Search Results

Schools

Albany Law School
American University
Appalachian School of Law
Arizona State University
Arizona Summit Law School
Ave Maria School of Law
Barry University
Baylor University
Belmont University
Boston College
Boston University
Brigham Young University
Brooklyn Law School
California Western School of Law
Campbell University
Capital University
Cardozo-Yeshiva University
Case Western Reserve University
Catholic University of America
Chapman University
Charleston School of Law
Charlotte School of Law
Chicago-Kent College of Law
Cleveland-Marshall College of Law
Columbia University
Concordia University School of Law
Cornell University
Creighton University
CUNY
DePaul University
Drake University
Drexel University
Duke University
Duquesne University
Elon Law School
Emory University
Faulkner University
Florida A&M University
Florida Coastal School of Law
Florida International University
Florida State University
Fordham University
George Mason University
George Washington University
Georgetown University
Georgia State University
Golden Gate University
Gonzaga University
Harvard University
Hofstra University
Howard University
Indiana Tech
Indiana University - Bloomington
Indiana University - Indianapolis
Inter American University
John Marshall Law School - Atlanta
John Marshall Law School - Chicago
Lewis and Clark College
Liberty University
Lincoln Memorial University
Louisiana State University
Loyola Marymount University
Loyola University Chicago
Loyola University New Orleans
Marquette University
Mercer University
Michigan State University
Mississippi College
Mitchell Hamline School of Law
New England School of Law
New York Law School
New York University
North Carolina Central University
Northeastern University
Northern Illinois University
Northern Kentucky University
Northwestern University
Nova Southeastern University
Ohio Northern University
Ohio State University
Oklahoma City University
Pace University
Pennsylvania State University - Dickinson Law
Pennsylvania State University - Penn State Law
Pepperdine University
Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico
Quinnipiac University
Regent University
Roger Williams University
Rutgers University
Samford University
Santa Clara University
Seattle University
Seton Hall University
South Texas College of Law Houston
Southern Illinois University
Southern Methodist University
Southern University Law Center
Southwestern Law School
St. John's University
St. Louis University
St. Mary's University
St. Thomas University - Florida
Stanford University
Stetson University
Suffolk University
SUNY Buffalo
Syracuse University
Temple University
Texas A&M
Texas Southern University
Texas Tech University
Thomas Jefferson School of Law
Thomas M Cooley Law School
Touro College
Tulane University
University of Akron
University of Alabama
University of Arizona
University of Arkansas - Fayetteville
University of Arkansas - Little Rock
University of Baltimore
University of California - Berkeley
University of California - Davis
University of California - Hastings
University of California - Irvine
University of California - Los Angeles
University of Chicago
University of Cincinnati
University of Colorado
University of Connecticut
University of Dayton
University of Denver
University of Detroit Mercy
University of Florida
University of Georgia
University of Hawaii
University of Houston
University of Idaho
University of Illinois
University of Iowa
University of Kansas
University of Kentucky
University of La Verne
University of Louisville
University of Maine
University of Maryland
University of Massachusetts Dartmouth
University of Memphis
University of Miami
University of Michigan
University of Minnesota
University of Mississippi
University of Missouri - Columbia
University of Missouri - Kansas City
University of Montana
University of Nebraska
University of Nevada - Las Vegas
University of New Hampshire
University of New Mexico
University of North Carolina
University of North Dakota
University of North Texas Dallas College of Law
University of Notre Dame
University of Oklahoma
University of Oregon
University of Pennsylvania
University of Pittsburgh
University of Puerto Rico
University of Richmond
University of San Diego
University of San Francisco
University of South Carolina
University of South Dakota
University of Southern California
University of St. Thomas - Minneapolis
University of Tennessee
University of Texas
University of The District of Columbia
University of the Pacific
University of Toledo
University of Tulsa
University of Utah
University of Virginia
University of Washington
University of Wisconsin
University of Wyoming
Valparaiso University
Vanderbilt University
Vermont Law School
Villanova University
Wake Forest University
Washburn University
Washington and Lee University
Washington University in St Louis
Wayne State University
West Virginia University
Western New England University School of Law
Western State University
Whittier Law School
Widener University - Delaware
Widener University - Pennsylvania
Willamette University
William and Mary
Yale University
Last Updated: February 5, 2016

Bar Exam Overview

What is the bar exam?

In order to practice law in the United States — also called being "admitted to the bar" — you must obtain a law license from an individual territory or state. To receive a law license from one of these jurisdictions, you must first pass the bar exam. Each jurisdiction administers the test to ensure minimal competence from the lawyers who practice there.

In the vast majority of states, examinees take the bar exam over two full days. In California Louisiana, South Carolina, and Palau the exam is three full days. (California will switch to a two-day test in July 2017.) In Delaware, Nevada, Ohio, and Texas the exam is administered over 2.5 days. If you graduate from a law school in Wisconsin, you will not need to take the Wisconsin bar exam due to "diploma privilege."

The bar exam includes a multiple choice exam, essay portion, and, in some jurisdictions, skills training.

Who can sit for the bar exam?

The highest court in the state, e.g. the Supreme Court of Utah, determines the rules for who will be admitted to the bar. (In several jurisdictions the state legislature also has some authority to determine the rules.) Many states require students to graduate from law school prior to sitting for the bar exam, although 16 states and the District of Columbia 15 states permit students to sit for the exam prior to graduation. The states that do not require a student to graduate from law school prior to sitting for the bar exam generally require a student to have completed most of their legal education prior to taking the bar exam. A very small minority of states (California, Virginia, Vermont, and Washington) do not require that a student attend law school at all. These states instead have other methods (i.e. four-year legal apprenticeships) in which a person can become eligible to sit for the bar exam.

Approximately half of states half of the jurisdictions (29 states and the District of Columbia) allow graduates from foreign law schools to apply for admission to practice law in the state. Each state has specific requirements, but most of the states require that a graduate from a foreign law school take the bar exam or be admitted to practice in another U.S. jurisdiction.

When is the bar exam administered?

The bar exam is administered twice a year, at the end of February and at the end of July. The multistate bar exam (the "MBE") is administered on the last Wednesday of every February and July. An essay portion is administered either the day before the MBE or the day after the MBE is administered, depending on the jurisdiction.

What is the Multistate Bar Exam (MBE)?

The MBE consists of 200 multiple-choice questions. Examinees have three hours to complete the first set of 100 questions and three hours to complete the second set of 100 questions. The MBE tests seven subjects: Criminal Law and Criminal Procedure, Contracts and Sales, Constitutional Law, Real Property, Evidence, Torts, and Civil Procedure. The majority of subjects tested on the MBE are taught during the first year of law school. Every jurisdiction but Louisiana uses the MBE.

The MBE is written by the National Conference of Bar Examiners and tests majority law rather than any specific state's laws. Thus, instead of asking examinees to know a specific state's laws, examinees must know the law that a majority of states follow. This is unusual in one regard because examinees are required to memorize the law that no particular jurisdiction follows. Further, some states administer a jurisdiction-specific exam in conjunction with the MBE, which tests the law of the particular state. (See more about the essay portion of the bar exam, below.) This can present an additional burden for examinees, as the law of a particular state may not comport with the majority rule. In such situations, examinees could reach two different conclusions on the same set of facts depending on whether they apply the majority law of the MBE or the jurisdiction-specific law.

The jurisdictions that do not contain a component of the bar exam that tests state-specific law include: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Idaho, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Utah, Washington, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

What is tested on the essay portion of the bar exam?

A majority of states test state-specific law on the essay portion of the bar exam. However, 20 states administer the "multistate essay exam" which tests majority law rather than a specific state's law. States vary in both the number of essay questions they administer as well as the time allotted to each essay question. For example, some states have five essays administered over five hours, whereas others have 15 essays administered over five hours.

The majority of jurisdictions (38 states, the District of Columbia, and Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and Palau) also administer a multistate performance test ("MPT") that aims to test additional lawyer skills. Examinees receive the facts of a case, along with laws or regulations, and are expected to complete a lawyerly task.

What is the bar exam passage rate?

Bar exam difficulty varies by state due to grading methodologies and differing minimum passing scores. Statistics on specific bar exam passage rates can be found here.

By Ashley Heidemann, founder of JD Advising, LLC., a law school and bar exam preparation company.