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Applying to Take the Bar Exam

  • All jurisdictions require a license to practice law, normally by taking a bar examination or otherwise qualifying for bar admission.
  • In order to take the bar exam, you must apply to take the bar exam with the office of bar admissions in your jurisdiction of choice.
  • A JD degree from an ABA-accredited law school like Emory Law normally meets the domestic legal education requirements set by American jurisdictions for eligibility to take a bar exam, but each jurisdiction has additional requirements that may vary; some may also allow an alternate route to licensure. Individuals who wish to become licensed as lawyers in a specific jurisdiction should check that jurisdiction's website for details as well as reviewing the information, updated annually by the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE), here: Comprehensive Guide to Bar Admission Requirements.
  • Bar admissions officials will investigate applicants’ "character and fitness" for admission to practice law. This investigation is done through a separate "character and fitness" application process with the office of bar admissions in your jurisdiction. Preparing your character and fitness application takes longer than you think it will, so start early. This investigation is done because law is a public profession and lawyers have fiduciary duties toward clients. Be sure to attend the fall information session about this.
  • In some jurisdictions, like Georgia, applicants file their separate character and fitness application with the office of bar admission in the fall semester of their 3L year. In others, like New York, applicants take the bar exam first, then apply for through a similar character and fitness process. Yet other jurisdictions ask applicants to begin their character and fitness application process before their 3L year, so be sure to know the requirements of the jurisdiction in which you want to practice.
  • In all circumstances, applicants must pass the character and fitness certification process before they will be licensed to practice in their jurisdiction.
  • Take the time to learn the requirements for your jurisdiction and plan ahead to meet those requirements.
  • Many bar admissions offices have applicants set up an online account to manage their applications, registration and paperwork. It is the applicant’s responsibility to monitor this online account and make sure that all items are actually received by the bar admissions office by the relevant deadlines.

Parts of the Bar Exam 

  • In most jurisdictions the bar exam is a two-day test held on the last consecutive Tuesday and Wednesday of each February and July. Typically day one consists of essays (jurisdictions may use the Multistate Essay Examination (“MEE”) or draft their own essay questions) and/or the Multistate Performance Test (“MPT”), and the second day consists of the Multistate Bar Exam (“MBE”). 
  • Thirty-nine states and the District of Columbia have adopted the Uniform Bar Examination (“UBE”). In some jurisdictions that utilize the UBE, applicants are required to complete an additional “jurisdiction-specific” course, test, and/or other requirements before being admitted to the bar.  Note that Georgia is NOT a UBE state.
  • Most jurisdictions also require a minimum score on the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (“MPRE”) as part of the bar admission process.  The MPRE is held separately from the bar exam (it is administered three times per year) and has a separate application.
  • As with all other aspects of the bar examination, you must research and learn the specific format of the bar exam in your jurisdiction of choice.
  • See the NCBE website for information on specific state bar examinations.

Overview of the MBE

  • The MBE consists of 200 multiple-choice questions: 175 scored questions and 25 unscored pretest questions. 
  • There are seven general subjects tested on the MBE: Civil Procedure; Contracts; Constitutional Law; Criminal Law & Procedure; Evidence; Real Property; and Torts.
  • The exam is divided into morning and afternoon testing sessions of three hours each, with 100 questions in each session.
  • The MBE is administered in all jurisdictions except Louisiana and Puerto Rico.
  • MBE scores are scaled, not curved.
  • See MBE Sample Test Questions.

Overview of the Essay Portion of the Bar

  • The essay portion of the bar examination consists of essays written and developed by a jurisdiction’s board of bar examiners or essays found in the MEE. Essays are graded by the jurisdiction where the exam is being given.
  • The subjects covered in the essay portion of any particular bar examination depends upon that jurisdiction’s selection of essay topics, so it is vital that all applicants familiarize themselves very early on with the type of essay test given in their jurisdiction and the specific subjects tested. 
  • If your jurisdiction uses the MEE, the essay portion of the bar exam consists of six 30-minute questions. A list of subjects covered on the MEE can be found on the NCBE website.
  • If your jurisdiction does not use the MEE, applicants must search their jurisdiction’s office of bar admissions’ website for specific information about the exact format, duration and subjects covered on that state’s essay portion of the bar exam.

Overview of the MPT

  • The MPT is meant to evaluate an examinee’s ability to use basic lawyering skills in a realistic simulation. The MPT is not a test of substantive knowledge of the law.
  • Each MPT section has a File and a Library; one has source documents, the other has legal materials.
  • An MPT testing item may require the examinee to write a memo to a partner or client, a persuasive memo or brief, a contract, a will, a settlement proposal, a closing argument, etc.
  • Not all jurisdictions use the MPT as part of their bar examination, so be sure familiarize yourself with your jurisdiction’s bar examination format.

Overview of the MPRE

  • The MPRE measures an examinee’s knowledge knowledge and understanding of accepted and established standards relating to the professional conduct of lawyers, as established by the law governing the conduct of lawyers, including, but not limited to  the American Bar Association (ABA) Model Rules of Professional Conduct and the ABA Model Code of Judicial Conduct.  This is not an examination testing individual or personal ethics.
  • The MPRE consists of 60 multiple-choice questions given over a two-hour period. Of the 60 questions, 50 are scored and 10 are unscored.
  • The MPRE is administered three times per year: November, March, August.
  • Many students choose to take it in November of their 3L year or during the same semester when they take the required Legal Profession (LAW 747) course.

Example: The Georgia Bar Exam

As an example, the following is the format and information specific to the Georgia Bar Exam:

  • View application Deadlines for the February and July Georgia Bar examinations
  • For information about how to apply for Certification of Fitness to take the Georgia Bar Examination and how to apply to take the Georgia Bar Exam, visit the Georgia Office of Bar Admissions.
  • During the morning session of Day 1, the examinee with work on 2 Multistate Performance Test (MPT) questions.  This portion of the exam lasts from approximately 9:30 a.m. until about 12:30 p.m.  There is a page limit for each answer and scratch paper provided.
  • During the afternoon session of Day 1, the examinee works on 4 Georgia-specific essay questions.  Each question has a 45 minute limit.  This portion of the exam lasts from approximately 2 – 5 p.m.  
  • During the morning session of Day 2, the examinee works on half of the MBE: 100 multiple choice questions over a 3-hour period.
  • During the afternoon session of Day 2, the examinee works on the second ½ of the MBE: the remaining 100 multiple choice questions over a 3 hour period. 
  • Actual past Georgia essay and MPT questions are available on Georgia Office of Bar Admissions website.

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