Is The Uniform Bar Exam Hard?

uniform bar exam hard

Is The Uniform Bar Exam Hard?

Is The Uniform Bar Exam Hard?: If you are a law student planning to take the bar exam soon, there’s a good chance you have at least heard about the Uniform Bar Exam (or UBE). The UBE is a relatively new bar examination. In fact, there’s a pretty good chance that when you started law school, the UBE wasn’t in your state. Despite its novelty, the UBE is quickly increasing in popularity. Since its first administration in 2011, the UBE has now been adopted by more than half of all U.S. jurisdictions.

Since the UBE is still so new and is being administered in new jurisdictions with every bar administration, students are understandably apprehensive about the UBE’s difficulty. One of the most common questions we get from law students when discussing the UBE is, “Is the Uniform Bar Exam hard?”

Is The Uniform Bar Exam Hard?

If you’re in the same boat worrying about how hard the UBE is, then make sure you keep reading for our thoughts.

What is the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE)?

The UBE is a two-day standardized bar examination with three components: the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE), the Multistate Essay Examination (MEE), and two Multistate Performance Test (MPT) tasks. The MBE accounts for 50% of your total score, the MEE accounts for 30%, and the MPT accounts for 20%. Some UBE jurisdictions also require their applicants to complete a jurisdiction-specific law portion.

The MBE consists of 200 multiple-choice questions over a six-hour period. The MBE tests seven areas of law: Constitutional Law, Contracts, Criminal Law and Procedure, Evidence, Federal Civil Procedure, Real Property, and Torts.

The MEE is six, 30-minute, non state-specific essay questions. The essays cover the seven MBE subjects, as well as Agency, Partnership, Corporations, Limited Liability Companies, Conflict of Laws, Family Law, Decedents’ Estates (Wills), Trusts, Future Estates, and UCC Article 9 (Secured Transactions).

The MPT consists of two, 90-minute “real world” legal tasks like drafting a memo or client letter based on a set of facts and case law provided by the bar examiners. The MPT focuses on legal analysis, fact application, and problem solving.

To date, 28 jurisdictions (26 states and 2 U.S. territories) have adopted the UBE. The main benefit of the UBE is that it provides test takers with a portable score. This means you can transfer your UBE score from one UBE jurisdiction to another. This is extremely helpful for people who want to relocate to another state within a few years after taking the bar exam. If you move to another UBE jurisdiction, you can start working immediately and don’t have to take another bar exam. (Note that most states will require you to transfer your score between 2 and 5 years — so if you move to a different UBE state ten years after taking the uniform bar exam, you may not be able to take advantage of this score portability! And you may have to retake the UBE!)

More importantly, is the Uniform Bar Exam hard?

As we said, the UBE is still pretty new. It’s only been administered for about six years. With this novelty comes understandable anxiety and unease among prospective test takers.

We’ll be blunt—the UBE is certainly challenging. It is the bar exam, after all! But at the same time, the UBE is a very fair exam.

The UBE gives equal weight to the multiple-choice portion (the MBE) and written portion (the MEE and MPT). Each portion is worth 50% of your total UBE score. Naturally, some test takers are better at multiple-choice questions, while others are more comfortable with the written portion. If you prefer multiple-choice over writing tasks, you may find the MEE and MPT to be hard. Conversely, if you’re a good writer, you might find the MBE to be particularly difficult.

Since the UBE scores the multiple-choice and written portions equally, it doesn’t favor one set of skills over another. That’s the good news. But make sure you keep in mind that because the multiple-choice and written portions are worth the same amount, you don’t have much room to bomb any sections. If you do really badly on one section, you’ll have to do extremely well on the other section in order to achieve an overall passing score.

Here are a few things to note about the UBE in comparison with many state exams:

  • The UBE also has an MPT portion (described above), which requires exercising lawyerly thinking rather than applying law that you have memorized. This MPT portion tends to be difficult for applicants who speak English as a second language and those that tend to struggle with timing. This is also worth 20% of the applicant’s overall score – so that is a heavy percentage! Many non-UBE states will make the MPT portion worth 10% of the score or not include an MPT at all.
  • The UBE’s essays are very well written and – while difficult – tend to be fair and semi-predictable. Some states will sometimes administer wacky or unfair essay exams. This national exam is carefully written and while it is by no means easy, it is usually somewhat predictable and fair.

Another factor that affects how hard the UBE is is the jurisdiction in which you plan to take the UBE. Each UBE jurisdiction sets its own minimum passing score. These scores range from 260 (Alabama, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico and North Dakota) all the way up to 280 (Alaska). Even if you’re theoretically taking the same UBE, it is harder to pass in Alaska than, say, Alabama because the minimum passing score is significantly higher. You can access a full list of the minimum passing UBE score by jurisdiction here.

If you’re looking for some tips on how to succeed on the UBE, make sure to check out our top 5 UBE study tips.

Kate, who is a practicing attorney in southeast Michigan, wrote this post, “Is The Uniform Bar Exam Hard?”

Additional Uniform Bar Exam Resources:

If you are looking for additional help to prepare for the Uniform Bar Exam, we offer the following resources:

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us at your convenience.

Ashley Heidemann is the owner and founder of JD Advising. Ms. Heidemann scored over a 180 on the Michigan Bar Exam in February of 2011 after graduating as the #1 student in her law school class of over 200 students in 2011. She, as well as a team of others, offer bar exam courses, seminars, and private tutoring for bar exam students nationwide. This includes services for the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE) and Michigan bar exam.  Please click here to contact her company, with any questions.

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