MBE Guide

MBE Summary
What: The exam tests a candidate's knowledge in contracts, torts, constitutional law, real property, evidence, procedure and criminal law.
Who: Candidates for a law license.
Where: Locations of the test are determined by the respective state bar examiners.
When: The test is only given on the last Wednesday in February and the last Wednesday in July of each year
How: The exam is multiple choice.
Type: The exam is written.
Why: The exam is required to become a member of the bar.
Time: Exam sessions last six hours.
Language: English
Preparation: Many test guides and preparation materials are available for purchase.
Cost: Prices vary by state.

By: Pamela Jordan, Tests.com Contributing Writer

To practice law, individuals must first apply to a state board of bar examiners and pass the state bar exam. Eligibility requirements to sit for the bar are set by each state. In order to achieve bar admission candidates must demonstrate their worthiness in two areas:

-          Competence

-          Character and fitness

Competence is demonstrated through graduating from an accredited law school and taking the state bar, which typically uses the Multistate Bar Exam (MBE).  The MBE is created by the National Conference of Bar Examiners.  Character is demonstrated through a background and history check of the individual. Because the MBE is not the only determining factor for an individual’s admission into the bar, the relative weight given to the MBE is determined by each jurisdiction.

The MBE is a standardized 200 question examination which is taken over a six hour period.  190 of the questions are scored and 10 are unscored and used for future use. The exam is broken into one morning and one afternoon session, with 100 questions covered in each three hour period.  The exam is multiple-choice with four possible answers following each question. The exam is scored based on how many questions are marked correct, and therefore test takers are advised not to leave any questions unanswered.

The test is only given on the last Wednesday in February and the last Wednesday in July of each year. Because laws are state-specific it is very important that bar candidates take the examination in the jurisdiction where they plan on practicing.

There are six covered areas:

Constitutional Law (31)

Contracts (33)

Criminal Law (31)

Evidence (31)

Real Property (31)

Torts (33)

For a full breakdown of the exam content, visit the National Conference of Bar Examiners website (http://www.ncbex.org/multistate-tests/mbe/) and look in the 2010 MBE information booklet.

Once the exam is finished, answer sheets are reviewed and evaluated by content and testing experts. Then, the answer sheets are scanned and scored, and raw and scaled scores are computed. A raw score shows the number of questions answered correctly. However, raw scores do not determine if a candidate has passed because some tests are more difficult than others. Therefore, a scaled score is “the statistical process of equating adjustments for variations in the difficulty of the questions.” For example, if questions from July are more difficult than February, scores will be adjusted upward for the harder exam.

It is extremely important for individuals to come fully prepared for the MBE. The NCBE produces study aides and practice exams that are available online for purchase. The MBE online practice exams contain 100 questions which can be taken timed or untimed, with unlimited trials. These exams also provide feedback on the answers.

To find test preparation materials, see our MBE Test Directory.