Understanding Bar Exam Acronyms: MBE, MEE, UBE, & What It Means For You

As you gear up for bar prep, you may realize that there’s a whole array of terms and acronyms associated with the bar exam. From MBE to UBE, MEE, MPT, and more, if you haven’t taken the time to understand what all of these terms mean, now is a great time to familiarize yourself on what you need to know.

A lot of the time these terms get thrown around by law school professors, admins, and bar prep companies (Critical Pass included) without much consideration. They actually mean different things and have important distinctions.

Whether you're taking the bar exam in a UBE jurisdiction or in a non UBE jurisdiction like California, this guide will help you understand what you'll be facing during bar prep and on the bar exam.

  • What it stands for Uniform Bar Exam
  • What it is — an umbrella term for a bar exam format used in most states. The UBE is a 2-day bar exam and includes the MBE, MEE, and MPT (see below).
  • What to know — the UBE is not a part of a bar exam or even a test itself. Rather, it's a designation for a type of bar exam, which is the same ("uniform") in each state where administered. The states that administer the UBE can be found here: https://www.ncbex.org/exams/ube/
  • What it stands for — Multistate Bar Exam
  • What it is — a 200-question multiple choice exam. It's part of the bar exam in every jurisdiction in the U.S (except Louisiana and Puerto Rico). Almost everyone in every jurisdiction (even non-UBE) has to take the MBE. It is a six-hour exam that lasts for a full day.
  • What it counts for — the MBE counts for 50% of your score in UBE jurisdictions (and the same in most non-UBE jurisdictions). It's the biggest component of your bar exam score almost everywhere.
  • Do you have to take it? — almost certainly (the only exceptions are if you’re taking the bar exam for Louisiana or Puerto Rico).  
  • What the MBE covers  The MBE consists of seven subjects: Civil Procedure, Constitutional Law, Contracts, Criminal Law & Procedure, Evidence, Property, & Torts.
  • What it stands for — Multistate Essay Exam
  • What it is — the essay portion of the bar exam in states that administer the UBE (Uniform Bar Exam). It consists of six 30-minute essay questions.
  • What it counts for — the MEE counts for 30% of your total bar exam score in UBE jurisdictions.
  • Do you have to take it? — probably, but there are major exceptions (hello, California). If you're in a UBE jurisdiction, you have to take the MEE. 
    • Additionally, there are a handful of states that use the MEE, but are not UBE jurisdictions, including Mississippi, Hawaii, South Dakota, & Wisconsin.
  • What the MEE coversall of the seven MBE subjects plus:
    • Business Associations (Agency, Partnership, Corporations, & Limited Liability Companies), Conflict of Laws, Family Law, Trusts & Estates, and Secured Transactions (UCC Art. 9).
  • What it stands for — Multistate Performance Test
  • What it is — a skills assessment that is included in the UBE. It consists of two 90-minute "tasks" where you're asked to perform a skill (like drafting a memo) that a beginning lawyer might be asked to accomplish.
  • What it counts for — the MPT counts for 20% of your total bar exam score in UBE jurisdictions.
  • What the MPT covers — the MPT is not a test of your legal knowledge. So there's not a lot to study for beyond taking a couple of sample MPTs to get used to it.
  • Do you have to take it? — probably, but there are major exceptions. If you're in a UBE jurisdiction, you have to take it. 
    • Additionally, there are a handful of states that use the MEE, but are not UBE jurisdictions, including Nevada, Mississippi, Hawaii, Georgia, South Dakota, & Wisconsin.

California uses the MBE, but otherwise does its own thing. But those other things are the same format - essays and a performance test.

Essays — California's essays subjects are slightly different.

  • For example, there is no Secured Transactions or Conflict of Laws, but there is Remedies and Professional Responsibility. Additionally, Family Law is called Community Property in California. The MBE subjects are also tested on California essays, but may also include questions on California-specific law.
  • There are five essays on the California Bar Exam and each is one hour (compared with six 30-minute questions on the MEE). 

Performance Test — California's performance test is very similar to the MPT used on the UBE. However, there is only one "task" and you are allotted 90 minutes.


 MBE and MEE Essay Flashcards that help you learn and memorize key bar exam concepts, effectively and affordably.

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