas covered vary from exam to exam. While the MEE consists of six 30-minute essay questions covering up to 12 areas of substantive law, state-drafted essays can vary by length. All essays are graded exclusively by the jurisdiction administering the specific bar examination.
Multistate Bar Examination
The Multistate Bar Exam (MBE) questions consist of a brief fact pattern, a call of the question, and four multiple choice answers. Test takers must answer 200 MBE questions over a span of six hour. The test is broken up into two sections, a morning and afternoon session with 100 questions each. The questions cover the following subjects:
- Civil Procedure
- Constitutional Law
- Criminal Law and Procedure
- Real Property
All but one state, Louisiana, utilizes the MBEs. So, if you're taking the bar somewhere in the United States, there is a high probability that there will be some MBEs in your future. Unfortunately, the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) does not release MBE questions that it considers to still be in rotation. However, bar review courses like BARBRI and BarMax, provide sample MBE questions that mimic the bar taking experience.
The performance test or "PT" is intended to simulate a real-life legal task that future lawyers may face. However, it does not test substantive knowledge of the law. Writing a legal memorandum, drafting an affidavit, or drafting a settlement offer letter to opposing counsel are common tasks included in PTs. Typically, all of the law and other materials that you'll need to complete these tasks are included in the exam. While the Multistate Performance Test (MPT) consists of two 90-minute tasks designed to test fundamental skills needed to be lawyer, state-drafted PTs vary in time and length.
The Uniform Bar Exam (UBE) is composed of the MEE, MPT, and MBE. While many states are adopting the UBE, more than half of the states still include state-drafted essays or PTs in their bar exams. The benefit of taking a bar exam in a UBE jurisdiction is that the score can be transferred to other UBE jurisdictions, allowing you to practice law in a different UBE state without having to take an additional bar exam.
Below, you'll find a table listing each state and the elements that make up the state's bar exam along with links to sample bar exam questions and answers.
District of Columbia
Nine-part written examination drafted by the State
UBE Jurisdiction (beginning Feb 2017)
UBE Jurisdiction (beginning Feb 2017)
Tackling the bar exam can feel like an enormous task. However, if you break down the test into digestible sections, it can be easier to obtain the knowledge needed to pass. Figuring out what is going to be tested on the bar you are taking and reading past bar exam questions can go a very long way in helping you succeed on this difficult test.
Visit your state bar's homepage to check the exact subjects and test types administrated. Learn more about what to expect from law school and the bar exam through FindLaw for law students.
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