Created by the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE), the MBE is designed to “assess the extent to which an examinee can apply fundamental legal principles and legal reasoning to analyze given fact patterns.” 49 U.S. jurisdictions–soon to be 50 when Washington State adopts its usage in 2013—and 4 U.S. territories currently test the MBE as part of their state bar examinations.
The test is comprised of 200 multiple-choice questions administered in two, three-hour-long sets of 100 questions each. No state-specific law is tested on the MBE. The subjects you will encounter on the MBE are as follows: Constitutional Law, Contracts, Criminal Law and Procedure, Evidence, Real Property, and Torts. (The NCBE is reportedly considering adding Federal Civil Procedure to the MBE, though this change will likely not be implemented in the near future.)
For many bar takers, the MBE comprises as much as 50% of their total bar exam score, so its importance cannot be understated. In addition, many states accept the transfer of MBE scores from other jurisdictions, so those who wish to obtain law licenses in multiple states will not have to sit for another full examination. In fact, the District of Columbia and Minnesota will allow applicants who receive the requisite MBE scores (133 for D.C. and 145 for Minnesota) to waive directly into that state without sitting for the bar at all.
There are many things you can do before you even graduate from law school to ensure your success on the MBE. The first to consider is to take any MBE subject class that is offered as an elective, such as Evidence or Criminal Procedure. These are very nuanced subjects, and they are sometimes difficult to master during the brief bar preparation period, so the more time you can invest in learning these core concepts, the better. Another thing you can do is to participate in any bar prep workshops or programs your school might offer, especially those that include MBE diagnostic testing. The NCBE also offers a comprehensive guide to the exam that contains sample questions and subject matter outlines for review.
Next up on Beyond Hearsay, we’ll discuss how to tackle the test itself.
Have a question about preparing for the bar exam? Email Kimber Russell at Kimber.Russell@kaplan.com