The answer to what makes a good Multistate Bar Exam (MBE) score is a lawyer’s favorite answer to any question: it depends. A good MBE score depends on whether or not your jurisdiction administers the Uniform Bar Exam and what the passing bar exam score is for your jurisdiction. If you’re not sure if your jurisdiction administers the UBE, check out this handy map. Either way, unless you’re taking the Louisiana bar exam, you’ll be taking the MBE on your journey to becoming a licensed attorney.
Let’s break this down a little bit starting with a look at the how the MBE is structured and scored.
Structure and scoring of the MBE
The MBE is administered the last Wednesday of February and July every year. If you’re in a jurisdiction that administers the UBE, the MBE will make up fifty percent of your UBE score. While this means you have to do well on the MBE to pass the bar, it also means you can’t just focus on the MBE and expect to pass. You’ll need to get some points from the other sections of the UBE—the MPT and MEE—to pass the UBE.
But let’s turn our attention back to the MBE!
The MBE consists of 200 multiple choice questions on the first year law courses: Criminal Law and Procedure, Civil Procedure, Contracts, Real Property, Torts, and Constitutional Law. You’re given a set of 100 questions in the morning session and a second set of 100 questions in the afternoon session. You have three hours for each session, and all topics are tested in the morning and afternoon. Basically, the MBE is an extreme version of the LSAT. But the good news is the topics tested are all subjects you’ve studied before, so with a little (or A LOT) of review, you’ll be all set!
While there are 200 questions and the MBE score is out of 200, there are only 175 scored questions. Confusing, right? Well, 25 questions are considered “pretest” questions and are not scored. You’re probably wondering how a score out of 200 is determined when there are only 175 questions scored. The MBE score is scaled based on a conversion determined by the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) who develops and scores the MBE. The jurisdiction where you take the MBE sends your test to the NCBE, and the NCBE scores your test and sends the score back to your jurisdiction.
As for the exam content, the questions are divided evenly among each of the MBE subjects, so there are 25 questions per subject. That sounds pretty manageable, right? If you’re curious about what an MBE question looks like, be sure to check out some MBE sample test questions.
Now that you’ve got a good sense of how the MBE is structured and scored, let’s dig into what makes a good MBE score.
Getting A Good MBE score
Remember when I so helpfully told you that what makes a good MBE score depends on which jurisdiction you’re in? The reason for such ambiguity is because each jurisdiction that administers the UBE determines its own passing score. As a quick reference, the passing scores on the UBE range from a 260 to 280 (out of a potential 400 points). For more details on the passing score for each jurisdiction, be sure to check out UBE Passing Scores by State.
Okay, okay. Let’s cut to the chase. Just what is a good MBE score?
A good starting point is to know that the median MBE score for July 2016 was 138.6. While law students (and lawyers!) don’t usually like numbers, you may be interested to review the National Conference of Bar Examiner’s MBE statistics outlining the median scores for the MBE from the past July and February exams.
In case you went to law school because you don’t feel like reviewing a lot of numbers, let me give you the highlights here. The trend is a decline in the MBE score, but the average has been around a 138. The average score is a typically lower for the February administration and higher for the July administration. So, in short, you should be aiming for at least a 138 on the MBE. Remember, no points are deducted for a wrong answer, so be sure to always mark an answer for every MBE question!
While a passing score varies from state to state, the MBE is a uniform exam and is uniformly scored by the NCBE. The MBE makes up half of the points you can get on the UBE, so it’s worth a great deal of your study time to make sure you get as many points as you can. However, the MBE is no joke—it’s a six hour, 200 multiple choice exam over six areas of law. Due to the complexities of the exam, the average score is around a 138.
The good news is you can miss a good number of questions, but this doesn’t mean you won’t have to study a lot to get the points you need to pass. So, now that you understand what score you’re aiming for on the MBE, learn How to Study for the MBE Section of the Bar Exam!
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