Nearly everyone who’s sat for the bar exam has felt the anxiety that comes with preparing for a multi-day test. There are countless questions and uncertainties surrounding the bar exam, and you’ll never know exactly what will be on your exam until you come face-to-face with it. Luckily, the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE), which administers the bar exam, provides just a little bit of help. The NCBE publishes subject-matter outlines
to let examinees know which topics may appear on their exam. While it’s almost impossible for any one exam to include every topic that appears on the subject-matter outlines, the outlines can at least give examinees an idea of what to expect on their exam. Below, we’ve listed all of the subjects that might appear on the Uniform Bar Exam
(UBE), along with a brief description of each subject.
Multistate Bar Examination (MBE)
The MBE consists of 175 scored questions. These questions are distributed evenly across the seven tested subject areas, with 25 questions from each area. The subjects tested on the MBE are:
Every U.S. law student has been through a course on civil procedure. While you’ll certainly need to refresh your memory and prepare for the bar exam’s unique method of testing, most of the material you’ll be studying will be somewhat familiar to you. The UBE assumes that the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure are in place, as well as the sections of Title 28 of the U.S. Code regarding trial and appellate jurisdiction, venue, and transfer. The bulk of the civil procedure questions on the UBE pertain to jurisdiction and venue, pretrial procedures, and motions.
The UBE tests extensively on the federal constitution, focusing primarily on individual rights–the First Amendment, due process, takings, equal protection, etc. Other topics tested include judicial review, the separation of powers, and federalism. Contrary to popular belief, being active on Twitter does not make one a constitutional scholar; instead, we recommend a formal bar review prep
program to best prepare yourself for what you’ll see on the UBE.
Articles 1 and 2 of the Uniform Commercial Code form a major component of the MBE. You’ll also need to be particularly familiar with the formation of contracts and performance, breach, and discharge.
Criminal Law and Procedure
In regards to criminal law and procedure, the MBE focuses primarily on the constitutional protections of accused people. Other topics include homicides and other major crimes, inchoate crimes, and general principles.
If you thought you could escape the Federal Rules of Evidence (FRE), think again. Whether you plan to be a transactional lawyer or a litigator, you’ll be tested extensively on the FRE. The most commonly tested topics in evidence include the presentation of evidence, relevancy, and reasons for excluding relevant evidence.
The MBE will test you relatively equally on ownership, rights, real estate contracts, mortgages, and titles. Unfortunately, the rule against perpetuities (RAP) is also a potential topic, so if your professor took it easy on you and avoided RAP, now’s your chance to tackle this classic issue.
On the MBE, joint and several liability and pure comparative fault are applicable unless otherwise stated. Negligence is by far the most popular topic to be tested, but you’ll also see questions on intentional torts, strict liability, products liability, and several other types of torts.
Multistate Essay Examination (MEE)
consists of six 30-minute questions. Many MEE questions include issues that cover more than one area of law. The particular areas covered vary with each exam administration, but may include
Business Associations (Agency and Partnership; Corporations and Limited Liability Companies)
While most subjects tested on the UBE are also required law school subjects, business associations is one of the few that is not a required course at most law schools. If you did not take business associations in law school, much of this subject matter may be new to you. As you prepare for this topic, you’ll cover issues like agency, partnership, vicarious liability, fiduciary duty, dissolution, corporations, limited liability companies, and organizational structures.
The MEE material on civil procedure is much like what you’ll see on the MBE. The one significant difference, of course, is that your answers on the MEE will be in essay format, rather than multiple choice.
Conflict of Laws
Conflict of laws issues are always found embedded within other issues on the MEE. You’ll never encounter a standalone conflict of laws question. Relevant topics include domicile, jurisdiction, choice of law, and recognition of other jurisdictions.
You’ll face similar subject matter as the constitutional law questions on the MBE, including judicial review, separation of powers, federalism, and individual rights.
Again, the subject matter here is much like what you’ll find on the MBE, and will include: formation of contracts; defenses to enforceability; contract content; performance, breach, and discharge; remedies; and third-party rights.
Criminal Law and Procedure
Much like the MBE, you’ll see questions on homicide, theft, robbery, burglary, assault, battery, kidnapping, arson, possession crimes, inchoate crime, general principles, and constitutional protection of accused people.
On the MEE, you’ll face the same evidence topics that you saw on the MBE. In particular, hearsay is a commonly tested topic.
Family law is a topic that appears only on the MEE, not the MBE. You’ll see questions relating to marriage, separation, divorce, child custody, rights of unmarried cohabitants, adoption, alternatives to adoption, and the relationship between families and the state.
The real property topics you’ll see on the MEE mirror those on the MBE.
While the MBE might test you on aspects of the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) within its contracts questions, the MEE requires you to focus specifically on one aspect of the UCC: Title 9, which governs secured transactions. A good bar review program
will prepare you in general UCC principles, applicability and definitions, validity of security agreements, rights of parties, perfected and unperfected security interests, and default.
As with the MBE, survival actions and claims for wrongful death are available on MEE questions. Additionally, joint and several liability and pure comparative fault are the default rules.
Trusts and Estates (Decedents Estates; Trusts and Future Interests)
Trusts and estates is another subject that is tested only on the MEE. You’ll need to be prepared to answer questions on intestate succession, wills, family protection, and durable health care powers.
Yes, it’s a lot. The bar exam is intended to be a comprehensive test of foundational legal principles, and the subjects you’re expected to know span the entire industry. But with the right preparation
, you’ll be more than ready to take on whatever the NCBE can throw at you. Study hard, study smart, and you’ll be well on your way to a successful legal career.