Bar Exam and Prep Info

100% Bar Passage: Planning to Pass

It’s never too early to start planning to pass the Bar. Your Bar preparation begins the first year as you develop the skills and substantive knowledge tested on the Bar. It continues as you choose courses in your second and third years, consider options for Bar preparation companies, apply to sit for the Bar Examination, and map out your study schedule. Finally, it all comes together the last Tuesday and Wednesday in February or July.  

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First Year Law Students

Second and Third Year Law Students


First Year:


What Tests Do I Have to Pass in Order to Practice Law?

Most states require you to take a two-day Bar Examination. The Bar Examination consists of three parts:

The Bar Examination is offered twice a year, usually on the last Tuesday and Wednesday in February and July. You may sit for the Bar any time after graduation.

In most states you must also pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE). The MPRE is offered three times per year, usually in November, March, and August. You may take the MPRE before you graduate, but many states set time parameters on the exam.

 What Topics are Tested on the Bar?

 [Red indicates a course we require for graduation]

 The MBE tests:

  • Civil Procedure
  • Constitutional Law
  • Contracts
  • Criminal Law
  • Evidence
  • Real Property
  • Torts

The MEE tests:

  • Business Associations (Agency and Partnerships, Corporations, and Limited Liability Companies)
  • Civil Procedure
  • Conflict of Laws
  • Constitutional Law
  • Contracts and Sales (UCC Article 2)
  • Criminal Law
  • Criminal Procedure
  • Evidence
  • Family Law
  • Real Property
  • Secured Transactions (UCC Article 9)
  • Torts
  • Wills, Trusts, and Decedents’ Estates

The MPT tests:

  • Problem solving
  • Factual analysis
  • Legal analysis
  • Reasoning
  • Written communication
  • Organization
  • Management of a legal task
  • Recognizing and resolving ethical dilemmas

 The MPRE tests:

  • Established rules of professional conduct. These rules are covered in your Legal Professions class.

Course Planning

 We require that you take courses covering many of the topics tested on the Bar Examination. You don’t have to take a course on all the remaining subject areas. However, you should take one or two Bar-tested courses each semester. Bar courses give you early exposure to tested material and form the core of a robust legal education.

Bar-tested courses usually offered twice per year:

  • Evidence
  • Business Associations (covered in our Business Organizations class)
  • Criminal Procedure
  • Wills, Trusts, and Decedents’ Estates (covered in our Trusts and Estates class)
  • Legal Professions (required for graduation and usually taken in the second year)

Bar-tested courses offered once per year:

  • Family Law

Bar-tested courses offered every other year:

  • Conflict of Laws
  • Secured Transactions (covered in our Commercial Law class)

Character and Fitness

The job of the Bar’s Character and Fitness Committee is to determine whether applicants are morally and ethically fit to practice law. The Committee may consider any number of records, including your credit history, military record, criminal history, driving record, traffic citations, tax filings and payments, lawsuits, and payment of child support. The Committee also requires an FBI background check.

Students are often surprised by the depth of the Character and Fitness investigation. Now is the time to review the character and fitness requirements and address any issues. Review your credit report and criminal record and address any inaccuracies. Pay or dispute unpaid debts. Make sure you are current with any court orders, including traffic fines and child support. Use credit carefully and pay your bills promptly. Keep a careful record of all financial and court actions.

Commercial Bar Preparation Companies

There are a number of commercial Bar preparation companies. BARBRI and Kaplan are the two best known.

We highly recommend that you take a bar preparation course. However, you are not required to choose a course in your 1L year. Companies frequently offer a discount to students who commit early, but you should not feel pressured. Research the options and decide which program is best for you. You don’t need to decide until your 2L or 3L year.

Read any contract carefully. By signing a contract and paying a deposit you are usually obligated to pay the full price—even if you later change your mind.


Second and Third Year:


Passing the Bar takes patience, planning, and a lot of hard work.
You don’t pass the Bar by accident. You need a plan.

Choosing a Jurisdiction

You should sit for the Bar in the jurisdiction where you plan to practice. For most students that’s an easy decision. However, if your post-graduate plans are uncertain, you’ve accepted a federal or JAG position, or you need to be licensed in two states, you need to be strategic.

Every state sets its own rules for attorney licensing, creating a patchwork of sometimes confusing rules. Not all states have attorney reciprocity. Don’t assume that just because you pass the Bar in one state that you’ll be allowed to practice law in another.

Twenty-two states and the District of Columbia have adopted the Uniform Bar Examination. Each UBE state accepts transferred scores from other UBE states. However, each UBE state sets its own passing score. Each also sets its own MPRE, character and fitness, and state-specific testing requirements. Some require you to take an additional state law exam. States may also only accept a transferred score for a limited period of time. Each UBE state sets its own rules on whether to accept all or part of a score from a non-UBE state.

Every non-UBE state sets its own rules on whether to accept all or part of a score earned in another state. Carefully review the rules for each state. The National Conference of Bar Examiners has an overview of each state’s rules. Always double-check each jurisdiction’s licensing information—the rules change frequently.

Taking the Bar in Two States During the Same Exam Cycle

If both states are UBE jurisdictions you only need to sit for the Bar in one jurisdiction. Your score should transfer to the other. Remember that each UBE state sets its own passing score. Each also sets its own MPRE, character and fitness, and state-specific testing requirements. Some states require you to take an additional state law exam. Review each state’s rules and make sure you are meeting all the requirements.

If one state is not a UBE jurisdiction, you may be able to sit for two Bar exams during the same exam cycle. However, you’ll need to consider the exam dates for each jurisdiction, geographical challenges, and the chance of success. See Professor Hill, Professor Richards, or Professor Heiny for advising. 

Taking the MPRE

Applicants in most jurisdictions are required to take the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE). The MPRE is a two-hour, 60 question multiple choice exam designed to test your knowledge of established standards related to a lawyer’s professional conduct. It is administered by the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE).

Scores range from 50 to 150 and are scaled nationally. Each jurisdiction sets its own passing score. Utah requires a score of 86 or above. The MPRE is usually offered in November, March, and August. The deadline for registration is approximately six weeks prior to the exam. Register for the exam on-line or telephonically through the NCBE.

Although many students wait to take the exam until after they have taken Legal Profession, it is not required. You may take the MPRE before or after you graduate, but many states set time parameters on the exam. Applicants in Utah must take and pass the MPRE prior to admission, but there is no required time frame. Web sites that list a two-year requirement in Utah are out-of-date.

In addition to taking Legal Profession, you should plan to study for the exam. The NCBE provides a list of tested topics, as well as 15 free sample questions. You can purchase one on-line exam with answers and explanations through the NCBE Study Aids Store.

Many commercial Bar exam preparation programs, including BARBRI and Kaplan, offer a free MPRE course. This is not only an excellent way to prepare for the exam, but also a good opportunity to try each program prior to purchasing a full Bar Exam review course.

The Bar Exam

Utah administers the Uniform Bar Examination (UBE).  The UBE is a two-day examination given the last Tuesday and Wednesday in July and February.

The written component of the exam is administered on the first day. In the morning, applicants take the Multistate Essay Examination (MEE). Applicants have three hours to answer six essay questions taken from thirteen subject areas:

[Red indicates a course we require for graduation]

  • Business Associations (Agency and Partnerships, Corporations and Limited Liability Companies)
  • Civil Procedure
  • Conflict of Laws
  • Constitutional Law
  • Contracts and Sales (UCC Article 2)
  • Criminal Law
  • Criminal Procedure
  • Evidence
  • Family Law
  • Real Property
  • Secured Transactions (UCC Article 9)
  • Torts
  • Wills, Trusts, and Decedents’ Estates

In the afternoon, applicants take the Multistate Performance Test (MPT). Applicants have three hours to answer two MPT questions. Each MPT is given the same weight as two essays. The MPT examines six fundamental lawyering skills that are required for the performance of many lawyering tasks. These skills are:

  • Problem solving
  • Factual analysis
  • Legal analysis
  • Reasoning
  • Written communication
  • Organization
  • Management of a legal task
  • Recognizing and resolving ethical dilemmas

The multiple choice component of the exam is administered on the second day. The multiple choice component is called the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE).

Applicants have three hours in the morning to answer 100 questions and three hours in the afternoon to answer 100 questions. The MBE tests your knowledge of:

[Red indicates a course we require for graduation]

  • Civil Procedure
  • Constitutional Law
  • Contracts
  • Criminal Law
  • Evidence
  • Real Property
  • Torts

The MEE, MPT, and MBE are all prepared by the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBEX). The MEE and MPT are graded by the Utah Bar Examiners and scaled to national scores. The combined MEE and MPT score is worth a maximum of 200 points. Your MEE and MPT are graded regardless of your MBE score. Your exam is only graded once.

The MBE is graded by the National Conference of Bar Examiners and scaled nationally. The MBE is worth a maximum of 200 points. You cannot pass in Utah solely on your MBE score.

Each UBE state sets its own passing score. In Utah you must score 270 points or more to pass the exam. Other states accept a score as low as 260 or require a score as high as 280.

Applying to Take the Bar

Each state has its own Office of Bar Admissions and its own application rules and requirements. Carefully review the state rules. The National Conference of Bar Examiners website has an overview of each state’s rules.

Begin the process at least three months before the first application deadline. Many applicants are surprised by how much information the Bar requires. The Bar will not extend its deadlines.

A guide to the application process in Utah is at the top of the page.

Application Deadlines

In Utah, the deadline for submitting your application for the February Bar exam is October 1. The Bar will accept late submissions until November 1, but charges a substantial late fee. Your application must be at the Bar offices by the deadline.

The deadline for the July Bar exam is March 1. The Bar will accept late submissions until April 1, but charges a substantial late fee. Your application must be at the Bar offices by the deadline.

Character and Fitness

The job of the Bar’s Character and Fitness Committee is to determine whether an applicant is morally and ethically fit to practice law. The Committee may consider any number of records, including your credit history, military record, criminal history, driving record, traffic citations, tax filings and payments, lawsuits, and payment of child support. The Committee also requires an FBI background check.

Students are often surprised by the depth of the Character and Fitness investigation. Review the character and fitness requirements and address any issues several months before the Bar application deadline. Review your credit report and criminal record and address any inaccuracies. Pay or dispute unpaid debts. Make sure you are current with any court orders, including traffic fines and child support. Use credit carefully and pay your bills promptly. Keep a careful record of all financial and court actions.

Studying for the Bar

Studying for the Bar is a Full-Time Job

You should plan to spend approximately 40 hours per week attending or watching lectures, memorizing black letter law, taking or outlining practice exams, and carefully reviewing the answers to those exams. You cannot cram for the Bar.

If at all possible, make Bar preparation your only job in the two months prior to the exam. If you must work, limit your hours. Don’t be afraid to ask for reduced hours and time off in the weeks prior to the exam. Your employer has a vested interest in your exam results—just as you do.

Bar Preparation Courses

We highly recommend that you take a commercial Bar preparation course. There are a number of commercial Bar preparation companies. BARBRI and Kaplan are the two best known. Commercial programs teach you the black letter law tested on the exam as well as exam-taking strategies. They also provide thousands of practice questions, personalized feedback on practice MEE and MPT questions, explanations of MBE problems, and daily study plans.  Most have options for in-person and on-line study.

Commercial Bar courses are expensive. However, students who work with a preparation program have much higher pass rates than students who do not. Retaking the exam and postponing career plans is far more expensive.

Prior Exams

In addition to a commercial Bar course, our graduates also recommend purchasing prior exams from the National Conference of Bar Examiners. These are the actual exams used in prior years. They include answers and explanations. Each exam is between $15 and $50. We recommend pooling your resources with other applicants.

Tips and Tricks

Our former students have put together a list of tips and tricks they found helpful when taking—and passing—the Bar.

Studying for the Bar is a Marathon, Not a Sprint

You cannot cram for the Bar. Make a study plan, or follow the plan provided by your commercial Bar preparation provider. Make yourself accountable to someone.

Students often fail for the simplest and most avoidable reason: they fail to put in the necessary study time.

Know Your Own Study Style, and Don’t Change It

Whether you thrive in study groups or prefer to work independently, the most important thing is to have a plan and stick to it.

Avoid the Internet (and Other Distractions)

A variety of programs and apps can block your Internet or social networking sites for a set period of time. If you choose on-line lectures, connect your computer to your television and then put the computer, phone, and tablet in another room.

Watch the Lectures on 1.5 Speed

If you study at home, you can adjust the speed of the lectures. Watching the lectures at 1.5 speed can save a lot of time.

Flashcards

Many of our former students also recommend Critical Pass flashcards. These help you memorize black letter law. The sets are $130 new, but you may be able to buy a used set for much less.

Thinking of the Bar as a Pass-Fail Test is a Good Way to Fail the Bar

More than 10% of failing University of Utah students failed by less than 1% of the available points. More than 56% of failing University of Utah students failed by between 1% and 5% of the available points. Overshoot your goal.

Manage Your Relationships

Many non-lawyers think that anyone who graduated from law school should be able to pass the Bar. Many also think that full-time study is overkill.

Discuss your study plans with your family and non-lawyer friends in advance. Explain that the Bar tests material that you may not have learned in law school and tests it in a way that is different from law school exams. Let friends and family know that the two months before the Bar will be stressful and that you may be absent more than you would like. Schedule family vacations after the exam. Don’t delude yourself into thinking you will study on the beach. You won’t.

Manage Your Finances

If at all possible, make Bar preparation your only job in the two months prior to the exam. If you must work, limit your hours. Don’t be afraid to ask for reduced hours and time off in the weeks prior to the exam. Your employer has a vested interest in your exam results—just as you do.

While working less, paying for Bar review courses, and purchasing additional study aids is financially taxing, your salary as a licensed attorney will more than compensate for it.

Take Care of Yourself

Take scheduled breaks. Sleep 7–9 hours per night. Exercise. Spend some planned time with family or friends. If you find yourself becoming depressed or overly anxious don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Apply for Accommodations if You Need Them

The Bar Examiners will provide accommodations for applicants who qualify under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Bar has an independent process for determining whether accommodations are necessary. You may apply even if you did not have accommodations in law school. You may need to arrange for additional or updated testing and documentation. File your application as early as possible.

The Bar may also provide accommodations in other circumstances. For example, pregnant applicants might qualify to sit close to the restroom or to bring a small snack.

Dress in Layers

The exam room is cold. Wear long pants and dress in layers.

Bring a Sack Lunch

You will have a break between the morning and afternoon testing sessions. While there are some restaurants in the vicinity, you will need to drive and wait in line. Save yourself the stress and bring a sack lunch instead.

Know Where to Find the Closest Internet Connection

If you take the exam on your laptop you will need to upload it by the evening deadline. There is no internet at the exam site. Know where there nearest internet connection is located and go there immediately after the exam. The Bar examiners will not accept exams uploaded after the deadline. Dinner can wait—uploading cannot.

If You Think You Are Going to Fail the Bar

Most students are worried they won’t pass the Bar. Some anxiety is normal and is not a sign that you’ll fail. If you’ve been studying regularly your chances of passing are excellent.

However, some applicants face compelling life circumstances that make Bar passage unlikely. A serious accident, illness, or family emergency can badly derail your study plans. In that case, you might consider transferring or withdrawing your application.

The Utah Bar will allow you to transfer your application if there is a death in your immediate family or you have a personal medical emergency. You must submit a written request and pay a $100 transfer fee. You must also specify which of the next two exams you will take.

If you don’t qualify for a transfer you are allowed to withdraw your application. If your application has not yet been accepted for processing you may withdraw and receive a full refund. After your application has been accepted you may withdraw up to 30 days before the examination and receive a 50% refund. If you withdraw less than 30 days before the exam you will not receive a refund.

Regardless, you will need to send a written request to withdraw to the Admissions office. You will also need to reapply when you are ready to take the exam.

Some students decide to sit for the Bar rather than forfeit their application fees and face the task of reapplying. Others decide that the professional ramifications of failing outweigh the cost of reapplying. Failing can also be demoralizing and make it more difficult to pass the Bar at a subsequent sitting. See Professor Hill, Professor Richards, or Professor Heiny for advising.

Disclaimer

The rules on attorney licensing vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and change rapidly. While we have done our best to provide up-to-date information, YOU are responsible for verifying the requirements for licensing.