What is the Multistate Bar Examination? The Ultimate Guide to 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.)
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.)
- District of Columbia
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
- Northern Mariana Islands
- Virgin Islands
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
- criminal law and procedure
- real property
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.
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.
MBE Test Dates
- February 22, 2023