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LSAT vs. the Bar: What’s the Difference?

LSAT vs. the Bar

If you are studying for the LSAT now (or have recently taken it), you may be wondering what the difference is between the LSAT and state bar exams, which are required in all states before you can become a practicing attorney. Read more to find out how the two exams compare in terms of length, content, and scoring.

Content on the LSAT vs. the Bar

State bar exams generally include a state-specific portion and what is known as the Multistate Bar Examination, aka the “MBE.” (Louisiana is the only state that does not require the MBE.) The state portion of bar exams is often a combination of multiple choice questions and essays on various state law topics. Doing well on this portion of the exam is largely an exercise in memorization. The MBE is a 200 question multiple choice test that asks you to apply basic legal principles to fact patterns. The legal principles are ones that are universal across all states.

The LSAT requires no memorization, and is testing very different skills from the Bar. The LSAT is designed to get a picture of your intellectual potential to succeed in law school while the bar wants to make sure you have learned the actual state laws of the state you want to practice in. The bar does require a brutal amount of memorization, but at the end of the day…if you can memorize a bunch of information, you can do well on the bar. As you may already be able to tell, the LSAT does not require you to know any specific material before you go into the exam while the bar exam is the exact opposite. State bar examiners want you to know as much specific material as possible.

Scoring on the LSAT vs. the Bar

LSAT scores range from 120 to 180. State bar exams are scored differently in each state, but all of them are pass/fail tests. (Many states do have actual scores, but the goal is just to get a passing score. There is no benefit to passing with a higher score…except in the few states, like Texas, which offer a prize to the highest score.) The LSAT is scored on a bell curve, meaning that your score is largely determined by how your performance compares to other students taking the exam. The bar sets a minimum standard for passage, and anyone who meets that standard will pass the test. In theory, everyone taking the bar at one time could achieve a passing score. Check this out to learn more about LSAT scoring.

Timing on the LSAT vs. the Bar

Both the LSAT and the bar are timed exams, but they take vastly different amounts of time. The LSAT clocks in at about three hours (not including breaks and administrative time). The bar usually lasts for several days. The MBE portion of the exam, which lasts 6 hours, is usually given on one day, and the state portion of the exam is given on a different day or spread over two additional days. For example, the California bar exam takes 18 hours and is spread over there days. While the bar does have a time limit, it is generally easier for people to finish the bar exam within the allotted time than to finish the LSAT within the time limits.

Performance on both the LSAT and the bar will be improved by consistent and focused studying. To start or continue studying for the LSAT, check out some of these LSAT practice questions and see how you do.

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