What is the Bar Exam?

What is the Bar Exam?

In order for attorneys to be able to practice law they must have (1) graduated from law school (2) passed the bar examination and (3) satisfied any character and fitness requirements a state may have including passing the MPRE - the ethics exam. The main question then comes, what is the bar exam and how hard is it to pass? Is it the same in every state? 

I have taken three states’ bar exams and each experience has been totally different as each exam had different state specific areas of the law that must have been learned by the examinees. Nonetheless, there is one portion of the exam that remains constant throughout the United States. The MBE or the multistate bar exam is a standardized 200 question multiple choice exam that lasts a total of 6 hours and is conducted on the second day of the exam. This exam tests examinees on the black letter law rather than state specific material. However, the other portions of the exam will differ greatly depending on which state exam you are taking and whether they administer the “UBE” exam or a state specific exam. 

What is the UBE? The UBE stands for the Uniform Bar Examination which consists of not only the MBE, but also the MEE, the multistate essay exam, as well as the MPT, which is the Multistate Performance Test. In sum, state specific law is not tested when a state utilizes the UBE. The benefit of the UBE for a test taker is that if one passes the UBE you have reciprocity with the other states that administer the UBE – which enables you to obtain licensing in these states much quicker and easier than if you were required to take another bar exam.

West Virginia has now adopted the UBE and Ohio will be doing so in 2020. However, Pennsylvania retains its state specific examination. Having now taken the West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania bar exams prior to the UBE being administered, I can say that the most important aspect of preparing for the exam is learning how the state specific information is tested, and what topics of the state law are tested. For example, Pennsylvania tests examinees on tax law as well as DUI law. West Virginia previously tested on family law and wills and trusts. Ohio on the other hand, does not test on the subjects of tax or family law, but does test on commercial papers and other secured transactions. Thus, no bar examination is alike and it is imperative that one learn what subjects are being tested on the essay portion of the exams so as to not forget to review a certain area of law that may show up.

Additionally, examinees have to practice endurance and timing in preparing for the bar exam. Generally, examinees only have a certain amount of time to answer each question or essay and thus, timing is important as well. Moreover, most bar exams last at least 2-3 days and therefore it is important to practice under the same timing constraints which will allow you to experience the art of focusing for at least six hours a day on these issues being tested on the and to block out whatever else may be on your mind.

Lastly, and most importantly, although the bar examination is a tiring experience, it is important that bar examinees do not dwell on the exam after it is over as it may take as long as three to four months afterwards until examinees learn their fate on the exam. Although it is a stressful process, the reward of achieving a successful result is worth the wait. I hope this overview gave you some insight into the bar exam and the differing exams that exist across the country!


Today's blog: Do you know what it takes to become a lawyer? Of course there's law school, but have you ever wondered what comes after that? Read Erica's blog today to find out more!