It is important to review the bar exam requirements for each state in which you are considering taking the exam, as requirements vary and in some cases may influence your course selections. Some states’ bar admission requirements prescribe certain courses that must be taken in law school. Some states, such as California, require that law students register within a certain short period of time after they begin law school study; otherwise, they must pay a substantial penalty fee.

The National Conference of Bar Examiners offers a useful resource guide online. Their website also lists contact information for the agencies offering the bar examination in all 50 states and other US jurisdictions. The listings include web addresses for the agencies that have websites.

Deciding Where to Take the Bar Exam

Deciding where to take the bar exam can be a difficult choice, particularly if you have not secured a job by second semester of your third year, when students begin applying for the bar exam. For those of you who are not employed at this time, we encourage you to make an appointment with the Career Development Office to discuss the many issues you should consider when selecting a jurisdiction to sit for the bar. Keep in mind that regardless of the status of your job search, it is important to sit for and pass a bar exam. This is an excellent way to demonstrate your ability to pass a bar, even if you need to take an additional bar upon finding a job.

Massachusetts and New York bar exam takers: Be aware of additional and frequently-changing requirements noted below:


The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court adopted a new Massachusetts bar requirement, applicable to “all persons newly licensed to practice law in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts on or after September 1, 2013.”  The SJC adopted Rule 3:16, which requires completion of a one-day Practicing with Professionalism Course” within 18 months of the date of your admission. This day-long course focuses on topics to assist with transition to the practice of law in Massachusetts, including civility, ethics, managing a practice, and the importance of mentoring and pro bono work. This information is also available on the court’s website.

Please see the SJC rule, a list of approved course providers, and a schedule of course offerings for calendar year 2014 here.

Representatives from the Massachusetts Board of Board Examiners visited BU Law on Tuesday, February 17, 2015, to discuss Massachusetts bar requirements, particularly the process of applying to the bar and passing the character and fitness portion of the application. A link to a recording of the discussion is here (you will need to enter your Kerberos login). Additional information is available from the 2014 presentation, in this summary of the discussion, and as always, refer directly to the Massachusetts Board of Bar Examiners for more information. Anonymous questions can be submitted through their call line at 617-482-4466. Questions can also be emailed to info@bbe.state.ma.us.

  • New York bar takers should make note of this letter containing important information concerning misconduct at the bar examination.
  • New York has instituted a new requirement for bar admission. From the New York Bar website:
    “Beginning in January 2013, a new rule affecting bar admission in New York will be in effect. All candidates seeking admission after January 1, 2015, with the exception of admission on motion candidates, will need to file documentation showing that they have completed 50 hours of qualifying pro bono work, as required by Rule 520.16 of the Rules of the Court of Appeals. For further information regarding the implementation and requirements of the new rule, along with Frequently Asked Questions, please visit http://www.nycourts.gov/attorneys/probono/baradmissionreqs.shtml. The FAQs contain information on the web address and toll-free telephone number in the event that you have an inquiry.”
  • For New York’s Frequently Asked Questions, see http://www.nycourts.gov/attorneys/probono/FAQsBarAdmission.pdf

National Conference of Bar Examiners, notifying law schools of the addition of a seventh topic, Civil Procedure, to the Multistate Bar Exam, beginning with the February 2015 exam. With this addition, the testing topics on the MBE will be:

  1. Constitutional Law
  2. Contracts
  3. Civil Procedure
  4. Criminal Law and Procedure
  5. Evidence
  6. Real Property
  7. Torts

Taking the Bar Exam

  • The Multistate Bar Exam (MBE)—a 200 question multiple choice exam that currently tests Contracts/Sales; Torts; Constitutional Law; Real Property; Evidence; Criminal Law/Procedure. As of the February 2015 exam, the MBE will also include Civil Procedure. For information on the MBE, visit their website.
  • An essay portion—subjects tested on the essay portion vary by state; see the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) website for a list of states. States may use portions or all of the Multistate Essay Exam (MEE). For information on the MEE, visit their website. Some state bar websites, including Massachusetts and New York, have past essay exams on their website.
  • Some states also may require the Multistate Performance Test (MPT)—currently has two 90-minute questions; how many an applicant must do depends on the state. You will receive a case file and library and will have a written assignment to do. For information on the MPT, visit their website.
  • Some states also require the Uniform Bar Exam. The UBE is a single bar exam that is accepted in sixteen states, and through application, the District of Columbia. The closest states to BU Law to administer the UBE are New Hampshire and New York. Students interested in the UBE can take both the Massachusetts bar exam, and the UBE, or simply the UBE alone. For more information on the UBE, please listen to the UBE presentation (you will need to enter your Kerberos login) done by Sherry Heiber, General Counsel for the New Hampshire Bar of Examiners in February 2015.

Financing Bar Costs

There are a number of costs associated with the bar exam.

  • Most states charge a fee to apply to take the bar exam. Make careful note of deadlines (some as early as 1L year) to be sure you pay the lowest fee possible.
  • Most states charge a fee or a series of fees to take the bar exam.
  • There may be additional fees required to fulfill prerequisites for the exam, such as the MPRE or a particular educational requirement (such as Ohio’s required substance abuse course).
  • Bar exam preparation companies charge a fee for their test preparation programs.

Although these fees collectively can seem significant, it is important to view the bar exam—and especially preparation for the bar exam—as part of the investment in your legal eduation and career.

Please contact the Financial Aid office for more information on how you can finance your bar exam and bar preparation course.