How is the Bar Exam scored? (Complete Guide)5 min read

“How is the Bar Exam Scored?” is a question that everyone who wants to take the bar or has already taken it has. However, because each state has its own set of standards for grading, the grading pattern varies.

The Uniform Bar Exam (UBE) is a bar test organized by the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE), and administered in 34 states. 

It is typically a 2-day test given twice a year during February and July’s last Tuesday and Wednesday.

The first day of the examination is usually just the written section, which comprises six essays and two performance tests known as the Multi-state Essay Exam (MEE) and the Multi-state Performance Examination (MPT).

On the other hand, the second day comprises 200 multiple-choice questions known as the Multi-state Bar Exam (MBE).

The two sections- written and the multiple-choice each carries 50% of the total UBE score. The test is scored using a 400-point scale. Moreover, each territorial state sets its passing score.

Although the minimum score required to pass differs based on state, the passing score ranges from 260 to 280.

How is the Bar Exam scored? (Written section)

As explained above, each state has the jurisdiction to dictate its minimum passing score. For the written section, 40% is being allotted to the MPT and 60% to the essays-MEE.

In other words, the MPT carries 20% of the total score, and the essays, 30% of the total score.

Each state employs its graders to assist with grading the written section of the UBE exam. These graders are most likely not law professors but practicing lawyers.

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They usually employ a grading rubric to score responses given by students. They also stick to the grading rubric and only award points based on things mentioned by the examinee.

However, this is unlike a law professor, who might give extra points for a creative, unique point or an argument that others consider. 

Some states have published information about the standards used to grade the MEE and MPT sections.

For instance, some states use a scale ranging from 0-6 to grade the MEEs and MPTs, and other states, a scale of 0-10. States such as New York make use of a different scoring scale entirely.

Furthermore, many states then use an unrevealed formula to modify the scores from raw to scaled.  

However, in most states, a four (4) is recognized as a passing score, so you can also compare and assess your scores and performance. 

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How is the How is the Bar Exam scored? (Multiple Choice Section) 

The multiple-choice section or the MBE of the UBE exam is made up of 200 questions. The NCBE scores 175 out of the 200 questions. The remaining 25 questions are “unscored” and are used for evaluations in future administrations.

Each correct answer on the MBE carries one point. Afterward, this raw score is scaled by the NCBE based on an unrevealed formula.

According to the NCBE, “On the current examination, this statistical procedure adjusts raw scores to ensure accountability for differences in difficulty as compared with previous examinations.”

As stated above, the scaled MBE score makes up 50% of the total score on UBE.

To get the converted MBE score required to pass the exam, divide the total passing score in that state by two. For example, if the required score to pass in your state is 266, 133 is the minimum passing score.  

It is noteworthy that a minimum of 133 is not needed to pass the bar exam. However, the total average of your written and multiple-choice scores must reach at least 133.

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As a result, a higher score on the written component may not always imply a higher score on the multiple-choice section.

For example, if you attain a score of 150 on the written section, you most likely would need only a 116 on the multiple-choice section to pass.

How is the How is the Bar Exam scored? (Report)

While many states give their specific bar exam, more than half of them offer the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE).

If you have taken the bar exam in a state that offers the UBE, you may find yourself asking questions like “What does my score mean?” and “Did I perform well?”  

As discussed above, the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE), the Multistate Performance Test (MPT), and the Multistate Essay Examination (MEE) all make up the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE).

However, some states, like Illinois, may not disclose your test grade, while others may give your general total score based on the MBE, MPT, and MEE.

And then some states, like New York, will give you a rundown of each section of the exam. So, you can determine your UBE ranking as long as your state provides sufficient details.

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Percentiles based on past Bar exam results

In order of ranking, below are percentiles based on past Bar exam results:

  • 330 equals the 99th percentile
  • 300 equals the 90th percentile
  • 260 equals the 44th percentile
  • 240 equals the 16th percentile
  • 210 equals the 2nd percentile

Your percentile indicates your performance about other candidates who wrote the exams too.

For instance, if your score totals a 300, it indicates you are in the 90th percentile, which means you performed better than 90% of the other candidates.

This information is useful, particularly if you did not pass the Bar exam on your first trial.

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Also, knowing this can help with preparation for the next examination. If your state does not offer the Uniform Bar Exam, ensure that your state-specific bar exam provides any information about percentiles.

In most states, the passing score range is anywhere between 130 and 140 on the MBE. Moreover, note that the MBE is curved.

For instance, you had a score of 125 and what you need to pass is a 135. A difference of 10-points may seem small, but the difference in the percentiles is much larger.

In other words, it is expected you will prepare more to earn a passing score at least.

Conclusion

The Uniform Bar Exam (UBE) is organized by the National Conference Bar Exam (NCBE) and takes place in 34 different states. Each state differs from another and has its grading rubrics.

Graders are usually employed to assist with grading.

To sum it all up, it’s important as a student that you get to know more information about how the bar exam is scored in your state and their percentiles to enable adequate preparations before an attempt.

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