The Different Types of Bar Exam Questions

Once a prospective lawyer has completed law school, he or she must take a bar exam in order to become a practicing lawyer. The bar exam and the questions in it vary from state to state because laws vary from state to state. It is important to know about possible bar exam questions to fully prepare yourself for your bar exam.

What is the Bar Exam?

The bar exam is a test administered by whatever authority in a state oversees lawyers practicing within that state. Most state exams include two sections, an essay exam that includes questions on general legal concepts and specific state laws and a multiple-choice section that tests information that applies across the United States. Many states also require a performance exam and an ethics exam. Thus, when lawyers are thinking about how to study for the bar, it is important to remember that there are multiple kinds of bar exam questions that require different kinds of preparation.

Essay Exam Questions

The essay bar exam questions given vary from state to state and may include the Multistate Essay Examination (MEE). This exam, written by the National Conference of Bar Examiners, is a collection of questions that focuses on common law and can include topics like criminal law and procedure, constitutional law, business associations, torts, evidence, contracts, and other topics. A state may use just the MEE questions or may add another section of essay questions that focus on more state-specific laws like trusts and wills.

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Multiple Choice Questions

The multiple choice section of bar exam questions is more standardized. Every state in the U.S. uses the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE) except for Washington and Louisiana. This exam contains 200 questions on six subjects based on principles that apply throughout the country. Some questions are designed to test knowledge, while others test complex or require the exam taker to recognize and use intricate patterns of facts to answer the questions. The MBE questions must be answered quickly, as well, since the 200 questions are split into 2 three-hour sessions.

Performance Questions

The performance test portion of many state bar exams is designed to mimic a real-life legal task that a future lawyer will perform. In 33 states, the Multistate Performance Test is administered for this purpose, while others administer their own performance tests. These bar exam questions may include drafting an affidavit or settlement letter or writing a legal memorandum. This requires an applicant to sort material, analyze applicable laws, apply laws, identify and resolve ethical dilemmas, communicate in writing, and complete a lawyering task.

Ethical Questions

The final kind of bar exam questions are questions that test a future lawyer s knowledge and understanding of the established standards of professional conduct for being an attorney. Most states test this through the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE), which is a 60-question multiple choice exam that must be passed before a person is eligible to take the state bar exam. A few states do not require the MPRE, but do test ethical and professional standards using their own exam.

When studying for the bar exam, it is important to remember that there are several different types of bar exam questions and all of them require different kinds of preparation. Make sure you study sample questions or take a bar preparation course to familiarize yourself before the exam.

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