It is important to review the bar exam rules and requirements for any state in which you are considering taking the exam, as requirements vary significantly, and the admission requirements of some states may influence your 2L and 3L course selections. It is the student’s responsibility to understand and be aware of bar exam and admission requirements for their chosen jurisdiction. The information below is a resource, and cannot serve as a substitute for an applicant’s review of a jurisdiction’s rules and application to determine eligibility and admission requirements.
The National Conference of Bar Examiners offers a useful resource guide online. The NCBE website also lists contact information for the agencies offering the bar examination in all fifty states and other U.S. jurisdictions. Please note that although the NCBE guide provides a helpful snapshot of bar exam requirements, it cannot reflect individual state or territory rule changes that occur after the guide’s annual publication date.
Preparing for the Bar Exam Checklist
- Choose the jurisdiction where you will sit for the bar.
- Check the jurisdiction(s) bar website for its admission requirements, rules and deadlines.
- For an overview of state bar requirements, visit the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) website.
- For a complete understanding of bar exam requirements, carefully review the state bar information provided in any relevant statutes, relevant court rules, and as listed and explained on the state bar website.
- Register with the NCBE and sit for the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE), if the MPRE is required by your intended jurisdiction.
- Most jurisdictions require bar applicants to take and pass the MPRE. Some jurisdictions (including Massachusetts) require a passing MPRE score before an applicant is allowed to sit for the Bar exam.
- Check your state’s requirements to ensure you are taking any required courses or completing state-specific requirements, such as required pro bono hours.
- Review your jurisdiction’s Character and Fitness application, and begin gathering documents for the application. Character and Fitness procedures and processing times vary by jurisdiction, with some states including it as part of the overall application, and others having it be addressed in its own filing – please check your state bar’s requirements directly.
- Apply to take state bar and sit for the exam.
- If applicable, file for disability accommodations. Disability accommodations typically require an earlier and separate application filing.
- Provide any relevant updates to your name, address, and/or character and fitness disclosures to prevent any delay in your admission.
Deciding Where to Take the Bar Exam
Deciding where to take the bar exam is generally determined by an applicant’s intended practice location. Where a bar applicant may be considering multiple possible sites for practice, the applicant would be advised to consider taking a Uniform Bar Exam, which will facilitate practice in at least 30 states, or taking more than one bar exam in succession; first in July after graduation, followed by another in February. For those who are unsure of where they may practice, we encourage you to make an appointment with Associate Dean Muir to discuss bar exam locations, or with the Career Development Office to discuss the factors you should consider when selecting a jurisdiction to sit for the bar exam. Keep in mind that regardless of the status of your job search, it is important to take the bar exam to maximize opportunities.
Massachusetts and New York bar exam takers – Be aware of additional professional requirements noted below:
Massachusetts Bar Exam
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court 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 the 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.
New York Bar Exam
New York bar takers should make note of this letter containing important information concerning misconduct at the bar examination.
New York instituted a pro bono requirement for bar admission. All applicants who seek admission to the New York Bar, with the exception of admission on motion applicants, are required to complete 50 hours of qualifying pro bono work. Please click here for more information. For Frequently Asked Questions, please visit this site.
Beginning with the February 2019 Bar Exam, New York applicants must establish that they have acquired the skills and professional values necessary to competently practice law by either: (1) receiving a certification from BU Law, indicating that the applicant has successfully fulfilled the skills and competencies required by the School of Law to be competent and ethical in their participation in the legal profession; or (2) completing 15 credits of experiential education during their J.D. degree enrollment. Information on this certification is available through Associate Dean Muir or the Law Registrar.
Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE)
The Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE) is currently a 60-question multiple choice exam that is designed to measure the examinee’s knowledge and understanding of established standards related to a lawyer’s professional conduct. The exam is offered nationwide each March, August, and November. Some jurisdictions (including Massachusetts) require a passing score on the MPRE in order to be eligible to apply to or sit for the bar exam. Other jurisdictions allow applicants to take the MPRE after sitting for the bar exam. Each jurisdiction establishes its own passing score for the MPRE.
BU Law recommends taking the exam in the spring semester of 2L year or fall semester of 3L year in order to receive a passing score and be eligible to sit for a state bar exam. It is not necessary to have taken the Law School’s Professional Responsibility course before taking the MPRE. Several bar review companies (Barbri, Themis, and Kaplan) offer MPRE review courses at no charge.
The MPRE is required of students taking the bar in most jurisdictions. Students should check with the jurisdiction in which they plan to take the bar for specific MPRE requirements, as they vary by jurisdiction. Information for many jurisdictions can be accessed through the NCBE’s MPRE website. Students are encouraged to register early for the MPRE to get their preferred test locations and to avoid paying a late fee.
|Test Date||Regular Registration Deadline (Fee: $95)||Late Registration Deadline (Fee: $190)|
|Saturday, March 24, 2018||February 1, 2018||February 8, 2018|
|Saturday, August 11, 2018||June 21, 2018||June 28, 2018|
|Saturday, November 10, 2018||September 20, 2018||September 27, 2018|
Registration for the 2018 MPRE test dates opened in December 2017. Click here to register online.
Students who require testing accommodations must submit all of the supporting documentation with a copy of the online confirmation received after submission of an online application. Requests for accommodations should be submitted by mail, fax, or email, and must be received by the late registration deadline.
Registration and Test Administration
Law School Admission Council
662 Penn Street
P.O. Box 8515
Newtown, PA 18940-9506
Testing Accommodations Inquiries
MPRE Testing Accommodations
302 South Bedford Street
Madison, WI 53703-3614
Bar Exam Format
State bar examinations are offered twice a year, at the end of February and at the end of July. The format varies by jurisdiction, but may include:
MBE: The Multistate Bar Examination is a six-hour, 200-question multiple choice examination that covers Contracts, Torts, Constitutional Law, Real Property, Evidence, Criminal Law and Procedure, and Federal Civil Procedure. Click here for more information on the MBE.
MEE: The Multistate Essay Examination is a three-hour, six-question essay examination that covers the following subjects – 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 of the Uniform Commercial Code. Click here for more information on the MEE.
MPT: The Multistate Performance Test consists of two 90-minute skills questions. Applicants receive a case file and library and must complete a written assignment. The MPT is designed to test applicants on their ability to provide legal and factual analyses, engage in problem solving, resolve ethical dilemmas, communicate effectively, and complete a lawyering task within the time constraints. For more information on the MPT, click here.
Essays: Subjects tested on the essay portion of bar exams vary by jurisdiction. Jurisdictions may use the MEE for the essay portion of the exam or the jurisdiction may draft its own essays. See Chart # 8 of the NCBE Guide to determine the components of your jurisdiction’s exam.
UBE: At least 30 states have adopted the Uniform Bar Exam. The UBE is a two-day exam comprised of the MBE, MPT and MEE. For more information on the UBE, click here.
Character & Fitness
State bar examiners will ask about an applicant’s character and fitness as a prerequisite to licensure. Applicants are required to provide detailed information about their background. Please review your state’s Character & Fitness forms as early as possible and begin gathering supporting documentation as this process is time-consuming. Increasingly, bar authorities ask for a copy of an applicant’s law school application to review for consistency with the records submitted by the applicant at the time of seeking admission. Examples of topics a state may ask about include educational history and disciplinary actions, employment history, criminal history, financial history, litigation history, mental health and substance abuse, and driving history.
Do not omit information because you fear that the information will result in denial of your admission application. A failure to truthfully answer the questions posed is often considered a character and fitness violation, and is likely to cause more difficulty in admission than the incident itself.
Please contact Associate Dean Gerry Muir for any questions or concerns regarding character and fitness for bar admission. For Massachusetts bar admission issues related to character and fitness, Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers is an additional helpful resource. Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers is a lawyer-assistance program that provides confidential assistance to attorneys, law students and judges. Every state has a lawyer assistance program. Feel free to contact the program in the state where you will be applying for bar admission. The complete list of lawyer assistance programs by state can be found here.
Every jurisdiction has its own policies regarding accommodations for the bar exam. Please go to the website of the state where you plan to sit for the exam and familiarize yourself with application requirements and deadlines. Requests for accommodations should be made well in advance of the deadline to allow time for review. Requests for accommodations on the MPRE should be made to the National Conference of Bar Examiners. If you are requesting accommodations for the bar exam or for the MPRE, and if the bar authority or the National Conference of Bar Examiners requires the Law School to complete a form or submit a letter indicating whether you received accommodations while in law school, please contact Associate Dean Muir. Note that even if you received accommodations while in law school, the bar authority or the National Conference of Bar Examiners may not necessarily grant accommodations or, if they do, the accommodations may not be what you received in law school. Additionally, bar exam processes may require both BU Disability Services and Dean Muir to verify information regarding the nature of your disability and University accommodations.
Information regarding individual state bar exam requirements can be found here.
Information about requesting accommodations for the MPRE can be found here.
Early Bar Examination Options
Several states allow bar applicants to take the bar exam prior to graduating from an ABA-accredited, J.D. program if the applicants meet certain prerequisites. For example, Vermont provides an early examination option for students who have completed the equivalent of five (5) semesters of full-time study and who will graduate from an approved law school within six (6) months of sitting for the bar examination. The New York State Bar implemented the Pro Bono Scholars Program in 2014. Through this program, students spend their last semester of 3L year working full-time on behalf of indigent clients through an externship and have the opportunity to take the February New York bar exam. For more information about the New York Pro Bono Scholars Program, click here. For a list of other states that provide an option for early examination, please see Chart #1 of the 2018 National Conference of Bar Examiners Bar Admission Guide.
Bar Review Courses
BU Law strongly urges students to take a commercial bar review course after graduation to prepare for the bar exam. While the bar review courses are costly, they provide detailed reviews of subject areas tested on the bar exam and enable students to take practice tests. During the year, student representatives from bar review companies will periodically set up informational tables in the Law School. Please note that the School of Law does not endorse any particular bar review course. Completion of a commercial bar review course is not required. Some state bar admissions offices (including Massachusetts and New York) make sample questions from the essay portions of prior bar exams available on their websites as a resource.
BU Law strongly encourages students to research the many different bar review courses by speaking with recent graduates, bar review course representatives and employers. For a list of bar review course options, please visit FindLaw’s website.
Financing Bar Costs
The process to apply, study and sit for a state bar is costly. All states charge a fee to apply for admission and to take the bar exam. There may be additional fees required to fulfill prerequisites for the exam, including the fee to sit for the MPRE. Bar review companies also charge a fee to enroll in their course.
Some private employers will provide reimbursement for bar-related expenses. If you have found employment, reach out to your employer and ask what costs (if any) they will cover. For students who will not be reimbursed by an employer, private bar loans are available. Please check with the Law Financial Aid Office for advice on planning for bar costs and information on private bar loan options.
After the Bar
Continuing Legal Education
Most state bars require licensed attorneys to complete annual Continuing Legal Education (CLE) credits to remain in good standing with the state bar association. CLE requirements vary by state, so please contact your state bar association to ensure successful completion of CLE credits.
There may be confusion surrounding the issue of an applicant’s bar status throughout the process of applying for admission to a state bar. Please visit the Alumni Resources page of the BU Law Career Development Office for information about resume changes.
Resources for Multiple Test Takers
Many successful attorneys did not pass the bar exam on their first try. If you did not pass the exam, do not give up. We strongly urge you to schedule an appointment with the Student Affairs Office to determine what went wrong and how you can prepare differently for a successful result. If you have accepted a job offer, you do need to notify your employer. Please schedule an appointment with the Career Development Office and they will provide advice on how best to handle the situation. Feel free to reach out to the Career Development Office to discuss next steps in your job search.
Lastly, some bar review courses have policies allowing students who do not succeed on their first attempt to take the course again free of charge or at a reduced rate. Contact the bar review company you used to find out their policy for multiple test takers.