Overview of the Michigan Bar Exam

bar examThe Michigan bar exam is administered twice a year (the last Tuesday and Wednesday in February and July) in Lansing, Michigan. On the first day you will be required to answer 15 essay questions. On the second day of the Michigan bar exam, you will be required to answer 200 multiple choice questions. The following post provides an overview of the Michigan bar exam, including who writes it, who grades it, and how grades are determined.

Overview of the Essay Portion of the Michigan Bar Exam: 

  • Who writes the Michigan Essay Exam?
    There are five board members on the Board of Law Examiners who each write three questions. Out-of-state law professors used to write the questions. However, since 1998, the five practicing attorneys and/or judges on the Board of Law Examiners draft most of the exam questions. This is important to note because the five individuals who write the questions now are not law professors, and they do not necessarily ask the kinds of questions your law professors would ask on your law school exams.
  • What subjects are tested on the Michigan Essay Exam?The essay portion of the Michigan Bar Exam contains 15 questions, which are chosen from a total of 24 possible subjects:
    Agency                                        Domestic Relations                         Real Property
    Conflicts                                     Equity                                             Sales
    Constitutional Law                     Evidence                                         Secured Transactions
    Contracts                                    Negotiable Instruments                 State & Fed. Practice
    Corporations                              No-Fault Insurance                        Torts
    Creditor’s Rights                         Partnership                                    Trusts
    Criminal Procedure                    Personal Property                          Wills
    Criminal Law                              Professional Responsibility            Workers’ Comp. 
  • How much time do I have to answer the essay questions?
    You will have a total of five hours to answer the essay questions. You will have three hours in the morning to answer a total of nine questions.  This is followed by a 1.5 hour lunch break. After the break, you will have two hours in the afternoon to answer the remaining six questions.
  • How long should it take me to answer each essay question?
    Each question should take approximately 20 minutes to answer.
  • Who grades the Michigan Essay Exam?
    There are 15 essays that you are required to answer and 15 graders. A separate person grades each essay. Thus, it is important to answer each question thoroughly. You should strive to stay in the 20-minute time block that is suggested for each essay.
  • How are the essays graded?According to the Michigan Board of Law Examiner’s Rule statements (find the Rule Statements PDF here)   here is how they are graded:
    Score of 9-10: A Score of 9-10 demonstrates a high degree of competence in response to the question. While not reserved for a perfect answer, a 9-10 answer demonstrates a full understanding of the facts, a complete recognition of the issues presented and the applicable principles of law, and a good ability to reason to a conclusion. A 9-10 answer is clear, concise and complete. A score of 9 or 10 is not reserved for a perfect or near perfect answer. A score of 10 is not reserved for the single “best” answer that a grader may encounter to a particular question or on a particular examination. A grade of 10 may be assigned if the grader believes that the applicant has done an exceptional job considering the time and circumstances.
    Score of 8: A score of 8 demonstrates clear competence in response to the question. An 8 answer demonstrates a fairly complete understanding of the facts, recognizes more of the issues and applicable law, and reasons fairly well to a conclusion.
    Score of 7: A score of 7 demonstrates competence in response to the question. A 7 answer demonstrates an adequate understanding of the facts, an adequate recognition of most of the issues and law, and adequate ability to reason to a conclusion.
    Score of 5-6: A score of 5-6 demonstrates some competence in response to the question but is inadequate. A 5-6 answer demonstrates a weak understanding of the facts, misses significant issues, fails to recognize applicable law, and demonstrates inadequate reasoning ability.
    Score of 4: A score of 4 demonstrates only limited competence in response to the question and is seriously flawed. A 4 answer demonstrates little understanding of the facts or law and little ability to reason to a conclusion.
    Score of 1-3: A score of 1-3 demonstrates fundamental deficiencies in understanding facts and law. A 1-3 answer shows virtually no ability to reason or analyze.
    A Score of 0: A score of zero should be assigned only when the applicant makes no attempt to answer the question, or when the answer shows no reasonable attempt to identify or address the issues raised by the question.

Overview of the Multistate Bar Exam:

  • Who grades the Multistate Bar Exam?
    The National Conference of Bar Examiners.
  • What subjects are tested on the Multistate Bar Exam?
    The following seven subjects are tested on the MBE (as of 2015)
    Civil Procedure (added in 2015)
    Constitutional Law
    Contracts & Sales
    Criminal Law & Criminal Procedure
    Evidence
    Real Property
    Torts
     

    Each topic is worth about 1/7 of your overall score.

  • How much time do I have to answer the multiple choice questions?
    You will have a total of six hours to answer the 200 multiple choice questions. You will have three hours in the morning to answer the first set of 100 questions and three hours in the afternoon to answer the next set of 100 questions. You will have a 1.5 hour lunch break in between each set.
  • How is the MBE graded?
    There are 200 multiple choice questions. Each one is worth 1 point. Only 190 are scored. The other 10 are unscored questions which are used on later exams.

Exam-Taking Procedures:  

  • Where is the Michigan Bar Exam administered?
    It is administered in Lansing. The July bar exam is administered at the Breslin Center at Michigan State University. In February, the bar exam is usually administered at the Kellogg Center and sometimes the Lansing Center at Michigan State University.
  • When is the Michigan Bar Exam administered?
    The Michigan Bar Exam is administered on the last Tuesday and Wednesday in February and July.  The essay portion of the Michigan Bar Exam is on Tuesday, and the Multistate portion is on Wednesday.
    • What can I bring into the exam center with me?
      For the most updated list, see the following Rule Statements PDF released by the Michigan Board of Law Examiners.
  • When are the Michigan Bar Exam results released?
    According to the Board of Law Examiner’s website, examination results are released in mid-November for those who took the July exam, and mid-May for those who took the February exam. However, the results are usually revealed earlier.
  • How is the Michigan bar exam graded?  Your overall score on the Michigan Bar Exam is determined by your performance on the multistate portion of the exam as well as the essay portion of the exam. Each section is worth 50% of your grade. Your combined score must be 135 to pass.There is no minimum passing score for either the multistate portion or the essay portion.The MBE portion is worth 200 points, at 1 point per question.  The Michigan essay exam is worth 150 points (15 essays worth a possible 10 points each). Because it has to account for 50 % of your grade, your raw essay score is multiplied by 4/3.The formula is as follows:
  • MBE Scaled Score* + Essay Score  =  Combined Bar Exam Score
    2
    *Note that both the MBE is scaled according to a complex statistical formula that is not disclosed.

    Update: The formula for the Michigan bar exam has changed. The essays are no longer scaled according to the same formula. Read this post to find out more about how the Michigan bar exam is scored.

Questions? Please contact us here or see more Michigan bar exam tips here. We are happy to answer any questions!

Photo Ms. Ashley Heidemann received a top score of over a 180 on the Michigan Bar Exam in February of 2011. She offers private one-on-one tutoring for bar exam students nationwide as well as bar exam courses and seminars. 

For more information on private tutoring, please click here.

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