Bar Exams

Each state offers its bar exam during the last week of July, and most also offer it during the last week of February. Most bar exams follow a similar format: one day devoted to the Multistate Bar Exam (MBE), a six-hour, 200-question, multiple-choice exam covering seven subjects (Torts, Property, Contracts, Constitutional Law, Evidence, Federal Civil Procedure and Criminal Law), and one or two days devoted to essay questions requiring written answers. While essay questions, which are administered in every state, test applicants' knowledge of various subject areas, several states also administer one or more performance tests, which do no test knowledge of substantive law but rather primarily the skill of legal analysis.   Performance tests provide a closed library of legal authority and a set of facts, and require applicants to draft a designated document (inter-office memo, persuasive brief, client letter, etc.) analyzing the applicability of the law to the facts.

The MBE is produced by the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) ( and is used by all U.S. jurisdictions except Louisiana and Puerto Rico. The NCBE also produces the Multistate Essay Exam (MEE), used by 30 jurisdictions; and the Multistate Performance Test (MPT), used by 40 jurisdictions. Very few states administer their own multiple-choice questions above and beyond the MBE, though both Florida and New York do. However, a large number of states produce their own essay questions, and a few states (including Pennsylvania) produce their own performance tests instead of using the MPT.