Given twice a year – the end of February and the end of July—the Massachusetts Bar Exam takes two days. (Some states stretch it out over three days). The following is an overview of the test format and can help you determine which exam is most appropriate for you.
Also, please review the requirements for persons in need of special accommodations for the bar exam.
Please note: Each applicant shall have passed the MultiState Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE) before filing an application. The minimum passing score for the MPRE in Massachusetts is 85.
The first day of the bar exam is the Multi-State Bar Exam (MBE), a six-hour test of 200 multiple-choice questions. Topic areas:
- Constitutional law
- Criminal law & procedure
- Real property
The second day of the bar exam is typically another six-hour exam, consisting of multiple essay questions (ranging from six to 12) focusing on state-specific topics and law. For example, the Massachusetts bar has ten essay questions. Possible essay topic areas for the Massachusetts bar include:
- Business organizations
- Commercial paper
- Constitutional law
- Consumer protection (Chapter 93A)
- Criminal law
- Descent & distribution of estates
- Domestic relations
- Evidence (including federal rules)
- Federal jurisdiction
- Federal rules of civil procedure
- Massachusetts rules of civil procedure
- Professional responsibility
- Real property
- Secured Transactions
- Unfair or Deceptive Practices
- Uniform Commercial Code
Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE)
Massachusetts and most states (Maryland, Wisconsin, Puerto Rico are exceptions), require a passing grade (85) on this national exam before applying to sit for the bar.
It’s a 60-question, 2-hour, multiple-choice exam, prepared by the National Conference of Bar Examiners to test knowledge of how lawyers should behave, including the ABA’s rules of professional conduct.
The MPRE is offered three times a year: April, August, and November. Registration is required about two months in advance. (NOTE: $73 registration fee increases to $146 for late registration.)
The MPRE may be scheduled anytime in law school. But waiting until April of a student’s last year is risky. Failure would mean at least a six-month postponement in sitting for the bar. So students are advised to do the MPRE early. They also are advised to first take Professional Responsibility.
Non-Massachusetts Bar Exams
Students who plan to take the bar in states other than Massachusetts need to seek an application from that jurisdiction.
Some states—Alabama, California, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana Mississippi, North Dakota, Ohio, or Oklahoma—encourage early registration for the bar exam, some as early as the first weeks of law school. In some cases, such as Florida, that early registration means a significant reduction in the accompanying fee.
Check by jurisdiction for specific deadlines, requirements, and fees.
Students considering taking more than one state bar exam during the same period, should seek the advice of James Janda, Suffolk’s director of Bar Preparation Programs.
State boards of the Bar Examiner
District of Columbia
Multistate Performance Test (MPT)
Thirty-nine jurisdictions, but not Massachusetts, require the MPT which tests fundamental lawyering skills in a realistic situation by requiring students to draft a legal document such as an objective memorandum or a persuasive brief.
It’s a 90-minute to three-hour exam (depending on the state) and is administered the Tuesday before the last Wednesday in February and July, the same week as the rest of the bar exam.
States requiring the MPT of bar candidates include Maine, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Vermont, and, as of 2014, Connecticut.
Suffolk offers a two-day MPT Review each spring, taught by James Janda, Director of Bar Preparation Programs.
According to the tests designers, the National Conference of Bar Examiners:
“The MPT requires examinees to (1) sort detailed factual materials and separate relevant from irrelevant facts; (2) analyze statutory, case, and administrative materials for applicable principles of law; (3) apply the relevant law to the relevant facts in a manner likely to resolve a client’s problem; (4) identify and resolve ethical dilemmas, when present; (5) communicate effectively in writing; and (6) complete a lawyering task within time constraints.”