Bar Exam Preparation
The bar exam is an examination offered by all jurisdictions in the United States for admission to the practice of law. Each jurisdiction determines the subjects, format, and dates of their exam. Most exams are the last week in July or February and consist of a 2 or 3-day exam. All jurisdictions but Louisiana require the Multi-State Bar Examination (MBE); a 200 question multiple choice exam testing candidates in the areas of Contracts, Criminal Law and Procedure, Constitutional Law, Civil Procedure, Evidence, Property, and Torts.
The second and/or third days consist of any of the following; state specific multiple choice questions, essay questions, short answer questions and performance tests.
Application deadlines to take the bar exam are generally second semester of your last year in law school. HOWEVER, some jurisdictions require students register as 1Ls, apply as a 1L for reduced rates or have first semester of 3L year deadlines. Please refer to the National Conference of Bar Examiners for your particular state or contact Justin Dion, Director of Bar Admission Programs at Justin.Dion@law.wne.edu or 413-782-1751 for more information.
Our Commitment to You
Western New England University School of Law is committed to helping you achieve your goals of becoming a licensed attorney. The bar exam can be the most challenging test you will face. However, our comprehensive bar preparation approach guides students from the first day of law school so that the mystery and anxiety is significantly reduced. Our team approach, courses, and bar prep programs will help you pass the bar and start your career as an attorney!
We have prepared year-by-year steps needed to prepare yourself for the bar exam. Please read them carefully.
Information for 1Ls
During the first year, all students are introduced to the bar exam; its format, and content. Students are also guided by advisors and the Bar Director as to which law school courses would be beneficial for their bar exam, without compromising the student’s interests, as well as preparing basics for the bar exam in states they may wish to sit.
Here are the steps that you should complete in your first year in order to prepare for success on the bar examination when you graduate:
- Examine/review the requirements of the jurisdiction(s) where I plan to take the bar exam.
- for a jurisdiction with an early registration requirement, understand that application fees will be considerably higher if not registered in the first year.
- for New York, there is a 60-hours-during-law school pro bono requirement.
- Learn to write and present legal analysis in a clear and organized manner.
- learn IRAC (or CREAC or their equivalents) as a method for presenting the legal analysis of a problem.
- Review my performance on final exams and midterms with my law school professors. If having trouble writing successful exams, ask for help in writing a better exam.
- Learn to write legal analysis in a clear and organized fashion.
- Determine what subjects will be tested on the bar exam(s) that I plan to take.
- Consider the bar exam requirements when choosing courses during the remaining years of my legal education. If one has to learn most of the content tested on the bar exam during the summer before the bar exam, it makes bar preparation more difficult and stressful. However, course selection can and should involve other important factors such as general interest and practice interest and that all courses that help me learn legal analysis and writing will be helpful, even if the subject matter is not covered on the bar exam.
- Look into commercial bar review courses. Signing up in the first year results in a lower cost, and deposits paid to one company are generally honored by other companies.
Information for 2Ls (for PT students, 3rd year)
Second year students attend workshops on bar exam format and testing techniques, proper course selection, and extracurricular programs designed to help the 2L prepare for the bar exam format and its content. Students also commence preparation for the MPRE, which must be successfully completed prior to application for the MA bar exam (and admission for other states).
Here are the steps that you should complete in your second year in order to prepare for success on the bar examination when you graduate:
- Examine/review the requirements of the jurisdiction(s) where you plan to take the bar exam.
- Determine the subjects that will be tested on the bar exam in those jurisdictions.
- Consider the bar exam requirements when choosing upper-level courses. If one has to learn most of the content tested on the bar exam during the summer before the bar exam, it makes bar preparation more difficult and stressful. However, course selection can and should involve other important factors such as general interest and practice interest, and that all courses that help me learn legal analysis and writing will be helpful, even if the subject matter is not covered on the bar exam.
- Prepare to register for and take the for-credit bar preparation course offered by the law school in the fall semester of my final year.
- Plan ahead financially so you will have enough money for a bar review course and for living expenses while studying for the bar exam. Look into applying for a bar examination loan to help cover expenses.
- Plan not to work during the period needed to be studying for the bar exam, including the time during the bar review course.
- Attend the annual presentation on bar exam information held at the law school.
- Take, or register to take, the MPRE. If you are taking the bar examination in Massachusetts or New York, you must take and receive a score of 85 or above in order to be eligible to sit for the bar examination. Connecticut does not require the MPRE if your grade in Professional Responsibility is a "C" or better.
Information for 3Ls (for PT Students, 4th year)
During the third year, all students enroll in the Advanced Legal Analysis class preparing students for the rigors of the bar exam. Students practice with actual bar exam multiple choice questions, essays, and performance tests, becoming more familiar with the approaches for each component of their bar exam. Many students also work with the Bar Director to fine tune their skills to prepare for the summer bar review programs.
- Enroll in a commercial bar course. Now is the time to finish your tire-kicking and make a selection.
- If you have not taken the MPRE. register to take it.
- Enroll in the Law School's required for-credit bar preparation course.
- Look for and participate in, any workshops offered by the School of Law on bar exam essay writing.
- Read the Final Semester checklist, detailing what you need to do in the final semester and in the summer of the bar exam.
- Application -- check the requirements of the jurisdiction(s) whose bar examination(s) you plan to take because they may have changed since your second year of law school.
- download the application
- set aside a time to complete the application. Give yourself at least a week; it will take some time to gather the housing/employment information--the older you are, the more information you will need to gather and supply.
- Special considerations: 1) Laptops--note and follow your jurisdiction's laptop policy; 2) Accommodation--if you have had accommodations for any disability during law school, prepare and file a well-documented request for accommodations or the bar exam; 3) Medication--be sure to get approval for any medications that you will bring to the exam, including over-the-counter medication.
Whether students are taking the July or February Bar exam, the Bar Director will help students choose a commercial bar prep course based on their needs and will supplement those courses with additional workshops just for Western New England University students. In addition the director will work one on one with students needing that additional attention for success on the bar exam.
- Supplemental Bar Prep Sessions -- attend the supplemental bar prep sessions offered throughout your commercial bar prep to help you focus on your areas of weakness. Schedules will be provided to all bar takers by the Director of Bar Admission Programs.
- Planning for the summer push
- plan ahead financially to have enough money for a bar review course and for living expenses while studying for the bar exam. Consider applying for a bar examination loan to help cover expenses.
- select a place to live while studying for the bar exam. Avoid changing residences during the bar preparation period, as such a change will distract from study and take up valuable study time.
- plan to study 4-6 hours every day in addition to the time spent in the commercial lectures (about 4 hours per day).
- do not work (either volunteer or paid) during the pre-bar exam period. Treat the bar exam preparation as a full-time job.
- address child-care/family care issues so that you are able to study full-time.
- Final Days
- reserve a hotel room at the site of the bar exam and make arrangements for transportation.
- familiarize yourself with the exam security policies used in your jurisdiction and the detailed list of items that can and cannot be brought into the examination room and prepare accordingly.
- arrive at least the day before the exam to allow time to get settled in and to familiarize yourself with the test location (and transportation and parking).
Bar Exam Resources
The items below will provide you with additional information and resources to assist you in preparing for the Bar Exam.
State Bar Exam and Essay Information
- National Conference of Bar Examiners
- Massachusetts Bar Exam
- Connecticut Bar Exam
- New Jersey Bar Exam
- New York Bar Exam
- Rhode Island Bar Exam
- Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE)
- Multistate Bar Examination (MBE)
- Multistate Essay Examination (MEE)
- Multistate Performance Test (MPT)
- Uniform Bar Examination (UBE)
YouTube bar prep material
The following tips are drawn from discussions with bar examiners, graduates who have taken the bar, and bar prep professionals, and from readings in the extensive literature on bar preparation and passage. We present them as a guide to your thinking.
- Take Law School Seriously. While obvious and perhaps a bit paternalistic, this tip emphasizes the strong correlation between law school performance and bar passage. While our law school (like most law schools) does not teach to the bar exam, our required courses cover many of the topics that are tested on the bar examination and your knowledge of those topics (as well as how to study well and manage your time effectively) is an important factor in shaping bar performance. Study hard and do well in law school and you will greatly improve your likelihood of success on the bar exam.
- Take The Bar Exam Seriously. If you don't pass the bar exam, you cannot practice law. Furthermore, in most jurisdictions, two to four out of every ten exam takers will fail. This is serious stuff. You want to be sure that you take the steps necessary to pass, beginning with the first week of law school.
- Checklists. We have prepared year-by-year checklists of the steps needed to prepare yourself for the bar exam. Please read them carefully.
- Plan Ahead. As explained in the checklists, find out the admissions requirements for your state (Information on requirements in each jurisdiction is available at the National Conference of Bar Examiners website.) Find out what is covered on the bar exam in that jurisdiction, how the exam is scored, and the percentage pass rate. State-specific information is available from each jurisdiction's website). Take elective courses in at least some of the subjects that are tested on your state's bar exam and not covered by our required curriculum. Prepare to study hard for the two months prior to the bar examination. Save enough money both for the bar review course and for living expenses during that period, so that you will not have to work (or can take time off from work). Inform your family that you are not free for a month's vacation immediately after you graduate.
- Take A Commercial Bar Preparation Course. A commercial bar review course is an important part of bar success, and you place yourself at serious risk if you attempt to take the bar exam without taking one. Over 95% of bar takers take such courses, and those people are your competition. Studies of those who have failed a bar exam have shown that a significant percentage of them have not taken a commercial course. There are a number of excellent courses, several of which are noted here. While the School of Law does not endorse any particular course, we hold information sessions each fall at which we introduce students to the staff of the different programs.
- Treat Preparation For The Bar Examination Like A Job. For the two months or so before the bar examination, treat bar exam preparation as if it were your full time job, punching the clock on a nine-to-five (or other regular) basis. Because bar exam preparation requires full-time attention, you should take time off from your job if you are employed and minimize, to the extent possible, family and social responsibilities in the weeks prior to the exam. Arrange appropriate child care during this period if you have children. While acknowledging your and your family's needs and incorporating these needs into your schedule, you will need to limit family demands and responsibilities.
- Schedule Your Time. Commercial bar courses will recommend a schedule of study, usually of around 8 hours per day. Try to develop a schedule that will work for you, and then stick to it. Some people have success by scheduling their lives down to the hour, with time blocked out for review, 1-2 hours doing practice exams and 1-2 hours doing multiple choice questions, and some blocks of down and family time. In the two weeks prior to the exam, most people double the amount of time on practice exams and questions.
- Keep A Positive Attitude. The bar exam is much like a marathon in that you will need to tap reserves of energy, determination and concentration. You can and will succeed, but only if you are focused and prepared. Your preparation will give you knowledge and confidence that will support you through the difficulties of the exam. Don't let other people's voices or the voice inside your head discourage you from your goal. Steer clear of negative people and those who may try to lure you away from your bar preparation work. Be positive; you can do it.
The information listed is in addition to the Bar Prep Course.
UNIFORM BAR EXAM RELATED COURSES
Multistate Bar Exam (MBE) Topics and Classes (worth 50% of the UBE bar exam score)
The MBE consists of 200 multiple-choice questions: 175 scored questions and 25 unscored pretest questions. The pretest questions are indistinguishable from those that are scored, so examinees should answer all questions. The exam is divided into morning and afternoon testing sessions of three hours each, with 100 questions in each session. There are no scheduled breaks during either the morning or afternoon session. The 175 scored questions on the MBE are distributed evenly, with 25 questions from each of the seven subject areas: Civil Procedure, Constitutional Law, Contracts, Criminal Law and Procedure, Evidence, Real Property, and Torts.
Multistate Essay Exam (MEE) Topics and Classes (worth 30% of the UBE bar exam score)
The MEE consists of six 30-minute questions. Areas of law that may be covered on the MEE include the following: Business Associations (Agency and Partnership; Corporations and Limited Liability Companies), Civil Procedure, Conflict of Laws, Constitutional Law, Contracts (including Article 2 [Sales] of the Uniform Commercial Code), Criminal Law and Procedure, Evidence, Family Law, Real Property, Torts, Trusts and Estates (Decedents' Estates; Trusts and Future Interests), and Article 9 (Secured Transactions) of the Uniform Commercial Code.
Multistate Performance Test (MPT) (worth 20% of the UBE bar exam score)
The Multistate Performance Test (MPT) is developed by NCBE and consists of two 90-minute items. It is administered by user jurisdictions as part of the bar examination on the Tuesday before the last Wednesday in February and July of each year. User jurisdictions may select one or both MPT items to include as part of their bar examinations. Jurisdictions that administer the Uniform Bar Examination use both MPT items. The MPT is designed to test an examinee’s ability to use fundamental lawyering skills in a realistic situation and complete a task that a beginning lawyer should be able to accomplish. The MPT is not a test of substantive knowledge. Rather, it is designed to evaluate certain fundamental skills lawyers are expected to demonstrate regardless of the area of law in which the skills are applied.