Every state in the United States has a procedure for ensuring that any attorney who practices law within the state can do so competently. One of the most common methods for determining this is requiring passage of the bar exam. The state's bar examiners may write and proctor its own test, or they may adopt the UBE, the Uniform Bar Exam, which is coordinated by the National Council of Bar Examiners. The UBE is composed of the Multistate Essay Examination (MEE), two Multistate Performance Test (MPT) tasks, and the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE). The UBE is administered over two days, with the MBE given on the last Wednesday of February and July and the MEE and MPT given on the Tuesday prior to that. Jurisdictions that use the UBE may also require applicants to complete a jurisdiction-specific educational component and/or pass a test on jurisdiction-specific law in addition to passing the UBE. The UBE is administered, graded, and scored by the state jurisdictions. Each state will establish its own minimum passing scores.
In addition to the UBE, nearly all states require the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE). The MPRE is administered separately from the UBE.
The MBE is a six-hour, 200-question multiple-choice examination. UBE jurisdictions weight the MBE component 50%. The MBE tests the extent to which an examinee can apply fundamental legal principles and legal reasoning to analyze given fact patterns.
The MEE consists of six 30-minute questions. Jurisdictions that administer the UBE weight the MEE component 30%. The purpose of the essay exam is to test the ability of the examinee to communicate effectively in writing and to display a grasp of solid legal analysis. From a hypothetical factual situation, the test-taker is expected to identify the legal issues raised; identify relevant information from that which is not; present a reasoned analysis in a well-organized composition; and demonstrate an understanding of the fundamental legal principles to the probable solution.
Areas of law that may be covered on the MEE include: Business Associations (Agency and Partnership, Corporations and Limited Liability Companies), Civil Procedure, Conflict of Laws, Constitutional Law, Contracts (including Article 2 [Sales] of the Uniform Commercial Code), Criminal Law and Procedure, Evidence, Family Law, Real Property, Torts, Trusts and Estates, and Article 9 (Secured Transactions) of the Uniform Commercial Code.
The MPT consists of two 90-minute questions. A state may use one or both. UBE jurisdictions use both. The UBE weight of the MPT component is 20%. The MPT is designed to test the ability to use fundamental lawyering skills in a realistic situation and complete a task that a beginning lawyer should be able to accomplish. It is not a test of substantive knowledge but rather of fundamental skills.
The MPRE is a two-hour, 60-question multiple-choice examination developed by NCBE and administered three times per year. Passing scores are established by each jurisdiction. The purpose of the MPRE is to measure knowledge of established standards related to the professional conduct of lawyers.