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What Is the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE)? - Complete Guide

April 3, 2024
5 min read


Reviewed by:

David Merson

Former Head of Pre-Law Office, Northeastern University, & Admissions Officer, Brown University

Reviewed: 4/3/24

If you’re curious about what the Uniform Bar Exam is, keep reading. We’ll walk through its structure, content, and where you can take it.

Since 2011, the Uniform Bar Examination (UBE) has steadily gained ground across the US. Over time, more and more states are adopting the UBE as a means to streamline the process of attorney licensure. It's designed to make sure that everyone who passes meets the same high standards of legal know-how, no matter where they plan to practice.

In this guide, we'll cover the basics of the UBE, including its components, the states and jurisdictions where it's accepted, how it's graded, the subjects it covers, the exam schedule, and the portability of UBE scores. Whether you're thinking about taking the exam or just want to understand what it's all about, this overview has got you covered.

What Is the Uniform Bar Exam?

The Uniform Bar Exam is a standardized test conducted by the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE). Its main aim is to assess the essential knowledge and skills needed for practicing law effectively. 

This exam includes multiple-choice questions, essays, and performance tests covering various legal topics like constitutional law, contracts, criminal law, and evidence. 

What sets the UBE apart is its portability; once you've taken it, you can use your scores to apply for admission to the bar in different jurisdictions that accept the UBE. This saves you the hassle of taking separate bar exams for each place you want to practice law.

UBE Components

The UBE is made up of three main sections: 

  • The Multistate Bar Examination (MBE)
  • The Multistate Essay Examination (MEE)
  • The Multistate Performance Test (MPT)

Multistate Bar Examination (MBE)

The MBE is the first step in the UBE. It tests whether candidates understand important legal principles and can analyze legal situations.

This section consists of 200 multiple-choice questions covering a range of legal topics, such as civil procedure, Constitutional Law, Contracts, Criminal Law, and Evidence. It is split into morning and afternoon sessions, each lasting three hours. Candidates face both scored and unscored pretest questions. 

The MBE contributes 50% to the total UBE score, so it plays a significant role in determining candidates' readiness for the legal profession.

Multistate Essay Examination (MEE)

Following the MBE is the MEE, which focuses on assessing candidates' writing and analytical skills. Through six essay questions spanning subjects such as Business Associations, Torts, and Trusts and Estates, candidates must provide clear and concise responses within a 30-minute timeframe per question. 

Graded by individual jurisdictions, the MEE constitutes 30% of the overall UBE score, offering valuable insights into candidates' ability to articulate legal concepts effectively.

Multistate Performance Test (MPT)

The MPT evaluates candidates' practical application of legal knowledge and skills. With two 90-minute tasks, candidates are presented with case materials, including a File containing relevant facts and a Library with reference materials. 

From drafting legal documents to analyzing case materials, candidates demonstrate their legal research, analysis, and writing abilities. Accounting for 20% of the UBE score, the MPT provides an opportunity for candidates to showcase their readiness for the challenges of legal practice.

UBE States and Jurisdictions

Below is a breakdown of the UBE states and jurisdictions that have embraced the UBE, along with when they first introduced it.

Jurisdictions That Have Adopted the UBE

State First Administration Date
Alabama July 2011
Alaska July 2014
Arizona July 2012
Arkansas February 2020
Colorado February 2012
Connecticut February 2017
District of Columbia July 2016
Idaho February 2012
Illinois July 2019
Indiana July 2021
Iowa February 2016
Kansas February 2016
Kentucky February 2021
Maine July 2017
Maryland July 2019
Massachusetts July 2018
Michigan February 2023
Minnesota February 2014
Missouri February 2011
Montana July 2013

State First Administration Date
Nebraska February 2013
New Hampshire February 2014
New Jersey February 2017
New Mexico February 2016
New York July 2016
North Carolina February 2019
North Dakota February 2011
Ohio February 2021
Oklahoma July 2021
Oregon July 2017
Pennsylvania July 2022
Rhode Island February 2019
South Carolina February 2017
Tennessee February 2019
Texas February 2021
Utah February 2013
Vermont July 2016
Washington July 2013
West Virginia July 2017
Wyoming July 2013
Virgin Islands July 2017

States and Jurisdictions That Have Not Adopted the UBE

The following states and jurisdictions have not adopted the UBE:

  • California
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii
  • Louisiana
  • Mississippi
  • Nevada
  • Virginia
  • Wisconsin

Additionally, the following territories and jurisdictions have not adopted the UBE:

  • Guam
  • Northern Mariana Islands
  • Palau
  • Puerto Rico

Source: NCBE

Grading of the UBE

The UBE is graded through a combination of scoring by the NCBE for the MBE component, while the MEE and the MPT components are graded by individual jurisdictions. 

After grading, the scores from the MEE and MPT are scaled to align with the MBE scores, and the UBE total scores are calculated by the NCBE. These total scores are reported on a 400-point scale, with the MBE weighted at 50%, the MEE at 30%, and the MPT at 20%. 

Each jurisdiction sets its own minimum passing score for the UBE, and NCBE automatically reports UBE scores to jurisdictions, which then report the scores to examinees. If a jurisdiction does not report scores to examinees, individuals may request their scores from NCBE via UBE Score Services.

UBE Bar Exam Subjects

The Uniform Bar Exam covers key legal subjects like Contracts, Constitutional Law, Criminal Law and Procedure, Evidence, Real Property, Torts, and Civil Procedure. 

Additionally, the MEE includes topics such as Business Associations, Conflict of Laws, Family Law, UCC Art. 9 (Secured Transactions), and Trusts & Estates. This broad range of subjects ensures that candidates have a well-rounded understanding of essential legal principles needed for the practice of law.

UBE Schedule

To prepare for the UBE, candidates typically put in around 35-40 hours of study time per week for nine to 10 weeks, totaling about 300-400 hours. 

The strategy is to take things one step at a time. Instead of trying to tackle everything at once, candidates focus on mastering one part of the exam before moving on to the next. 

Your first aim should be to learn the material. This involves listening to lectures, going through practice questions, and getting to grips with the nuts and bolts of each section. Once that's done, it's all about practice, practice, practice.

By breaking it down and building a study schedule, candidates can dig deep into each component of the exam. This approach not only builds up knowledge but also helps develop those all-important test-taking strategies. So when exam day rolls around, candidates are ready to handle anything that comes their way.

UBE Score Portability

Score portability on the UBE allows candidates who pass the exam in one jurisdiction to transfer their scores for admission to other UBE jurisdictions. This simplifies the process for lawyers who want to practice in multiple states by providing a standardized measure of their legal competence across different jurisdictions. 

However, it's important to check the specific requirements of the jurisdiction where admission is sought, as procedures may vary slightly.

Final Thoughts

To wrap it up, understanding what the Uniform Bar Exam is key. It provides a standardized way for future lawyers to prove their skills, making it easier to practice across different states. 

And when it comes to acing the UBE, look no further than our customized Uniform Bar Exam tutoring. Our skilled tutors provide customized online sessions designed to target your areas for improvement, guiding you toward reaching your full potential.

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