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Information About Bar Admission and Examination

It is never too early to plan for the bar exam. The bar exam is the most important final exam you face, covering a vast amount of material.  It is extremely important that you make preparing your bar admission application(s) and studying for the exam a top priority.Each state determines its criteria for bar admission. For comprehensive information about bar exam composition, additional requirements, application dates, multistate test requirements, and bar admission fees, refer to the American Bar Association’s Comprehensive Guide to Bar Admission RequirementsStudents are also encouraged to contact a jurisdiction's bar admission office directly for detailed and accurate information. You’ll find directories of state bar admission offices here

Character and Fitness to Practice Law

All states have a character and fitness requirement. The Pennsylvania standard is illustrative: "The character and fitness standards require that an applicant to the bar be one whose record of conduct justifies the trust of clients, adversaries, courts and others. The hallmark of such a person is honesty, especially in connection with the application for admission to the bar. Persons with a record showing a deficiency in honesty, trustworthiness, diligence or reliability may not be recommended for admission."

The Bar Exam

In general, the bar exam is offered twice a year, in February and July. Most law students take the July bar exam after graduation. The bar exam usually is given over two or three days depending on the state. For most states, one day covers state law (which may include the Multistate Essay Exam and the Multistate Performance Test) and the second day is for the Multistate Bar Examination.  For a list of the subjects tested in the state(s) in which you are sitting for the bar, contact the state’s bar admission office directly for detailed and accurate information. Subjects tested in Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey are listed below. You can find directories of state bar admission offices online. Most states also require the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE), which is offered in March, August, and November. The MPRE can be, and almost always is, taken before graduation from law school.

Multistate Bar Examination (MBE)

The MBE is required for admission to the bars of all but two U.S. jurisdictions (Louisiana and Puerto Rico). The MBE consists of 200 multiple-choice questions, 190 of which are scored. The 10 unscored questions are being evaluated for future use; because these questions are indistinguishable from scored questions, examinees should answer all 200 questions.  The 190 scored questions on the MBE are distributed as follows: Civil Procedure (27), Constitutional Law (27), Contracts (28), Criminal Law and Procedure (27), Evidence (27), Real Property (27), and Torts (27).

Multistate Essay Examination (MEE)

The MEE is a collection of 30-minute essay questions.  As of 2014, the following jurisdictions have adopted the MEE

Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, District Columbia, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Northern Mariana Islands, Oregon, Palau, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming

Examinees are advised to contact the jurisdiction to which they seek admission for the most current information.

Multistate Performance Test (MPT)

The MPT consists of two 90-minute skills questions covering legal analysis, fact analysis, problem solving, resolution of ethical dilemmas, organization and management of a lawyering task, and communication.  Applicants should contact the jurisdiction where admission is being sought to ascertain whether one or more MPTs are part of the jurisdiction’s examination.  As of 2014, the following jurisdictions have adopted the MPT:

Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District Columbia, Georgia, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Northern Mariana Islands, Ohio, Oregon, Palau, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming

Examinees are advised to contact the jurisdiction to which they seek admission for the most current information.

Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE)

The MPRE is a two-hour, 60 question multiple-choice exam that measures your knowledge of ethical standards in the legal profession. The MPRE is required for admission to the bars of all but three U.S. jurisdictions (Maryland, Wisconsin, and Puerto Rico). Passing scores are established by each jurisdiction. Since the MPRE requirements vary from one jurisdiction to another, examinees are advised to check with the board of bar examiners in each jurisdiction where admission is being sought before registering for the MPRE. Contact information for jurisdictions can be found in the Bar Admission Offices Directory on the home page.

The Pennsylvania bar examination consists of six essay questions that cover one or more of the following subjects:

  • Business Organizations (including corporations, partnerships, limited liability companies, and professional corporations)
  • Employment Discrimination (limited to Title VII, ADA, and ADEA)
  • Professional Responsibility
  • Civil Procedure (Pennsylvania and federal)
  • Evidence (Pennsylvania and federal)
  • Real Property
  • Criminal Law (including related Pennsylvania and federal constitutional issues and DUI)
  • Family Law
  • Torts
  • Conflict of Laws
  • Federal Constitutional Law
  • U.C.C., Art. II — Sales
  • Contracts
  • Federal Income Taxes (personal only and limited to taxable and non-taxable income, deductions, proprietorships, and capital transactions)
  • Wills, Trusts and Decedents' Estates (including related fiduciary responsibilities)

The New York bar examination consists of essay questions and 50 multiple choice questions drawn from the following subjects:

  • Administrative law
  • Business relationships including agency, business corporations, limited liability companies, partnerships, and joint ventures
  • Civil practice and procedure (New York, except as noted)
  • Conflict of laws
  • New York and federal constitutional law
  • Contracts and contract remedies
  • Criminal law and procedure
  • Evidence
  • Matrimonial and family law
  • Professional responsibility
  • Real property
  • Torts and tort damages
  • Trusts, wills and estates
  • UCC Articles 2 and 9

The New Jersey examination consists of essay questions based upon the subjects of contracts, criminal law, real property, torts, constitutional law, evidence, and civil procedure.  These questions may be framed in the context of fact situations involving, and interrelated with, the following subjects:

  • Agency
  • Conflicts of law
  • Corporations
  • Equity
  • Family law
  • Partnership
  • Uniform Commercial Code Articles 2 (Sales), 3 (Commercial Paper), and 9 (Secured Transactions)
  • Wills, trusts, and estates
  • Zoning and planning
  • Disciplinary rules

New Jersey is the most common concurrent exam taken by Penn State Law graduates.  The New Jersey exam is given the day after the MBE, which allows students sitting for the Pennsylvania or New York exam to take the New Jersey exam on the third day of testing.

Bar Review Courses

Penn State Law Course

BPREP 900: Fundamental Skills for the Bar Examination
This course provides students with a substantive review of selected material routinely tested on the bar exam, primarily through problems and exercises in a bar exam format designed to familiarize students with the exam and techniques for answering multiple choice and essay questions.  Individualized feedback is provided every week to assist each student identify areas of strength and weakness.  The goal is to enhance student ability to prepare for the bar exam and is intended to supplement, not replace, commercial bar preparation courses.  This course is not focused on any particular state, so all students will benefit regardless of where they are sitting for the bar exam.

Commercial Bar Review Courses

Students are strongly encouraged to take a commercial bar review course in order to properly prepare for successful completion of the bar exam.  The law school does not recommend any particular commercial bar review course and the links below are provided to students as a convenience only. Providing this information does not constitute an endorsement of any programs or products by the law school.

FAQs

What is a Dean’s Certification form?

Most states require a certificate from your law school dean attesting to the fact that you have graduated from law school. These forms can be found online at the various state bar websites. You should download the form and turn it to the Registrar's Office.

What do I do if an official transcript is required as part of the Bar Examination Application Process?

You will need to order an official transcript from the University Registrar. There is a fee, per transcript, which must be paid with a credit card when ordering online.

Can I get a loan to pay for bar exam expenses and living expenses during the bar study period?

Yes, see the Law School's information on student loans.

What do I do if fingerprints are required as part of the Bar Examination Application Process?

If you are asked to provide fingerprints as a requirement for a bar examination, please check with your local police department for information regarding where fingerprints can be processed. The law school does not handle fingerprinting processing.