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What Is A Good Bar Exam Score?

Whether you just received your official score or you are still preparing, many students wonder what is a good score on the bar exam.

Like any major professional exam, you’ll likely want know what is considered a good bar exam score. This is true whether you’re just starting to prepare or you already received your official score and now want to see how you fared against your competitors. In this detailed guide, we cover how the bar exam is scored as well as what score and percentiles are deemed “good” in the legal world. 

Bar Exam Article Outline:

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How Is the Bar Exam Scored?

The UBE has a possible score of 400. The UBE has multiple components and consists of the Multistate Performance Test, the MPT, the Multistate Essay Exam, MEE, and the Multistate Bar Exam, MBE. The MPT and MEE together make up a total of 200 points and are scored by jurisdiction, however, the MPT is scored by the National Conference of Bar Examiners, and is worth 200 points itself.

Bar Exam Scored

An important point to keep in mind is that you will not be given what is referred to as a “raw score”, which is the number of questions you answered correctly. What you will be given is what is termed as a “scaled score”. While your raw score is used to determine your scaled score, this is done by the NCBE, and they do not release or publish the formula they use to calculate this. This can be frustrating since you will not know the exact number of correct answers you gave, and therefore some feel you cannot adequately prepare for a retest if you were not satisfied with your initial score.

Another caveat is that the MBE, the portion explicitly scored by the NCBE, is graded on a curve. So if you think you might have scored well, once you see the results you may have to reconsider. A 10-15 point difference in raw score can mean a 30%+ difference in scaled score.

What Is Considered A Good Bar Exam Score?

While your UBE should clearly state if you passed or failed, a score of 280 is a passing score in every state. The lowest possible passing score of 266 will suffice in states like South Carolina, New York, New Jersey, Montana, and some others.

Depending on how many people have taken the UBE, a score of 280 is approximately the 73rd percentile, a 300 is in about the 90th, and 330 is in the top 1% of all scores.

Keep in mind that out of the 200 questions that make up the MPT and the MEE, only 175 of them are actually scored, and the remainder are considered to be ‘pretest’ questions that do not count towards your overall score.

Tips For Scoring High On The Bar Exam

Outlines Are Key – Break down each outline into manageable pieces. For example, if you start with Torts, chop that up into pieces like “intentional torts”, which will each have their own subsections of duty, breach, cause, and harm. Then do the same for “intentional tort defenses” and so on. Once you have your chunks, memorize them. Cover your outline and see if you can recite it. Change up the order and do it again. This will ensure that the information gets deeply embedded.

Bar Exam Score High

Once you can recite one portion verbatim, move on to the next after a brief bit of downtime. Make sure you are taking breaks, or you will get burnt out. Dealing with information in volumes like this means that breaks are an absolute necessity or fatigue will set in and your capacity to retain the information will be severely diminished.

Review everything after your current active review period. Then put it away, and get some rest. Studies have shown time and again that sleep increases retention and promotes memory formation. Do not deprive yourself of these benefits.

Memorization –  The first thing, and arguably one of the more effective ways to raise your score by 20 points or more, is to memorize the law. Memorize it, verbatim. Do not mistake your excellent overall understanding of the law for having it memorized. The National Conference of Bar Examiners grades the MBE portion of the bar based on nuances and intricacies of the law. So it follows that the easiest way to squeeze more points from that portion is to memorize the nuances and intricacies of the law.

Understanding – Once you have the memorization down, you need to make sure you understand all the things you have memorized. Ensure that you can explain the principles and functions of the laws and codes you now know by memory. Explain the concepts out loud, explain the concepts to laypeople. You should have created outlines that help you both memorize and understand the material you will be tested on, use them, and refine them. An ideal length of your outlines should be about 40-50 pages, long enough without being overly detailed.

Methodical Application – Lots of law students try to race through the MBE portion, without giving much thought to the actual substantive content of the answers. Focus on quality over quantity, but pace yourself. Use an hour or two daily to completely dissect and examine MBE questions and the fact pattern they are describing. Note dates or specific events that help illuminate the issue and the rule that is being tested in that question. Evaluate each answer option and determine why each one is either right or wrong, even once you have the correct answer, determine why the other options are not correct. While this may lead to spending 15-20 minutes on a given question, you will gain more from it.

Use Your Resources – You have countless resources such as study groups, tutoring, and actual MBE questions at your disposal. The NCBE even releases actual past questions for study purposes, and if you are using study aides or review courses that do not advertise that they are using official NCBE questions, they generally are not.