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Multistate Performance Test

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Multistate Performance Test

For the broader meaning of "bar" in legal contexts, see Bar (law).

A bar examination is a test intended to determine whether a candidate is qualified to practice law in a given jurisdiction.


The Ordem dos Advogados do Brasil (Order of Lawyers of Brazil), the Brazilian Bar association, administers a bar examination nationwide two to three times a year (usually in January, March and September). The exam is divided in two stages – the first consists of 80 multiple choice questions covering all disciplines. The candidate must score at least 40 questions correctly to proceed to the second part of the exam, four essay questions and a drafting project (motion, opinion or claim document) in Civil Law, Labour Law, Criminal Law, Administrative Law, Constitutional Law or Tax Law, and their respective procedures.[1] The Bar examination can be taken on the graduation year. Success in the examination allows one to practice in any court or jurisdiction of the country.

China, People's Republic of

Main article: State Judicial Exam

England and Wales

Since the UK have a separated legal profession, Law graduates in England and Wales 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 France, Law graduates must obtain a vocational degree called certificat d'aptitude à la profession d'avocat (or CAPA in everyday talk) in order to practice independently. The most common way to achieve the CAPA is by training in an école d'avocats (Lawyer's School). This training includes academical and vocational courses and mandatory internships in law firms. Entrance to Lawyer's School is obtained by competitive examination.


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 bar exams in Japan yield the least number of successful candidates worldwide. The old format of the examinations, last held in 2010 saw only 6% passing the exam. The new format, even after extensive reforms and a new mandatory duration of university education of six years is 24%. Since 2010, unsuccessful candidates are allowed to take the examinations only twice more in five years before their right to the exam is revoked and they either have to return to law school or give up totally. It is administered solely by the Ministry of Justice.



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, 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.


In Thailand, the bar examination is different from the lawyer licence. To practice law as a lawyer, i.e. to speak in the court, one must pass a lawyer licence examination and does not need to be called to the bar. People take the bar examination to be qualified to take a judge or a public prosecutor examination.

To be called to the bar, one must pass the written exams consisting of four parts as follows.

  1. Civil and commercial law, intellectual property law, and international trade law.
  2. Criminal law, employment law, constitution law, administrative law, and tax law.
  3. Civil procedure law, bankruptcy and business reorganization law, and the system of the court of justice. And
  4. Criminal procedure law, human rights, and law on the evidence.

Each part has 10 essay questions. The pass mark is 50. The parts 1-2 are usually taken in October and the rest are usually taken in March. One does not need to pass all four parts in one year. After passing all the written exams, there is an oral exam.

Around 10,000 bar students sit the exam each year. In 2013, 1,231 students are called to the bar, 111 of which did it in only one year.

Quite confusingly with international norms, students called to the bar are referred to as netibandit (เนติบัณฑิต), which gets translated into English as Barrister-at-Law. The Thai legal profession, however, is a fused one and those with a lawyers license are able to function both as barristers and solicitors in the British/Commonwealth sense. Many students called to the bar choose to become judges or public prosecutors instead of lawyers. As the Thai bar examination (administered and awarded by the Thai Bar Association) is separate from the lawyers licensing scheme (administered and awarded by the Lawyers Council of Thailand), this means that judges and public prosecutors belong to a separate licensing organization from lawyers. This is unlike in the US where judges and prosecutors most often come from the ranks of senior lawyers and belong to the same bar.

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.[2] 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)[3] 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 where 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.[4] 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, Delaware, 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.[5] For bar review, most students in the United States attend a private bar review course which is provided by a third-party company and not their law school.[6]

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.[7] 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).[8]

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;[9] both that state and North Dakota were the first to administer the UBE, doing so in February 2011. 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.[10] 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.[11] 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.[12]

As of February 2013, the Uniform Bar Examination Jurisdictions are (date of first UBE administration in parentheses):[13]

  • Alabama (July 2011)
  • Arizona (July 2012)
  • Colorado (February 2012)
  • Idaho (February 2012)
  • Minnesota (February 2014)
  • Missouri (February 2011)
  • Montana (July 2013)
  • Nebraska (February 2013)
  • New Hampshire (February 2014)
  • North Dakota (February 2011)
  • Utah (February 2013)
  • Washington (July 2013)
  • Wyoming (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.[14]


It is administered on a single day of the bar examination in 49 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 state that does not administer the MBE is Louisiana, which follows a civil law system very different from the law in other states. The MBE is also not administered in Puerto Rico, which, like Louisiana, has a civil law system.[15] 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.

In January 2009, NCBE indicated that it was considering adding a seventh topic, civil procedure, to the examination.[16]

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.[17] 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.[18]

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.[19]

The MEE can cover any of the following areas:[20][21]

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.[22]

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.[20]

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.[23]

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

California and Pennsylvania draft and administer their own performance tests. California performance tests are three hours in length (as California has traditionally viewed the 90-minute MPT as too short to meaningfully test anything) and are far more difficult than the MPT.

As noted above, essay questions are the most variable component of the bar exam. States emphasize different areas of law in their essay questions depending upon their respective histories and public policy priorities. For example, unlike Alta California and Texas, Louisiana did not convert to common law when it was acquired by the United States, so its essay questions require knowledge of the state's unique civil law system. Several Western states, like California, espouse a strong public policy in favor of gender equality, which means they require all bar exam applicants to demonstrate knowledge of community property law. Pennsylvania, with a history of federal tax evasion (e.g., the Whiskey Rebellion), tests federal income tax law, while New Jersey, with a history of discriminatory zoning (resulting in the controversial Mount Laurel doctrine), tests zoning and planning law. Washington and New Mexico both test Indian law, because of their relatively large populations of Native Americans and large numbers of Indian reservations. Most states test knowledge of the law of negotiable instruments and secured transactions (Articles 3 and 9 of the Uniform Commercial Code), but Alaska, California, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania do not; they have recognized that the vast majority of criminal, personal injury, and family lawyers will never draft a promissory note or litigate the validity of a security interest.


Arguments against bar exams

A statement by the Society of American Law Teachers (SALT)]

Arguments in favor of bar exams

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

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 University of New Hampshire School of Law (formerly Franklin Pierce Law Center) in that year.

See also


External links

  • National Conference of Bar Examiners: Makers of the Multistate Bar Exam
  • U.S. News Law School Rankings
  • The Louisiana Supreme Court Committee on Bar Admissions
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