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What is the Multistate Bar Examination? The Ultimate Guide to the MBE

The Multistate Bar Examination - What is the MBE?
The Multistate Bar Examination (MBE) is a six-hour, 200-question, multiple-choice examination developed by the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE). In jurisdictions that administer the Uniform Bar Examination (UBE), the MBE counts for 50 percent of an examinee’s total score. (The Multistate Essay Examination counts for 30 percent, and the Multistate Performance Test counts for the remaining 20 percent.)

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 takers 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.

MBE States

The MBE is administered in 49 out of 50 states (as well as the District of Columbia, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, the United States Virgin Islands, and the Republic of Palau). Louisiana and Puerto Rico are the only United States jurisdictions that do not administer the MBE. (To learn more about the bar exam in those jurisdictions, please see our pages for Louisiana and Puerto Rico.)

The states and jurisdictions that administer the MBE are:
  • Alabama
  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • District of Columbia
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming
  • Guam
  • Northern Mariana Islands
  • Palau
  • Virgin Islands

MBE Subjects

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 MBE questions. The scored questions are distributed evenly, with 25 questions from each of the seven MBE subject areas:
  • civil procedure
  • constitutional law
  • contracts
  • criminal law and procedure
  • evidence
  • real property
  • torts
The NCBE offers an MBE subject matter outline for each tested subject that further details the contents of the exam.

Preparing for the MBE

The MBE is an exam that requires a great deal of preparation. Below are some of the most important things to keep in mind when preparing for the MBE.

How Hard is the MBE?

Many bar examinees consider the MBE to be the “easy” part of the bar exam. After spending a day writing essays, filling in circles seems like a breeze. This is a mistake. Although the physical requirements of the MBE may not be as demanding as those of the Multistate Essay Examination (MEE) (or other, jurisdiction-specific essay components), the MBE might be the most mentally draining component of the bar exam. Every answer choice on every MBE question is designed to make you consider the relevant rules, exceptions, and exceptions to the exceptions. When taking the MBE, you have to think through every nuance of a question, and you have to do it 200 times.  

Passing the MBE

Each question on the MBE is followed by four possible answer options. As mentioned earlier, the MBE is unlike most other multiple-choice exams you’ve taken. Each answer choice is potentially a trap, and you should not expect to be able to immediately rule out answer choices. Passing the MBE requires both broad knowledge of the relevant legal rules and the stamina to maintain critical thinking over six hours of testing.

When Do I Need to Start Studying for the MBE?

It’s generally recommended that you start studying at least nine weeks before the bar exam. If you’re graduating in May and sitting for the July bar exam, you should take about a week off postgraduation to unwind from the semester and then get right into studying. If you’re not able to study full time, you’ll likely need to start studying even sooner—likely before graduation.

MBE Study Tips

Here are a few of the top tips for studying for the MBE:
  • Memorize the law. The MBE doesn’t reward you for knowing general principles. It is a test of cold, hard memorization. You need to put in the time necessary to drill specific definitions into your memory. Quimbee Flashcards are an excellent way to make sure you’re learning, and remembering, what you need for the MBE.
  • Practice, practice, practice. The MBE will test your endurance almost as much as it tests your legal knowledge. Working through 200 MBE questions is no joke—by question 150, you’ll likely find yourself looking at the clock, dreaming of freedom. That’s why it’s important that during your bar-exam prep you take full-length practice MBEs. Just like an athlete, you need to build up your endurance and prepare yourself physically and mentally for the task you’ll be performing.
  • Print out a copy of the NCBE’s MBE Subject Matter Outline. This outline lists every possible subject that might be tested on the MBE. Use it throughout your bar-prep course—when you feel comfortable with an area of law, check it off on the outline. Quimbee Outlines are keyed directly to the NCBE’s Subject Matter Outline, which makes Quimbee Outlines an outstanding tool for filling in any holes in your knowledge.
  • Delete social-media apps from your phone. This tip may seem like a drastic measure for some people, but the bar exam is the most important test of your life. And you don’t want to have to take it twice. For the few months that you’re studying for the bar exam, you want to minimize all possible distractions.
  • Take breaks. Generally, you should try to take a break at least every hour while studying. You’ll get burned-out quickly if you’re studying nonstop throughout the day. Keep most of your breaks short—only a minute or two—to give your brain the break you need without getting you offtrack.

Quimbee’s Bar Review Course

Quimbee Bar Review is a comprehensive program that will help you master the MBE. Quimbee Bar Review+ provides real MBE practice questions licensed from the NCBE, complete with answer explanations. Quimbee’s course also includes beautifully designed video lessons; comprehensive outlines and succinct Quicklines; unlimited, 24/7 access to all MBE study materials on PC or Mac; and more.

When you sign up for Quimbee Bar Review, you’ll take a diagnostic practice exam made up of real, licensed MBE questions. Over the course of the program, you'll drill through MBE practice questions and review the answer explanations. And don't forget about the performance-statistics page. This page is a prescription of the most important topics for which the student has the least proficiency, and students can use it to remediate their knowledge by focusing on these topics in the final few days leading up to the exam.

With all these resources, it’s easy to see why Quimbee Bar Review+ is the best tool available to help you pass the MBE.

MBE Scores

The MBE is scored on a scale ranging from 0 to 200. MBE scaled scores are calculated based on a process known as equating, in which MBE raw scores on the current examination are adjusted to account for differences in difficulty as compared with past examinations. For more information on this process, please see the NCBE’s website.

Your MBE score is based on the number of questions you answer correctly, and points are not subtracted for incorrect answers. So, it’s in your interest to answer every question on the MBE, even if you’re guessing.

The vast majority of jurisdictions do not establish a minimum MBE score. Instead, the MBE is factored into examinees’ overall bar-exam score. As long as your combined score on all exam components meets the minimum threshold to pass the bar exam in your jurisdiction, you will pass, regardless of your stand-alone MBE score. Verify with your jurisdiction whether it has a minimum MBE score requirement.

The NCBE provides a number of statistics regarding MBE scores. Here are a few of the most notable statistics:
Chart of the 2017 MBE National Summary Statistics
Chart of the 2017 MBE National Summary Statistics

MBE Test Dates

The MBE is administered on the last Wednesday in February and the last Wednesday in July of each year.

Upcoming MBE Dates:
  • February 22, 2023

Make your first attempt at the bar exam your last with Quimbee

  • 91% bar exam pass rate*
  • 100% money-back guarantee
  • 1,600+ real questions from past bar exams
*First-time bar exam takers who completed at least 75% of Quimbee Bar Review or Quimbee Bar Review+. The margin of error is 5.9%.

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