Overview of the Bar Admission Process and Bar Exam
February 20, 2020 video of bar exam overview with Jessica Holst, Lead Character And Fitness Investigator with the Pennsylvania Board of Law Examiners.
September 19, 2019 Exam Workshop PowerPoint.
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 Requirements. Students 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 consists of 200 multiple-choice questions, 175 of which are scored. The 25 unscored questions are indistinguishable from those that are scored, so examinees should answer all 200 questions. The 175 scored questions on the MBE are distributed evenly, with 25 questions from each of the seven subject areas: Civil Procedure, Constitutional Law, Contracts, Criminal Law and Procedure, Evidence, Real Property, and Torts.
Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE)
The MPRE consists of a two-hour, 60 question multiple-choice examination developed by the National Conference of Bar Examiners. You may find information about the 2022 MPRE test dates, registrations deadlines, applying for testing accommodations, etc., by following this link: https://www.ncbex.org/exams/mpre/registration/. Registration for all 2022 MPRE dates opens Monday, December 7, 2021.
State Bar Examinations
The National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) recently launched the Comprehensive Guide to Bar Admissions website. You may find it here: https://reports.ncbex.org/comp-guide/
You may find the Charts section especially helpful. Information on deadlines, fees, cut scores, transfer of scores, and character & fitness determinations is supplied for every jurisdiction. However, the NCBE strongly advises consulting the jurisdiction’s bar admission agency directly for the most current information. You may find the directory of the various bar examiners here: https://reports.ncbex.org/comp-guide/directory/
Bar Review Courses
Penn State Law Course
Fundamental Skills for the Bar Examination (BAREX 900)
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.
- Kaplan PMBR Bar Review
- Marino Bar Review
- Reed Law Group
- Supreme Bar Review
What is a Law School Certificate or Deans 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.
If the bar also requires that we sbumit a copy of your law school application, please request this at the time of the submission of your bar form.
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?
IdentoGO is the official state contractor for fingerprinting in Pennsylvania. If you are sitting for a bar exam outside of PA and fingerprints are required, please verify that the bar examiners in your intended jurisdiction will accept IdentoGO fingerprinting.