Bar examination

A bar examination is an examination conducted at regular intervals to determine whether a candidate is qualified to practice law in a given jurisdiction.



In Brazil there is a bar examination that occurs in each State two to three times a year (usually in January, March and September). These exams are organized by the Ordem dos Advogados do Brasil (Order of Lawyers of Brazil), the Brazilian Bar association. The exam is divided in two stages — the first consists of 80 multiple choice questions covering all the disciplines learned at the university, in which the candidate must score at least 40 questions correctly. Being approved, the candidate is allowed to the second part of the exam, consisting in four essay questions and the elaboration of a motion, opinion or claim document of a chosen discipline (Administrative Law, Civil Law, Commercial Law, Constitutional Law, Labour Law, Criminal Law, or Tax Law, and their respective procedures), with a pass mark of 60%.

China, People's Republic of

England and Wales

Since the UK has a separated legal profession a Law graduate can either take examinations to qualify as a Barrister or a Solicitor by either undertaking the BPTC or the LPC respectively. These courses are the vocational part of the training required under the Bar Association and The Law Society rules and are undertaken on a full-time basis for one year. After successfully completing these courses, which generally include various examinations and practical ability tests, graduates must secure either a Training Contract (for those who have completed the LPC) or a Pupillage (for those who have completed the BPTC). These are akin to Articling positions in other jurisdictions and are the final Practical stage before being granted full admission to practice. The general timescale therefore to become fully qualified after entering Law School can range between 6-7 years (assuming no repeats are required).

However some controversy remains about the lack of Training Contracts and Pupillages available to graduates even after having completed the LPC/BPTC. These courses can vary in cost anywhere from £9,000 to £14,000 and are generally undertaken by students on a private basis making them incur additional costs. The final debt in student fees alone after having completed the academic and vocational training can range between £20,000-£25,000. This is set to increase to £40,000-£50,000 for students entering law school in the years 2012 due to the increased tuition fees for Law School itself.


In Hungary, the Bar Examination is called "Jogi Szakvizsga", can be translated as "Legal Profession Examination". This exam is composed of three parts:

  1. Criminal Law, Criminal Procedural Law and Law of Criminal Enforcement
  2. Civil Law, Civil Procedural Law and Business Law
  3. Constitutional Law, Administrative Law, Labor Law, Social Security Law and Law of the European Union.

After passing these exams the candidate can practice law as an attorney-at-law /barrister or as a secretary/judge at the court or as a prosecutor at the public prosecutor's office or in-house legal counsel or may operate individually at any field of law.


The bar exams in Ireland are the preserve of the Honorable Society of King's Inns, which runs a series of fourteen exams over ten weeks, from March to June each year, for those enrolled as students in its one-year Barrister-at-Law degree course. These exams cover such skills as advocacy, research and opinion writing, consulting with clients, negotiation, drafting of legal documents and knowledge of civil and criminal procedure. For those who fail to meet the requisite 50% pass mark, repeats are held in the following August and September.



The Philippine Bar Examination is administered once every year during the four Sundays of September. It covers eight areas of law, namely: (1) Political Law, (2) Labor Law and Social Legislation, (3) Criminal Law, (4) Civil Law, (5) Commercial Law, (6) Taxation Law, (7) Remedial Law and (8) Legal ethics and practical exercises.


In Poland, the bar examination is taken after graduating from a law faculty at a university. It allows a person to undertake practise,[clarification needed] duration of which varies depending on the specialisation. After the practical period applicants pass the exam held by the Professional Chambers with some members of the Ministry of Justice assistance.

South Africa

See Legal education: South Africa.

United States

Bar examinations in the United States are administered by agencies of individual states. In 1763, Delaware created the first bar exam with other American colonies soon following suit.[1] A state bar licensing agency is invariably associated with the judicial branch of government, because American attorneys are all officers of the court of the bar(s) to which they belong.

Sometimes the agency is an office or committee of the state's highest court or intermediate appellate court. In some states which have a unified or integrated bar association (meaning that formal membership in a public corporation controlled by the judiciary is required to practice law therein), the agency is either the state bar association or a subunit thereof. Other states split the integrated bar membership and the admissions agency into different bodies within the judiciary; in Texas, the Board of Law Examiners is appointed by the Texas Supreme Court and is independent from the integrated State Bar of Texas.

The bar examination in most U.S. states and territories is at least two days long (a few states have three-day exams)[2] and usually consists of:

  • Essay questions:
    • Essentially all jurisdictions administer several such questions that test knowledge of general legal principles, and may also test knowledge of the state's own law (usually subjects such as wills, trusts and community property, which always vary from one state to another). Some jurisdictions choose to use the Multistate Essay Examination (MEE), drafted by the NCBE since 1988, for this purpose. Others may draft their own questions with this goal in mind, while some states both draft their own questions and use the MEE.
    • Some jurisdictions administer complicated questions that specifically test knowledge of that state's law.
  • Multistate standardized examinations (below)

When exams occur

Each state controls when it administers its bar exam. Because the MBE (below) is a standardized test, it must be administered on the same day across the country. That day occurs twice a year as the last Wednesday in July and the last Wednesday in February. Two states, Delaware and North Dakota, may administer their bar exams only once, in July, if they do not have enough applicants to merit a second sitting. North Dakota requires ten applicants in order to administer the February exam. Most bar exams are administered on consecutive days. Louisiana is the exception, with the Louisiana Bar Exam being a three-day examination on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Also, Louisiana's examination is the longest in the country in terms of examination time, with seven hours on Monday and Wednesday and seven and one half hours on Friday for a total of 21.5 hours of testing. Montana's bar examination also occurs over a three-day period, with a total of 18 hours of testing. The bar exams in Alabama, California, Nevada, South Carolina, and Texas are also three days long.

The MEE and MPT, as uniform though not standardized tests, also must be administered on the same day across the country—specifically the day before the MBE.

Preparation for the exam

Most law schools teach students common law and how to analyze hypothetical fact patterns like a lawyer, but do not specifically prepare law students for any particular bar exam. Only a minority of law schools offer bar preparation courses.

To refresh their memory on "black-letter rules" tested on the bar, most students engage in a regimen of study (called "bar review") between graduating from law school and sitting for the bar.[3] For bar review, most students in the United States attend a private bar exam review course which is provided by a third-party company and not their law school.[4]

Multistate standardized examinations

The National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) is a U.S. based non-profit organization that develops national ("multistate") standardized tests for admission to the bar in individual states. The organization was founded in 1931.[5] The best known exams developed by NCBE are the Multistate Bar Examination (1972), the Multistate Essay Examination (1988), the Multistate Performance Test (1997), and the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (1980).[6]

Uniform Bar Exam (UBE)

NCBE has developed a Uniform Bar Examination (UBE), which consists solely of the MBE, MEE, and MPT, and offers portability of scores across state lines. Missouri became the first state to adopt the UBE, administering the first examination of its kind in February 2011.[7] Following Missouri's lead, several other jurisdictions, all of which were among the 22 that already were using all three components of the UBE, are expected to adopt that examination. However, many of the largest legal markets— California, the District of Columbia, Florida, Illinois, New York and Texas—have so far chosen not to adopt the UBE, although New York is presently giving a conversion to the UBE serious consideration[8]. Also, given Illinois' proximity to Missouri and shared market for St. Louis lawyers, the state is currently pondering adopting the UBE, as well, and could become the first of the "big market" states to adopt the test.[9] Among the concerns cited with the adoption of the UBE were its absence of questions on state law and the fact that it would give the NCBE much greater power in the bar credentialing process.[10]

As of November 2011, the Uniform Bar Examination Jurisdictions are[11]:

  • Alabama (July 2011)
  • Colorado (February 2012)
  • Idaho (February 2012)
  • Missouri (February 2011)
  • North Dakota (February 2011)
  • Washington (July 2013)

Multistate Bar Examination (MBE)

The Multistate Bar Examination (MBE) is a standardized, multiple-choice examination created and sold to participating state bar examiners.[12]


It is administered on a single day of the bar examination in 48 states and the District of Columbia, as well as in Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Republic of Palau. The only states that do not administer the MBE are Louisiana and Washington; the latter plans to begin administering the exam in July, 2013[13]. The MBE is also not administered in Puerto Rico.[14] The MBE is given twice a year: on the last Wednesday of July in all jurisdictions that require that examination, and on the last Wednesday of February in the same jurisdictions, except for Delaware and North Dakota.

The 200 MBE questions test six subjects based upon principles of common law and Article 2 of the Uniform Commercial Code (covering sales of goods) that apply throughout the United States. The questions are not broken down into sections and the six topics are distributed more or less evenly throughout the course of the exam. Exam-takers generally receive three hours during the morning session to complete the first 100 questions, and another three hours during the afternoon session to complete the second 100 questions.

At the January 2009 conference of the Association of American Law Schools, NCBE president Erica Moeser indicated that her organization was considering adding a seventh topic, civil procedure, to the examination.[15]

Average scores

The average raw score from the summer exam historically has been about 128 (64% correct), while the average scaled score was about 140. [16] In summer 2007, the average scaled score was 143.7 with a standard deviation of 15.9. Over 50,000 applicants took the test; less than half that number took it in the winter.

Transfer of MBE scores

Taking the MBE in one jurisdiction may allow an applicant to use their MBE score to waive into another jurisdiction or to use their MBE score with another state's bar examination.[17]

Multistate Essay Examination (MEE)

The Multistate Essay Examination (MEE) is a collection of essay questions largely concerning the common law administered as a part of the bar examination in 26 jurisdictions of the United States.[18]

The MEE can cover any of the following areas:[19][20]

MEE questions are actually drafted by the NCBE Drafting Committee, with the assistance of outside academics and practitioners who are experts in the fields being tested. After initial drafting, the questions are pretested, analyzed by outside experts and a separate NCBE committee, reviewed by boards of bar examiners in the jurisdictions that use the test, and then revised by the Drafting Committee in accordance with the results of this process. Each MEE question is accompanied by a grading guide, and the NCBE sponsors a grading workshop on the weekend following the bar exam whose results are provided to bar examiners.[21]

The examination is always administered on a single day of the bar examination, specifically the day before the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE). Through February 2007, the NCBE consisted of seven questions, with most jurisdictions selecting six of the seven questions to administer. Unlike the MBE, which is graded and scored by the NCBE, the MEE is graded exclusively by the jurisdiction that administers the bar examination. Each jurisdiction has the choice of grading MEE questions according to general U.S. common law or the jurisdiction's own law.[19]

The MEE is generally partnered with the Multistate Performance Test (MPT), a written performance test developed by the NCBE and used in 33 U.S. jurisdictions.[22]

Multistate Performance Test (MPT)

The Multistate Performance Test (MPT) is a written examination administered as a part of the bar examination in 33 jurisdictions of the United States. Generally, a performance test is intended to mimic a real-life legal task that future lawyers may face.[22][23] The test was first created in 1997.[6] The NCBE summarizes the goal of the MPT as follows:[21]

"The MPT is not a test of substantive knowledge. Rather, it is designed to examine six fundamental skills lawyers are expected to demonstrate regardless of the area of law in which the skills arise. The MPT requires applicants to (1) sort detailed factual materials and separate relevant from irrelevant facts; (2) analyze statutory, case, and administrative materials for principles of law; (3) apply the law to the relevant facts in a manner likely to resolve a client's problem; (4) identify and resolve ethical dilemmas, when present; (5) communicate effectively in writing; (6) complete a lawyering task within time constraints."

The required tasks may include writing a legal memorandum, drafting an affidavit, or drafting a settlement offer letter to opposing counsel. Each test includes what NCBE calls a "File" and a "Library". The File contains source documents detailing all facts of the case, plus a memorandum from a supervising attorney detailing the task required. The File will include relevant and irrelevant facts, and often facts may be ambiguous, incomplete, or contradictory. The Library includes cases, statutes, regulations, and rules, which may or may not be relevant, but are sufficient to complete the required task.[24]

The tests are actually drafted by an NCBE committee with expertise in developing performance tests. After initial drafting, the questions are pretested, analyzed by outside experts, reviewed by boards of bar examiners in the jurisdictions that use the test, and then revised by the drafting committee in accordance with the results of this process. Each individual test is accompanied by a grading guide, and the NCBE sponsors a grading workshop on the weekend following the bar exam whose results are provided to bar examiners.[21]

The MPT is always administered on a single day of the bar examination, specifically the day before the MBE. This means that it is administered on the same day as the MEE. Jurisdictions are provided two separate MPT tests, each designed to require 90 minutes in all, and may choose to require examinees to work one or both tests.[23]

Because of this scheduling fact, the MPT is more often than not administered alongside the MEE.[25]

Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE)

In almost all jurisdictions, the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE), an ethics exam, is also administered by the NCBE, which creates it and grades it. The MPRE is offered three times a year, in March, August and November.

Non-standardized examinations

A majority of U.S. jurisdictions also require a performance test, which is intended to be a more realistic measure of actual lawyering skill. The candidate is presented with a stack of documents representing a fictional case and is asked to draft a memorandum, motion, or opinion document. Many jurisdictions use the Multistate Performance Test (MPT), while California and Pennsylvania draft and administer their own performance tests.


Arguments against bar exams

A statement by the Society of American Law Teachers (SALT)[26] articulates many criticisms[further explanation needed] of the bar exam.[27][Full citation needed] The SALT statement, however, does propose some alternative methods of bar admission that are partially test-based.[citation needed] A response to the SALT statement was made by Suzanne Darrow-Kleinhau in The Bar Examiner [28][further explanation needed]

Arguments in favor of bar exams

The National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) regularly provides articles relating to the bar examination process.[citation needed]

Arguments for alternatives to the bar exam

The NCBE published an article in 2005 addressing alternatives to the bar exam, including a discussion of the Daniel Webster Scholar Honors Program, an alternate certification program introduced at Franklin Pierce Law Center in New Hampshire in that year.[citation needed]

See also


  1. ^ California Bar Background information, accessed April 21, 2009
  2. ^ William Burnham, Introduction to the Law and Legal System of the United States, 4th ed. (St. Paul: Thomson West, 2006), 135.
  3. ^ Mark E. Steiner, "International Conference on Legal Education Reform: Cram Schooled", 24 Wis. Int'l L.J. 377, 392 (2006). This article contrasts American bar review courses against the 18-month cram schools used in Japan, Germany, Korea, and Taiwan, and argues that the short length of American bar review is due to the superior pedagogical methods of American law schools and the American tradition of relatively easy access to the legal profession (in comparison to most countries).
  4. ^ Wayne L. Anderson and Marilyn J. Headrick, The Legal Profession: Is it for you? (Cincinnati: Thomson Executive Press, 1996), 103.
  5. ^ Official Homepage (accessed April 21, 2009)
  6. ^ a b Bar Admissions statistics PDF (accessed April 21, 2009)
  7. ^ [1]
  8. ^
  9. ^ [2]
  10. ^ Jones, Leigh (2009-10-12). "Uniform Bar Exam Drawing Closer to Reality". The National Law Journal. Retrieved 2009-11-23. 
  11. ^
  12. ^ Bar Admissions background, PDF
  13. ^ "Washington Adopts the Uniform Bar Exam; Uniform Bar Exam to Be Used Beginning July 2013". Washington State Bar Association. Retrieved 2011-04-26. 
  14. ^ "Jurisdictions Using the MBE in 2008". National Conference of Bar Examiners. Retrieved 2008-08-14. 
  15. ^ Jones, Leigh (2009-01-15). "Potential Major Changes to Bar Exams Considered". The National Law Journal. Retrieved 2009-11-23. 
  16. ^ Bar Admissions statistics PDF (accessed April 23, 2008)
  17. ^ Comprehensive Guide to Bar Admission Requirements 2009 (accessed June 29, 2009)
  18. ^ "Jurisdictions Using the MEE in 2010". National Conference of Bar Examiners. Retrieved 2010-06-26. 
  19. ^ a b "Multistate Essay Examination (MEE)". National Conference of Bar Examiners. Retrieved 2007-04-30. 
  20. ^ "Description of the MEE". Retrieved 2009-06-13.  "The Multistate Essay Examination (MEE)...inaugurated in July 1988"
  21. ^ a b c "Why Jurisdictions May Want to Implement the MEE". National Conference of Bar Examiners. Retrieved 2007-04-30. 
  22. ^ a b "Jurisdictions Using the MPT in 2007". National Conference of Bar Examiners. Retrieved 2007-04-30. 
  23. ^ a b "The Multistate Performance Test (MPT)". National Conference of Bar Examiners. Retrieved 2007-04-30. 
  24. ^ "Description of the MPT". National Conference of Bar Examiners. Retrieved 2007-04-30. 
  25. ^ "Jurisdictions Using the MEE in 2007". National Conference of Bar Examiners. Retrieved 2007-04-30. 
  26. ^ SALT
  28. ^ Suzanne Darrow-Kleinhau, "A Response to Criticism of the Bar Exam", The Bar Examiner, May 2005

External links

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