MADISON, WISCONSIN, August 31, 2023—The National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) announced today that the national mean scaled score for the July 2023 Multistate Bar Examination (MBE) was 140.5, an increase of about 0.2 points compared to the July 2022 mean of 140.3. The MBE, one of three sections that make up the bar exam in most US jurisdictions, consists of 200 multiple-choice questions answered over six hours.
45,968 examinees took the July 2023 MBE, an increase of about 2.8% compared to the 44,705 examinees who sat for the exam in July 2022. Approximately 75% of July 2023 examinees were likely taking the exam for the first time, and approximately 25% were likely repeat test takers. This reflects a decrease in the proportion of likely first-time takers and an increase in the proportion of likely repeaters compared to July 2022, when approximately 77% of examinees were likely taking the exam for the first time and approximately 23% were likely repeat test takers.
* Graphs note: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the July 2020 MBE was administered on three separate dates: July 29, September 10, and October 1. The results shown are for in-person examinees only; approximately 29,000 additional examinees sat for a remotely administered exam using NCBE materials in October 2020. Comparability to other years’ results may be limited due to the lower examinee count.
NCBE Director of Assessment and Research Rosemary Reshetar, EdD, commented: “We saw small score increases this July for both first-time and repeat test takers, with the greatest increase for those who were repeating the exam. Overall, this year’s July mean is very similar to what we saw in July 2022, and we expect that nationally, pass rates will be similar to those seen last year. Because candidate performance, passing scores, and other factors vary by jurisdiction, however, pass rates for individual jurisdictions may go up or down.” More information about the MBE mean and score distributions is available in a recent Bar Examiner column.
Reliability for the July 2023 exam was 0.94, approximately the same as the reliability for the July 2022 exam and consistent with the 5-year average for July administrations. (Reliability is an indicator of the consistency of a set of examination scores, with a maximum value of 1.0.)
Jurisdictions have begun reporting their July 2023 results; bar examination pass rates as reported by jurisdictions are available on the NCBE website. Many jurisdictions are still in the process of grading the written components of the bar exam; once this process is completed, bar exam scores will be calculated and passing decisions reported by those jurisdictions.
The first-time and repeat MBE-based test taker information calculated by NCBE is an approximation based on the NCBE Number and biographic data, which has not been used consistently in all jurisdictions across time. Prior to 2022, approximately 10% of examinees could not be tracked with certainty by NCBE as either first-time or repeat takers due to a lack of sufficient biographic information.
About the National Conference of Bar Examiners
The National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE), headquartered in Madison, Wisconsin, is a not-for-profit corporation founded in 1931. NCBE promotes fairness, integrity, and best practices in bar admissions for the benefit and protection of the public, in pursuit of its vision of a competent, ethical, and diverse legal profession. Best known for developing bar exam content used by 54 US jurisdictions, NCBE serves admission authorities, courts, the legal education community, and candidates by providing high-quality assessment products, services, and research; character investigations; and informational and educational resources and programs. In 2026, NCBE will launch the next generation of the bar examination, ensuring that the exam continues to test the knowledge, skills, and abilities required for competent entry-level legal practice in a changing profession. For more information, visit the NCBE website at https://www.ncbex.org.
About the Multistate Bar Examination
The Multistate Bar Examination (MBE) is a six-hour, 200-question multiple-choice examination developed by NCBE and administered by user jurisdictions as part of the bar examination, typically given twice each year. The purpose of the MBE is to assess the extent to which an examinee can apply fundamental legal principles and legal reasoning to analyze given fact patterns. The subjects tested on the MBE are Civil Procedure, Constitutional Law, Contracts, Criminal Law and Procedure, Evidence, Real Property, and Torts. In addition to assessing examinee knowledge and skills, the MBE is used to equate the bar exam. Equating is a statistical procedure used for most large-scale standardized tests to ensure that exam scores retain the same meaning across administrations and over time. More information about the MBE is available on the NCBE website at https://www.ncbex.org/exams/mbe/.
About the Uniform Bar Examination
The UBE is a two-day bar examination composed of the Multistate Essay Examination (MEE), two Multistate Performance Test (MPT) tasks, and the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE). It is uniformly administered, graded, and scored and results in a portable score that can be transferred to other UBE jurisdictions. More information about the UBE is available on the NCBE website at https://www.ncbex.org/exams/ube/. 41 US jurisdictions currently participate in the UBE, and more than 42,000 examinees took the UBE in 2022.