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MBE vs UBE: What’s the Difference?

The Multistate Bar Exam (MBE) is sometimes confused for the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE), when in fact, the MBE is just one component of the UBE. The UBE was developed by the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) and is the exam aspiring lawyers must pass in order to become licensed to practice law in their jurisdiction. There are three components of the UBE: the Multistate Essay Examination (MEE), the Multistate Performance Test (MPT), and the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE). Learn more about the importance of the MBE and how it functions as part of the UBE.

Key Differences Between the MBE and the UBE

The MBE and UBE are not the same exam, rather the MBE is one component of the 3-part UBE. In addition to this important distinction, there are several other main differences between the MBE and the UBE:

  • Test format: The UBE is a 2-day exam consisting of three components (the MBE, the MEE, and the MPT). The MBE is a 6-hour exam with 200 multiple-choice questions administered over two 3-hour sessions, one in the morning and one in the afternoon.

  • Jurisdictions: Only 41 jurisdictions have adopted the UBE, while all jurisdictions administer the UBE with the exceptions of Louisiana and Puerto Rico.

  • Score portability: You can transfer your UBE score to other UBE jurisdictions if you meet the admission criteria. MBE scores can be transferred to participating jurisdictions using the NCBE Score Transfer.

The MBE’s Role in the UBE

The MBE plays a critical role in the UBE. It is the most heavily weighted portion of the bar exam and is known to be the most difficult component to pass. The MBE is designed to assess competence to practice law, specifically the test-taker’s ability to apply fundamental legal principles, exercise legal reasoning, and analyze fact patterns.

The MBE was added to the bar exam in 1972 after the backlash against “diploma privilege,” which allowed law school graduates to gain admittance to the bar without taking the bar exam. The NCBE developed the MBE, a multiple-choice exam, to test all examinees on their knowledge of key legal concepts in a fair and efficient way.

The UBE is administered over the course of two days, with the MBE given on the last Wednesday of February and July.

Read Next: When is the MBE?

MBE Score Portability

One of the benefits of passing the MBE is that you can transfer your score to another jurisdiction so you don’t have to retake the exam if you move out of state. This is known as score portability, but it is not available in all jurisdictions. Below is the step-by-step process for transferring your MBE score:

Step 1: Research if the jurisdiction to which you are applying accepts transferred MBE scores, and if so, whether or not there are any requirements.

Step 2: Determine if the testing jurisdiction where you took the MBE authorizes NCBE to transfer MBE scores. If it doesn’t, contact the testing jurisdiction directly to get your score transferred.

Step 3: Log in to your NCBE account and navigate to the Score Services section to submit a score transfer request.

Step 4: Pay the $30 fee for the MBE Score Transfer.

Once all these steps are completed, your score will be sent to the requested jurisdiction. On average, MBE Score Transfers are processed the next business day after payment is received.

What else does the UBE consist of?

The UBE consists of three components: the MBE, the MEE, and the MPT. Each of the three UBE components carries a different weight in your total bar score. In the table below, we break down each UBE component, their weight, and the exam format.

UBE Component Weight Exam Format Question Types
Multistate Bar Examination (MBE) 50% Two 3-hour sessions (morning and afternoon) 200 multiple-choice questions (175 scored, 25 pretest)
Multistate Essay Examination (MEE) 30% For most jurisdictions, the six essays are given in one 3-hour session Six 30-minute essay questions
Multistate Performance Test (MPT) 20% For most jurisdictions, the MPT is given in one 3-hour session Two 90-minute skills questions. Materials for each include a File and a Library.

Please note that some non-UBE jurisdictions have different score distributions. Review your jurisdiction’s UBE scoring guide for more information.

Which jurisdictions administer the MBE?

Louisiana and Puerto Rico are the only two jurisdictions in the U.S. that do not administer the MBE. Otherwise, all other jurisdictions in the U.S. administer the MBE.

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