Massachusetts administers the Uniform Bar Examination (UBE).
The UBE is a uniformly administered bar exam that results in a portable score. This means that applicants who take the UBE may transfer their scores to seek admission in other UBE jurisdictions.
UBE scoring is based on a 400-point scale. Each jurisdiction sets its own minimum-passing score. The minimum-passing UBE score in Massachusetts is 270.
The UBE consists of three sections: the MBE, the MEE, and the Multistate Performance Test (MPT).
Multistate Bar Examination (MBE)
The MBE is a six-hour, 200-question multiple-choice examination developed by the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) and administered by participating jurisdictions, including Massachusetts, on the last Wednesday in February and the last Wednesday in July of each year. The MBE counts for 50 percent of an examinee’s total UBE score.
According to the NCBE, the purpose of the MBE is to assess the extent to which an examinee can apply fundamental legal principles and legal reasoning to analyze given fact patterns.
The MBE is divided into morning and afternoon testing sessions of three hours each, with 100 questions in each session. There are no scheduled breaks during either the morning or afternoon session, though test taskers typically may be excused from the exam room during the test. Be sure to check on this with your jurisdiction, as the rules regarding leaving the exam room may vary.
Of the 200 questions on the MBE, 175 questions are scored. The remaining unscored 25 questions are used by the NCBE to test potential future questions. The scored questions are distributed evenly, with 25 questions from each tested subject area. The Massachusetts bar exam subjects include civil procedure, constitutional law, contracts, criminal law and procedure, evidence, real property, and torts.
Multistate Essay Examination (MEE)
The MEE consists of six 30-minute issue-spotter questions. The MEE is administered on the Tuesday before the last Wednesday in February and July of each year. The MEE counts for 30 percent of an examinee’s UBE score.
Subjects that may be tested on the MEE include business associations, civil procedure, conflict of laws, constitutional law, contracts, criminal law and procedure, evidence, family law, real property, torts, trusts and estates, and Article 9 (secured transactions) of the Uniform Commercial Code.
Multistate Performance Test (MPT)
The MPT is the third component of the UBE. The MPT is used in many jurisdictions that haven’t adopted the UBE; 46 jurisdictions administered the MPT in 2018.
Unlike other components of the UBE, the MPT is not a test of substantive knowledge. The MPT consists of two 90-minute problems designed to mimic real-world tasks that a new attorney might be assigned. The MPT counts for 20 percent of an examinee’s UBE score.
The materials for each MPT include a file and a library. The file consists of the facts of a fictitious case and includes legal documents related to the case. The library contains statutes, cases, and other forms of rules. The file and library will include both relevant and irrelevant information; it’s up to you to figure out what you’ll need to complete your task. The examinee’s task will be outlined in a memorandum contained in the file.
In addition to passing the UBE, every applicant is required to pass the Massachusetts Law Component (MLC) exam as a condition of bar admission. The MLC is a 50-question multiple-choice exam on key distinctions and essential highlights of Massachusetts law and procedure. More information on the MLC can be found on the Massachusetts government’s website.
Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE)
In addition to the UBE, a passing score on the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE) is also required to become a licensed Massachusetts attorney. The MPRE tests an examinee’s knowledge of the ethics rules related to the practice of law. According to the NCBE, the purpose of the MPRE is to “measure examinees' knowledge and understanding of established standards related to the professional conduct of lawyers.”
The MPRE’s questions are largely based on the American Bar Association (ABA) Model Rules of Professional Conduct and the ABA Model Code of Judicial Conduct, but the MPRE also covers relevant court decisions as well as procedural and evidentiary rules.
The MPRE consists of 60 multiple choice questions—50 scored questions and 10 unscored questions. As with the MBE, each question on the MPRE is followed by four possible answer options. You’ll have two hours to complete the exam.
The MPRE is offered three times per year, typically in March, August, and November. Be sure to register early—the regular registration fee is $135, but the late registration fee is $220.
The MPRE is scored on a scale that ranges from 50 to 100. Massachusetts requires a minimum-passing MPRE score of 85. And unlike most jurisdictions, applicants to the Massachusetts bar much achieve a passing MPRE score before they can even sit for the bar exam.