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How Long Is The Bar Exam?
By Carson Lang Updated on January 3, 2024
John Ross, JD, CPA John Ross, JD, CPA

How Long Is The Bar Exam?

Whether you've been preparing for months or simply wondering how many hours the bar exam is, we address all things bar length

The overall length of the bar exam can vary from state to state. In most jurisdictions, it is a test that is taken over the course of two days. That may sound intimidating, but with plenty of preparation, you’ll be ready to take the test head-on and get your law license. In this detailed guide, we will answer all of your questions about the length of the bar exam, as well as provide some practical study tips.

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Bar Length Video Resource Guide

In the video above, John (from the Test Prep Insight team) walks you through everything you need to know about the length of different states’ bar exams. Of course, you can always keep reading for more details.

How Many Hours is the Bar Exam?

In most states, the bar exam is a 12-hour test that is broken down into two days of testing. On the first day, you will take the Multistate Essay Exam (MEE) and the Multistate Performance Test (MPT).

On the second day, you will be taking the Multistate Bar Exam (MBE). The overall test has both essay and multiple-choice questions, so it is important to plan carefully so you have plenty of time for each type of question.

Hours Bar Exam

The two-day timeframe is a general window that you can expect for nearly every state. However, there are exceptions to this. If you live in Louisiana, plan to dedicate 21 hours over the course of three days to earning your law license.

In the past, California also had a 3-day testing timeframe, but has recently changed it and is now more in line with most of the country.

It is important to take note that some states have a jurisdiction-specific test in addition to the 2-day, 12-hour bar exam. Be sure to check your jurisdiction’s information to see if there are additional components required.

How Long is Each Section of the Bar Exam?

While the bar exam will take you at least 12 hours to complete, it is divided into three tests. The first day of testing is always on a Tuesday and consists of the Multistate Essay Exam (MEE) and the Multistate Performance Test (MPT). On the second day, you’ll tackle the big test, the Multistate Bar Exam (MEE).

You’ll start day one with the MPT. You are allowed three hours to complete the two given assignments. For the first one, you will have either an email or a memo asking you to prepare a response to a specific situation using an area of law.

You will respond as if sending a letter, contract, or email to a client. You will have access to the needed information, such as files and a library, and you will be asked to give a thorough response in the allotted 90 minutes per assignment.

While splitting your time 50/50—using the first 45 minutes for reading and research and the second 45 minutes for answering the question—is the recommended approach according to the American Bar Association, you can break your time up and use it however you see fit.

It is best to try and leave yourself a few minutes at the end of the testing period for a quick read-through and the possible editing of your responses.

When you return from your lunch break on the first day, you will be taking on the MEE. This test will take up the remaining three hours of your day. The Multistate Essay Exam has six essay questions for you to answer.

Your test administrator will pass out packets that contain all of the questions so time management is in your hands. You will need to complete each question within 30 minutes to stay on track to finish on time.

It is recommended that, while preparing for the bar exam in the weeks leading up to the test, you practice with MEEs from past years. You can also browse past questions and answers for some ideas on how to respond to the essay prompts.

When day two comes around, it’s time to tackle the MBE. This is the big multiple-choice test that contains questions pertaining to many different aspects of law. This test has 200 questions overall, covering a wide range of subjects such as constitutional law, contracts, and civil procedure.

Since this massive test is multiple choice and it is broken down into two sets of questions, it is a bit easier to handle. You will have 6 hours to complete the Multistate Bar Exam. It is broken down into two 3-hour blocks. Before lunch, you will complete the first 100 questions.

After you return from lunch, you’ll finish the rest of the test. You will notice that some of the questions on the MBE take longer than others, so it may be hard to keep track of your progress. As long as you find yourself completing 15 questions every 30 minutes, you should be on course to finishing on time.

How Many Breaks do You Get During the Bar Exam?

During the bar exam, there is only one official break, and that is your one-hour lunch break. However, that does not mean you are stuck at your seat the entire time. Getting up and stepping away from the testing area is allowed and will keep you from becoming too burnt out or stressed. If you are making good time, you should definitely give yourself breaks.

Bar Exam Breaks

Standing up and stepping away from your seat is a great way to keep your stress levels as low as possible on such important days. You can take this time to stretch your legs, go to the bathroom, get a drink, and have a snack so you can keep your energy level up.

If you just can’t bring yourself to leave your seat, at least set your pencil down, close your eyes, and think of something that isn’t law-related. Maintaining mental calm and focus is crucial, and although it may not feel like you have two minutes to spare, those 120 seconds could save you valuable time on the back end through increased productivity.

As far as your lunch break goes, pay attention to the restaurants that are nearby. Make sure you have a few ideas in mind in case one of the establishments is busy or not open. Many people choose to pack a lunch and bring it with them. You can also order room service to your room at the hotel.

How Long is the New York Bar Exam?

The New York Bar Exam, like most others in the United States, is a 12-hour test split up into two days of testing. On the first day, examinees will take their two 90-minute Multistate Performance Test questions in the morning and then complete the six Multistate Essay Exam Questions in the afternoon.

On day two, the Multistate Bar Exam is administered. It is a 200-question test containing all multiple-choice questions.

New York is one of the states that administers a state-specific test in addition to the 2-day, 12-hour bar exam. Candidates must first complete the New York Law Course (NYLC), which is an on demand, online course of approximately 17 hours of instruction relating specifically to New York law.

After completing the NYLC, examinees must pass the New York Law Exam (NYLE), which is a 2-hour online test containing 50 multiple-choice questions covering material in the NYLC.

Next: Best Bar Review Courses


How long is the bar exam?

The length of the bar exam is obviously related directly to your specific jurisdiction’s requirements, but for almost all states, it is two days. You complete 12 hours of testing over two full days.

How long does it take to get bar exam results?

For most states, students will get their results back about 12-14 weeks after the February exam and 16-18 weeks after the July exam.

How long to study for bar exam?

It takes approximately 10 full weeks of studying to pass the bar exam. Some students do it in less, some students take longer. It totally depends. But most bar review courses are roughly 10 weeks long.