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How Long is the Bar Exam? Lets find out

Updated: May 14, 2023

Are you wondering how long you'll need to hunker down and hit the books to prepare for the dreaded bar exam? Well, the answer isn't a simple one-size-fits-all, as the length of the bar exam can vary depending on your location and the specific components of the exam. So, grab a cup of coffee (or three), and let's dive into the quick guide to understanding how long this exam will take!

Component of a bar exam

The bar exam is a rigorous and comprehensive examination that aspiring lawyers must pass in order to become licensed to practice law in a specific jurisdiction. While the specifics of the exam can vary by state, it typically includes a combination of multiple-choice questions, essay questions, and performance tasks designed to evaluate a candidate's knowledge of legal principles, their ability to apply these principles to real-world situations, and their analytical and writing skills.

Multistate Bar Examination (MBE)

The first component of the bar exam is typically the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE), which is a standardized, multiple-choice test that covers a broad range of legal topics, including civil procedure, contracts, torts, constitutional law, criminal law and procedure, evidence, and real property. The MBE is administered over a six-hour period and consists of 200 questions, with 175 of these questions being scored and 25 being unscored experimental questions. The MBE accounts for a significant portion of a candidate's overall bar exam score, with some states weighing it at 50% or more.

State specific test

The second component of the bar exam is typically a state-specific test that covers a range of legal topics that are specific to the jurisdiction where the candidate is seeking licensure. This portion of the exam often includes essay questions that require candidates to apply legal principles to hypothetical fact patterns, as well as performance tasks that require candidates to demonstrate their ability to perform legal research and analysis. Some states also include multiple-choice questions on this portion of the exam.

In addition to these two primary components, many states also require candidates to complete a performance test or other practical exercises that evaluate their ability to apply legal principles to real-world situations. These tasks may include drafting legal memoranda, completing legal research assignments, or engaging in other activities that simulate the types of tasks that a practicing attorney might encounter.

How is it scored?

The bar exam is typically scored on a scaled system, with scores ranging from 0 to 200 or 400 depending on the state. The MBE portion of the exam is typically scored on a 0-200 scale, while the state-specific portion may be scored separately or combined with the MBE score to create an overall score. In many states, a minimum passing score is established, and candidates must achieve this score in order to pass the exam and become licensed to practice law in the jurisdiction.

Duration of the exam

Now that we have a good understanding of what's involved in the bar exam, let's take a look at the duration of the exam and some tips for managing your time effectively.

The average length of the bar exam can vary by state, but it typically lasts two to three days, with each day consisting of several hours of testing. For example, in California, the bar exam is a two-day exam that lasts a total of 18 hours, while in New York, the exam is a two-day exam that lasts a total of 16 hours. It's important to check the specific requirements for the state where you plan to take the exam to get an accurate understanding of the length of the exam.

In addition to the varying length of the exam by state, there are also differences in the format and timing of each section of the exam. For example, some states may require candidates to complete the performance test section of the exam on a different day than the rest of the exam, while others may include a mix of multiple-choice and essay questions on both days of the exam. Be sure to review the specific requirements for the state where you plan to take the exam so you can prepare accordingly.

Tips for managing your time effectively

Now, let's talk about some tips for managing your time effectively during the exam. One key strategy is to practice good time management skills, both in your preparation leading up to the exam and during the actual exam itself. This means breaking down your study materials into manageable chunks, creating a study schedule that allows for adequate review time, and setting realistic goals for your progress.

When it comes to the exam itself, it's important to use your time wisely. This means taking breaks when needed to avoid burnout, reading the instructions carefully before starting each section, and pacing yourself appropriately so that you don't run out of time before completing all of the questions. It can also be helpful to prioritize the questions based on difficulty or point value, so that you can make sure to complete the questions that are worth the most points first.

Finally, don't underestimate the importance of practice exams and time management. Practicing with sample questions and timed exams can help you build confidence and prepare for the actual exam, while also helping you identify areas where you may need to focus your study efforts. Additionally, developing good time management habits during your practice exams can help you feel more comfortable and in control on exam day.


The bar exam can be a challenging and demanding experience, but with the right strategies and preparation, you can manage your time effectively and increase your chances of success. So, take a deep breath, stay focused, and use these tips to help you make the most of your time during the exam.

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