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Applying to Take the Bar Exam

  • All jurisdictions require a license to practice law, normally by taking a bar examination or otherwise qualifying for bar admission.
  • In order to take the bar exam, you must apply to take the bar exam with the office of bar admissions in your jurisdiction of choice.
  • A J.D. degree from an ABA-accredited law school like Emory Law normally meets the domestic legal education requirements set by American jurisdictions for eligibility to take a bar exam, but each jurisdiction has additional requirements that may vary; some may also allow an alternate route to licensure. Individuals who wish to become licensed as lawyers in a specific jurisdiction should check that jurisdiction's website for details as well as reviewing the information, updated annually by the National Conference of Bar Examiners, here: Comprehensive Guide to Bar Admission Requirements.
  • In addition, as part of the admissions process, bar admissions officials will investigate applicants’ "character and fitness" for admission to practice law. This investigation is done through a separate "character and fitness" application process with the office of bar admissions in your jurisdiction. Preparing your character and fitness application takes longer than you think it will, so start early. This investigation is done because law is a public profession and lawyers have fiduciary duties toward clients. Be sure to attend the fall information session about this.
  • In many jurisdictions, like Georgia, applicants file their separate character and fitness application with the office of bar admission in the fall semester of their 3L year. In others, like NY, applicants take the bar exam first, then apply for through a similar character and fitness process. Yet other jurisdictions ask applicants to begin their character and fitness application process before their 3L year, so be sure to know the requirements of the jurisdiction in which you want to practice.
  • In all circumstances, applicants must pass the character and fitness certification process before they will be licensed to practice in their jurisdiction.
  • Take the time to learn the requirements for your jurisdiction and plan ahead to meet those requirements. See the information, below on how to do this.
  • Many bar admissions offices have applicants set up an online account to manage their applications, registration and paperwork. It is the applicant’s responsibility to monitor this online account and make sure that all items are actually received by the bar admissions office by the relevant deadlines.

Parts of the Bar Exam

  • The most common test format is a two-day bar exam, one day for the Multistate Bar Exam (“MBE”) and one day for essays and/or the Multistate Performance Test (“MPT”).
  • Most jurisdictions also require a minimum score on the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (“MPRE”). The MPRE is given three times per year (August, November and March), separately from the bar exam. You must apply to take the MPRE separately, as well.
  • Many states have adopted the Uniform Bar Examination (“UBE”) as part of their bar admission process. 
  • In some jurisdictions that utilize the UBE, applicants are required to take a “jurisdiction-specific component” of the bar examination as part of the admissions process. A jurisdiction-specific component is a separate test, course, or some combination of the two that is administered by a UBE jurisdiction to assess candidate knowledge of jurisdiction-specific law. The component can be offered live or online, depending upon the jurisdiction.
  • As with all other aspects of the bar examination, you must research and learn the specific format of the bar exam in your jurisdiction of choice.
  • See the NCBE website for information on specific state bar examinations.

Overview of the MBE

  • The MBE consists of 200 multiple-choice questions: 175 scored questions and 25 unscored pretest questions. Please note: this is a major change from past examinations where there were only 10 unscored pretest questions.
  • There are 7 general subjects tested on the MBE, as identified herein below.
  • The exam is divided into morning and afternoon testing sessions of three hours each, with 100 questions in each session.
  • MBE questions are broken down into the following subjects:

Overview of the Essay Portion of the Bar

  • The essay portion of the bar examination can either consist of essays written, developed, and graded by a jurisdiction’s board of bar examiners or essays found in the Multistate Essay Examination (MEE), which are essays written and developed by the National Conference of Bar Examiners and graded by the jurisdiction where the particular exam is being given.
  • The subjects covered in the essay portion of any particular bar examination depends upon that jurisdiction’s selection of essay topics, so it is vital that all applicants familiarize themselves very early on with the type of essay test given in their jurisdiction and the specific subjects tested. 
  • If your jurisdiction uses the MEE, the essay portion of the bar exam consists of six 30-minute questions. A list of subjects covered on the MEE can be found at their website.
  • However, for jurisdictions that do not use the MEE, applicants must search their jurisdiction’s office of bar admissions’ website for specific information about the exact format, duration and subjects covered on that state’s essay portion of the bar exam.

Overview of the MPT

  • The MPT is meant to evaluate an examinee’s ability to use basic lawyering skills in a realistic simulation. The MPT is not a test of substantive knowledge of the law.
  • Each MPT section has a File and a Library; one has source documents, the other has legal materials.
  • An MPT testing item may require the examinee to write a memo to a partner or client, a persuasive memo or brief, a contract, a will, a settlement proposal, a closing argument, etc.
  • Not all jurisdictions use the MPT as part of their bar examination, so be sure familiarize yourself with your jurisdiction’s bar examination format.

Overview of the MPRE

  • The purpose of the MPRE is to measure an examinee’s knowledge and understanding of accepted and established standards relating to the professional conduct of lawyers, as established by the law governing the conduct of lawyers, including, but not limited to  the American Bar Association (ABA) Model Rules of Professional Conduct and the ABA Model Code of Judicial Conduct.  This is not an examination testing individual or personal ethics.
  • The MPRE consists of 60 multiple-choice questions given over a two-hour period.  Of the 60 questions, 50 are scored and 10 are unscored.
  • The MPRE is administered three times per year: November, March, August.
  • Many students choose to take it in November of their 3L year during the same semester when they take their required course in legal professionalism or legal professional responsibility.
  • For more information, see: the NCBE website.

Example: The Georgia Bar Exam

As an example, the following is the format and information specific to the Georgia Bar Exam:

  • View application Deadlines for the February and July Georgia Bar examinations
  • For information about how to apply for Certification of Fitness to take the Georgia Bar Examination and how to apply to take the Georgia Bar Exam, visit the Georgia Office of Bar Admissions.
  • During the morning session of Day 1, the examinee with work on 2 Multistate Performance Test (MPT) questions.  This portion of the exam lasts from approximately 9:30am until about 12:30 p.m.  There is a page limit for each answer and scratch paper provided.
  • During the afternoon session of Day 1, the examinee works on 4 Georgia-specific essay questions.  Each question has a 45 minute limit.  This portion of the exam lasts from approximately 2:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.  
  • During the morning session of Day 2, the examinee works on ½ of the MBE:  100 multiple choice questions over a 3-hour period.
  • During the afternoon session of Day 2, the examinee works on the second ½ of the MBE: the remaining 100 multiple choice questions over a 3 hour period. 
  • Actual past Georgia essay and MPT questions are available on Georgia Office of Bar Admissions website:
  • View practice MBE exams
  • Scores of essays and MBE are combined to reach passing grade.
  • MBE scores are scaled, not curved.

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