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What is the Uniform Bar Exam? The Ultimate Guide to the UBE

The Uniform Bar Exam - What is the UBE?
The Uniform Bar Examination (UBE) is a standardized bar examination that was created by the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE). The UBE is composed of the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE), the Multistate Essay Examination (MEE), and two Multistate Performance Test (MPT) tasks. The UBE tests general legal principles common across the country.

The UBE is a uniformly administered bar examination 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. States provide expiry dates for scores—typically 3 to 5 years—thus, an applicant’s score is no longer portable past its expiration date. Missouri and North Dakota were the first states to adopt the UBE in 2011. As of 2023, 41 jurisdictions utilize the UBE.

The NCBE, which works with bar admission authorities to develop bar exams, created the UBE in response to national trends. The bar examination is a test intended to determine whether a candidate is qualified to practice law in a given state. In the United States, bar exams are administered by state government bodies.

Historically, states administered their own bar exams, with formats and content unique from the other states. This was due to the fact that, for much of American history, laws could vary greatly among states. Additionally, most lawyers typically were raised, educated, and worked all within the same state. Thus, the fact that states had widely varying rules regarding admission to their bars did not have any effect on the vast majority of lawyers.

Today, however, lawyers are like many professionals in America–throughout their lives and careers, they may reside in a number of states. More legal work crosses state lines today than in years past, too. And though states retain their own unique laws, there is much more similarity among states today than in prior generations. Thus, the UBE addresses the changes in the legal landscape.

Intro to the Uniform Bar Exam

The Uniform Bar Exam is a standardized bar exam that consists of three sections:
  • the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE),
  • the Multistate Essay Examination (MEE), and
  • the Multistate Performance Test (MPT).

Multistate Bar Exam (MBE)

The Multistate Bar Examination (MBE) is a six-hour, 200-question multiple-choice examination developed by the NCBE and administered on the last Wednesday in February and July of each year. The MBE counts for 50 percent of an examinee’s total UBE score. Of the 200 questions on the MBE, 175 questions are scored; those questions are distributed evenly across each of the seven MBE subject areas: civil procedure, constitutional law, contracts, criminal law and procedure, evidence, real property, and torts. The remaining unscored 25 questions are used by the NCBE to test potential future MBE questions. 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 NCBE offers an MBE subject matter outline that further details the contents of the exam.

Multistate Essay Examination (MEE)

The 40+ jurisdictions administering the UBE use the Multistate Essay Examination (MEE). The MEE is also utilized by several non-UBE jurisdictions. The MEE consists of six 30-minute questions. It's 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.

MEE subjects that may be tested 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. The NCBE offers an in-depth outline of the topics covered on the MEE.

Multistate Performance Test (MPT)

The Multistate Performance Test (MPT) is the third component of the UBE. The MPT is used even in jurisdictions that haven’t adopted the UBE. Each MPT includes a File and a Library. The File consists of documents containing all the facts of a fictitious case. The Library may contain cases, statutes, regulations, or rules. Examinees are given their assignment in a memorandum and are expected to utilize the material in the Library to perform the task assigned to them. Unlike other components of the UBE, the MPT is not a test of substantive knowledge. Thus, there is no material you’ll need to memorize for the MPT. It’s all about practice. The MPT consists of two 90-minute items and counts for 20 percent of your UBE score.

UBE States & Jurisdictions

As of 2023, 41 of the 56 United States jurisdictions (the 50 states, plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, the Virgin Islands, the Northern Mariana Islands, and Palau) have adopted the UBE. The NCBE maintains an updated list of UBE jurisdictions on its website.

The United States jurisdictions that accept the UBE are:
  • Alabama
  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • District of Columbia
  • Idaho
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio 
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania 
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Washington
  • West Virginia
  • Wyoming
  • Virgin Islands

UBE Subjects

Wondering which subjects are tested on the Uniform Bar Exam? The two components of the UBE that will test your legal knowledge are the MBE and the MEE. (The MPT does not include specific subject areas, but rather tests lawyering skills.)

MBE subject areas include:
  • civil procedure
  • constitutional law
  • contracts
  • criminal law and procedure
  • evidence
  • real property
  • torts
MEE subject areas include:
  • business associations
  • civil procedure
  • conflict of laws
  • constitutional law
  • contracts
  • criminal law and procedure
  • evidence
  • family law
  • real property
  • torts
  • trusts and estates
  • Article 9 (secured transactions) of the Uniform Commercial Code

Preparing for the UBE

For people who fail the bar exam, most of their issues stem from a lack of proper preparation. The topics tested on the UBE are widely available, so there should be few surprises on test day for the properly prepared examinee.

There are two aspects to proper preparation for the UBE: studying and practice. You first have to put in the necessary time to study the material. The UBE tests your ability to regurgitate large amounts of legal knowledge. The only way to gain (and retain) this knowledge is through dedicated studying. You’ll also need to know how to take the UBE. This is where practice tests come into play.

The UBE is a marathon–you have to know how to pace yourself throughout the exam, and this can be done only by practicing with full-length tests.

How Hard is the UBE?

Passing the UBE has never been an easy venture, and bar exam pass rates are at historic lows. The UBE is difficult and is unlike any other exam you have taken. But thousands of examinees pass the UBE every year. If you’ve been successful enough to graduate from law school, you certainly have the ability to pass the UBE. If you put in the time. Signing up for a course like Quimbee Bar Review should also give you some peace of mind–Quimbee Bar Review was designed to help any law school graduate pass the UBE, so long as they are willing to put in the time and effort.

Passing the UBE

UBE scoring is based on a 400-point scale. Each jurisdiction sets its own minimum-passing score. Minimum-passing scores range from 260-272. To find your state’s UBE pass rate, check out Quimbee’s state-specific pages.

Quimbee UBE Review Courses

If you’re looking for the best Uniform Bar Exam review course, look no further than Quimbee Bar Review+. Quimbee Bar Review+ was designed specifically for the UBE, so you can have full confidence that you’re studying exactly the right material.

With over 300+ videos in the signature Quimbee style, 1,450 real MBE questions from past bar exams, and unlimited essay grading, Quimbee Bar Review+ is the best in online bar prep. When you’re looking for a UBE review course, why would you settle for anything less?

When Do I Need to Start Studying for the UBE?

It’s generally recommended that you start studying at least 10 weeks before the bar exam. If you’re not able to study full-time, you’ll likely need to start studying even sooner. Check out the 6-month, part-time schedule option offered by Quimbee Bar Review. 

UBE Study Tips

The bar exam is often referred to as a test of “minimum competency.” Unlike other tests you’ve taken, there’s no reason for you to try to get the highest score. Thus, when studying for the UBE, don’t drive yourself crazy trying to memorize every single piece of information you come across. You should focus your time on the areas of law that are most frequently tested on the UBE.

You likely aren’t used to spending over two months studying for an exam. When studying for the UBE, you’ll need to find the right balance between covering all the necessary material and preventing burnout. The easiest way to accomplish this is to think of studying for the UBE as a regular job. Establish set hours that you’ll be studying, and plan to take ample breaks. Stick to your schedule every day. If you don’t have a set schedule, it’s easy to get distracted and fall behind on your studying. It’s also easy to fall into a pattern of cramming as much as you can every day. Neither of these styles will maximize your chances of passing.

UBE Passing Scores by State

The minimum-passing scaled score on the UBE ranges by state from 260-272. The NCBE maintains an updated list of the minimum-passing UBE score in each state.

UBE Test Dates

The UBE is administered over two days on the last Tuesday and Wednesday in both February and July every year. The MEE and the MPT are always administered on Tuesday. The MBE is always administered on Wednesday.

Upcoming UBE Test Dates
  • February 27, 2024
  • July 30, 2024

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

  • 96% bar exam pass rate*
  • 100% money-back guarantee
  • 1,450 real questions from past bar exams
* First-time takers who have completed at least 75% of the course.

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