The Multistate Bar Examination (MBE) is a six-hour, 200-question multiple-choice examination covering contracts, torts, constitutional law, criminal law and procedure, evidence, and real property. (These are commonly known as “The Big Six”). The MBE largely tests black letter law, a distillation of the common law into general and accepted legal principles.
The Multistate Bar Examination (MBE) is developed by the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) and is administered by participating jurisdictions on the last Wednesday in February and the last Wednesday in July of each year. It is administered on a single day of the bar examination in 48 states and the District of Columbia, as well as in Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Republic of Palau. The only states that do not administer the MBE are Louisiana and Washington; the MBE is also not administered in Puerto Rico.
The 200 MBE questions are not broken down into sections, with the six topics distributed more or less evenly throughout the course of the exam. Exam-takers generally receive three hours during the morning session to complete the first 100 questions, and another three hours during the afternoon session to complete the second 100 questions. This means that each question can receive, on average, one minute and 48 seconds of the exam-taker’s attention, which can make the exam challenging as some questions involve intricate fact patterns. Each right answer is worth one point, and there is no penalty for wrong choices. The average raw score is about 125-130 out of 200, which is then scaled based on the exam’s overall difficulty. Although the NCBE scores this part of the examination, individual jurisdictions decide how to combine the MBE scaled score with their own state-specific testing.
The MBE is but one of a number of measures that a board of bar examiners may use in determining competence to practice. Each jurisdiction determines its own policy with regard to the relative weight given to the MBE and other scores. After a person takes the MBE in a given jurisdiction s/he may be able to use his/her MBE score to waive into another jurisdiction, or more often transfer the MBE score to use with another state’s bar examination.