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A bar examination is an examination to determine whether a candidate is qualified to practice law in a given jurisdiction.



In Brazil there is a bar examination that occurs in each State in March, September and January. These examinations are organized by Ordem dos Advogados do Brasil, the Brazilian Bar association. The exam is divided in two stages—the first one consists of 100 multiple choice questions covering all the disciplines learned at the University, where the candidate must answer at least 50 questions correctly. Being approved, the candidate must pass through the second part of the exam, consisting in five essay questions and the elaboration of a motion or opinion document, of a chosen discipline (Administrative Law, Civil Law, Commercial Law, Constitutional Law, Labour Law, Criminal Law, or Tax Law, and their respective procedures), with a pass mark of 60%.

England and Wales

In England and Wales, the series of exams taken to become a barrister is sometimes known as Bar Vocational Course or BVC.

Nowadays these exams are usually taken as part of the Bar Vocational Course.

See barrister for further information about qualifying in England and Wales.

Etymology: The expression "call to the bar" is said to have originated from a conversation between two benchers in the smoking room of Inner Temple. Members sometimes cite "the conversation" to pupils admitted to Inner Temple. The details of the conversation are said to have been lost. Like Mornington Crescent "the conversation" is a red herring and has no formal content, and often leads to apocryphal embellishments.[citation needed]


In Hungary the Bar Examination is called "Jogi Szakvizsga", can be translated as "Legal Profession Examination". This exam is composed of three parts:

  1. Criminal Law, Criminal Procedural Law and Penal Law
  2. Civil Law, Civil Procedural Law and Economy Law
  3. Constitutional Law, Administrative Law and Law of the European Union.

After passing these exams the candidate can be a barrister or secretary at the court or at the public prosecutor's office or legal executive or may operate individually at any field of law.


The bar exams in Ireland are the preserve of the Honorable Society of King's Inns, which runs a series of fourteen exams over ten weeks, from March to June each year, for those enrolled as students in its one-year Barrister-at-Law degree course. These exams cover such skills as advocacy, research and opinion writing, consulting with clients, negotiation, drafting of legal documents and knowledge of civil and criminal procedure.

For those who fail to meet the requisite 50% pass mark, repeats are held in the following August and September.


The Philippine Bar Examination is administered once every year during the four Sundays of September. It covers eight areas of law, namely: (1) Political Law, (2) Labor Law and Social Legislation, (3) Criminal Law, (4) Civil Law, (5) Commercial Law, (6) Taxation Law, (7) Remedial Law and (8) Legal ethics and practical exercises.


In Poland bar examination is taken after graduating from Law Faculties at the Universities. It allows to undertake practise, which duration varies depending on the specialisation. After the practical period applicants pass the exam held by the Professional Chambers with some members of the Ministry of Justice assistance.

United States

Passing the bar exam is typically only one of several steps for being licensed to practice law. For more information on the complete process, see Admission to the bar in the United States.

Bar examinations in the United States are administered by agencies of individual states. In 1763, Delaware created the first bar exam with other American colonies soon following suit.[1] A state bar licensing agency is invariably associated with the judicial branch of government, because American attorneys are all officers of the court of the bar(s) to which they belong.

Sometimes the agency is an office or committee of the state's highest court or intermediate appellate court. In some states which have a unified or integrated bar association (meaning that formal membership in a public corporation controlled by the judiciary is required to practice law therein), the agency is either the state bar association or a subunit thereof. Other states split the integrated bar membership and the admissions agency into different bodies within the judiciary; in Texas, the Board of Law Examiners is appointed by the Texas Supreme Court and is independent from the integrated State Bar of Texas.

In almost all jurisdictions, the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE), an ethics exam, is also administered by the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE), which creates it and grades it. The NCBE created the MPRE in 1980. The MPRE is offered three times a year, in March, August and November.

The bar examination in most U.S. states and territories is at least two days long (a few states have three-day exams)[2] and consists of:

  • Essay questions:
    • Essentially all jurisdictions administer several such questions that test knowledge of general legal principles, and may also test knowledge of the state's own law (usually subjects such as wills, trusts and community property, which always vary from one state to another). Some jurisdictions choose to use the Multistate Essay Examination (MEE), drafted by the NCBE since 1988, for this purpose. Others may draft their own questions with this goal in mind, while some states both draft their own questions and use the MEE.
    • Some jurisdictions administer complicated questions that specifically test knowledge of that state's law.
  • The Multistate Bar Examination, a standardized, multiple-choice examination created and sold to participating state bar examiners by the National Conference of Bar Examiners since 1972.[3] The MBE contains 200 questions which test six subjects based upon principles of common law and Article 2 of the Uniform Commercial Code (covering sales of goods) that apply throughout the United States.

A majority of U.S. jurisdictions also require a performance test, which is intended to be a more realistic measure of actual lawyering skill. The candidate is presented with a stack of documents representing a fictional case and is asked to draft a memorandum, motion, or opinion document. Many jurisdictions use the Multistate Performance Test (MPT), which was first created in 1997, while California and Pennsylvania draft and administer their own performance tests.

NCBE is currently in the process of developing a Uniform Bar Examination (UBE), which will consist solely of the MBE, MEE, and MPT, and will offer portability of scores across state lines. As of October 2009, at least 10 jurisdictions, all of which were among the 22 that already were using all three components of the UBE, were expected to adopt that examination, with the first tests likely to be administered in 2011. However, many of the largest legal markets—New York, California, the District of Columbia, Florida, Illinois, and Texas—have so far chosen not to consider a change to the UBE in the near future. Among the concerns cited with the adoption of the UBE were its absence of questions on state law and the fact that it would give the NCBE much greater power in the bar credentialing process.[4]


When exams occur

Each state controls when it administers its bar exam. Because the MBE is a standardized test, it must be administered on the same day across the country. That day occurs twice a year as the last Wednesday in July and the last Wednesday in February. Two states, Delaware and North Dakota, administer their bar exams only once, in July, since they do not have enough applicants to merit a second sitting. Most bar exams are administered on consecutive days. Louisiana is the exception, with the Louisiana Bar Exam being a three-day examination on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Also, Louisiana's examination is the longest in the country in terms of examination time, with seven hours on each day for a total of 21 hours.

The MEE and MPT, as uniform though not standardized tests, also must be administered on the same day across the country—specifically the day before the MBE.

All examinees must be present in person, and most states have strict guidelines about what people may take into the examination room, what they may wear during the exam, and when test takers may leave their seats for any reason.

Preparation for the exam

Most law schools teach students common law and how to analyze hypothetical fact patterns like a lawyer, but do not specifically prepare law students for any particular bar exam. Only a minority of law schools offer bar preparation courses.

To refresh their memory on "black-letter rules" tested on the bar, most students engage in a regimen of study (called "bar review") between graduating from law school and sitting for the bar.[5] For bar review, most students in the United States attend a private bar exam review course which is provided by a third-party company and not their law school.[6]



Over the years, many lawsuits have challenged everything from bar exam scoring, to the imposition of the exam itself.[citation needed]

Arguments against the bar exam

A statement by the Society of American Law Teachers (SALT) articulates many criticisms of the bar exam. The SALT statement, however, does propose some alternative methods of bar admission that are partially test-based. This statement was also published in 54 JOURNAL OF LEGAL EDUCATION 442–458.

Arguments in favor of the bar exam

The National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) regularly provides articles relating to the bar examination process. To see a general collection of the articles available, go to:

Arguments for alternatives to the bar exam

The NCBE published an article in 2005 addressing alternatives to the bar exam, including a discussion of the Daniel Webster Scholar Honors Program, an alternate certification program introduced at Franklin Pierce Law Center in New Hampshire in that year. The article can be found at:

See also


  1. ^ California Bar Background information, accessed April 21, 2009
  2. ^ William Burnham, Introduction to the Law and Legal System of the United States, 4th ed. (St. Paul: Thomson West, 2006), 135.
  3. ^ Bar Admissions background, PDF
  4. ^ Jones, Leigh (2009-10-12). "Uniform Bar Exam Drawing Closer to Reality". The National Law Journal. Retrieved 2009-11-23. 
  5. ^ Mark E. Steiner, "International Conference on Legal Education Reform: Cram Schooled", 24 Wis. Int'l L.J. 377, 392 (2006). This article contrasts American bar review courses against the 18-month cram schools used in Japan, Germany, Korea, and Taiwan, and argues that the short length of American bar review is due to the superior pedagogical methods of American law schools and the American tradition of relatively easy access to the legal profession (in comparison to most countries).
  6. ^ Wayne L. Anderson and Marilyn J. Headrick, The Legal Profession: Is it for you? (Cincinnati: Thomson Executive Press, 1996), 103.

External links

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