About NCBE and its Current Exams
NCBE is a not-for-profit corporation that develops the licensing tests used by most U.S. jurisdictions for admission to the bar. The NCBE-produced tests are the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE), Multistate Essay Examination (MEE), Multistate Performance Test (MPT), and Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE).
The MBE is a six-hour, 200-question multiple-choice, standardized examination that assesses the extent to which an examinee can apply fundamental legal principles and legal reasoning to analyze given fact patterns. The MEE is a three-hour, six-question essay examination that tests an examinee’s ability to identify the legal issues raised and write a reasoned analysis in a clear, concise, and well-organized answer that demonstrates an understanding of the relevant fundamental legal principles. The MPT is a three-hour practical skills test, consisting of two 90-minute tasks, that is designed to test an examinee’s ability to use fundamental lawyering skills in a realistic situation and complete a written task that a beginning lawyer should be able to accomplish. The MPRE is a two-hour, 60-question multiple-choice, standardized examination that measures an examinee’s knowledge and understanding of established standards related to the professional conduct of lawyers.
NCBE’s exams are written by committees of subject matter experts drawn from law faculty, practicing attorneys, and judges from around the country. Each committee is supported by NCBE staff, including at least one attorney editor. NCBE’s Testing and Research staff of seven consists of individuals with expertise in educational measurement, psychometrics, and statistics.
The bar examination is administered by the bar admission authorities in each jurisdiction. Although NCBE does not administer the bar examination, it performs the scoring and equating of the MBE. NCBE reports MBE scores to the jurisdictions. Each jurisdiction grades its own candidates’ answers to the MEE and MPT portions, but NCBE provides grading materials and training and offers score scaling services to the jurisdictions for converting the MEE and MPT raw scores to the MBE scale. Each jurisdiction sets its own passing standard for the bar examination, and there is not a single or national standard. Each jurisdiction reports bar exam results to its own candidates and decides what bar performance data to share with law schools and the public. NCBE has no direct relationship with bar exam candidates.
Currently, 36 jurisdictions have adopted the Uniform Bar Examination (UBE), which is comprised of the MEE, MPT, and MBE. UBE scores are portable and can be transferred to other UBE jurisdictions so that candidates do not have to take the bar examination again. UBE jurisdictions do not have a common passing standard. Rather, UBE jurisdictions accept transferred scores if the scores meet or exceed the receiving jurisdiction’s passing standard. Policies that are uniform among UBE jurisdictions include, but are not limited to, the following: a common weighting is applied to the test components (30% MEE/20% MPT/50% MBE); combined or total UBE scores are reported on a 400-point scale; MEE questions are answered and graded according to fundamental legal principles rather than any state’s specific laws; and NCBE performs the scaling of MEE and MPT scores and combining of scores for all UBE jurisdictions to ensure consistency and accuracy in calculations.
The MPRE is administered three times per year by NCBE through a contractor. In August 2019, NCBE will begin transitioning the MPRE to computer-based delivery at Pearson VUE centers, and the MPRE will be fully computer-based in 2020. NCBE performs scoring and equating of the MPRE and reports scores directly to candidates and to the jurisdiction(s) designated by the candidate. Each jurisdiction sets its own passing standard for the MPRE, and there is not a single or national standard.
Additional information about NCBE tests, including which jurisdictions use them, and testing (and other) services may be found on our website at www.ncbex.org.
The select articles listed below cover important aspects of the current bar exam. These are only a few of the many articles published in The Bar Examiner, which is NCBE’s quarterly publication, and they are available at the The Bar Examiner website at www.thebarexaminer.org.
- The Testing Column: Writing, Selecting, and Placing MBE Items: A Coordinated and Collaborative Effort
Spring 2019 (Vol. 88, No. 1)
- Bar Exam Q&A: 13 Questions from Inquiring Minds
Fall 2018 (Vol. 87, No. 3)
- The Testing Column: Q&A: NCBE Testing and Research Department Staff Members Answer Your Questions
Winter 2017-2018 (Vol. 86, No. 4)
- The Testing Column: Subscore National Percentile Ranks: The Undead
March 2017 (Vol. 86, No. 1)
- It’s All Relative—MEE and MPT Grading, That Is
June 2016 (Vol.85, No. 2)
- The Testing Column: Speed (Not the Drug, and It Does Not Kill, but It Can Cause Stress)
December 2015 (Vol. 84, No. 4)
- The Testing Column: Equating the MBE
September 2015 (Vol. 84, No. 2)
- The Testing Column: Raw Scores on the MBE Tell You Little—and Probably Less Than You Think
March 2014 (Vol. 83, No. 1)
- The Testing Column: Best Practices with Weighting Examination Components
February 2008 (Vol. 77, No. 1)