Subject Overview

Texas Bar Examination Subject Overview

Introduction

Welcome to the Texas Bar Examination Subject Overview! This subject differs from others in two important ways. First, and most obviously, preparing for the bar exam is not in itself preparing for any particular legal career. Taking and passing the bar exam is not an end in itself, and no one attends law school just to pass the bar exam.

Nevertheless, all law students planning to practice law in Texas must take and pass the Texas Bar Examination. In this respect, the Texas Bar Examination is a gateway through which all the specific career pathways must pass, so all Texas law students should pay at least some attention to the subjects tested on the Texas Bar Examination when planning their law school curricula.

You therefore should take into account the information provided here and elsewhere concerning curriculum planning and the Texas Bar Examination and integrate that information with the recommendations provided for the particular career pathway in which you have an interest.

But this pathway also differs from the others in a second respect. You will not find the most detailed and specific information about course selection and the bar exam here on these public pages.

Instead, STCL Houston students will need to log in to their STANLEY accounts and go to: Students → Bar Exam → Supplemental Texas Bar Examination Information. There you will find detailed information concerning the following subjects:

How Much Should Bar Preparation Influence Law School Course Selection?

  • For All Law Students
  • Career Objectives
  • At-Risk Students

Course Planning Considerations

  • South Texas College of Law Courses Related to the Texas Bar Exam
  • The Most Helpful Law School Courses for the Texas Bar Exam
  • Specific Course Suggestions

Studying for the Texas Bar Exam

  • The South Texas College of Law Bar Preview Course
  • The South Texas College of Law Supplemental Bar Review Program
  • Commercial Bar Review Courses

With some planning, diligence, and confidence in your abilities, you can pass the bar exam! The next section describes the format and content of the Texas Bar Exam.

What To Expect on the Texas Bar Examination

A. Overview

The Texas Bar Examination is administered twice annually over three days in February and in July. The Board of Law Examiners (BLE) prepares and supervises the grading of the Texas Bar Examination. The BLE is an agency of the Supreme Court of Texas and has nine members who are appointed biennially by the Supreme Court. Each member must be an attorney of at least thirty-five years of age with a minimum of ten years of experience in the practice of law. The BLE’s rules are adopted and promulgated by the Supreme Court of Texas.

The exam is administered over three days and has four parts. The highest possible scaled score over these four parts is 1000, and a student must have a 675 or higher scaled score in order to pass. The relative weights of the four parts are as follows:

  • Day One:
    • Procedure & Evidence – 100 points (10%)
    • Multistate Performance Test – 100 points (10%)
  • Day Two: Multistate Bar Examination – 400 points (40%)
  • Day Three: Texas Essays – 400 points (40%)

The BLE instructs that examinees must be in their assigned seats at 8:30 a.m. for each morning session and at 1:30 p.m. for each afternoon session. The actual timed testing session will begin immediately after the conclusion of the instructions.

The BLE will grant no additional time to anyone arriving late; and, once instructions begin, examinees are expected to remain seated and quiet. Therefore, we very strongly recommend that you arrive at the exam site early enough to take care of any needs you may have and so you can enter the testing room and be present and relaxed when instructions and testing actually begin.

The testing schedule for each day is as follows:

Tuesday MPT & P&E
A.M. Session: Two 90-minute exams (no break between these exams)
Lunch Period: Not applicable
P.M. Session: Not applicable

Wednesday MBE
A.M. Session: Three hours of testing
Lunch Period: Approx. 12:30–1:30
P.M. Session: Three hours of testing

Thursday Texas Essays
A.M. Session: Three hours of testing
Lunch Period: Approx. 12:30–1:30
P.M. Session: Three hours of testing

B. Day One – Procedure & Evidence and Multistate Performance Test (200 points – 20%)

The first day of the Texas Bar Exam consists of two very different kinds of tests—the Texas Procedure and Evidence test and the Multistate Performance test. The actual testing time is three hours, ninety minutes for each part, but you should expect the testing day to take about four hours, including time for proctoring instructions and exam collection.

  1. Texas Procedure and Evidence: 100 points – 10% of score (90 minutes)
    1. Civil Procedure and Evidence: 20 short-answer questions
    2. Criminal Procedure and Evidence: 20 short-answer questions

You will receive two booklets in which to write your answers, one for civil procedure and evidence, and another for criminal procedure and evidence. Each part of the examination consists of a series of short-answer questions, and you must limit your answers to five lines for each question. The questions are based on a series of scenarios that roughly track the progress of a civil or criminal court proceeding. They tend to call for very specific and conclusory answers requiring very little detailed legal analysis—hence, the five-line limit.

The Texas BLE website contains more information about the Civil Procedure and Evidence portion of the Texas Bar Examination, including copies of past examination questions and comments: http://www.ble.state.tx.us/

  1. The Multistate Performance Test (MPT): 100 points – 10% of score (90 minutes)

The MPT is intended to test your ability to use basic lawyering skills to complete a task that a beginning lawyer should be able to accomplish. Each MPT question will include a “File” and a “Library.” The File consists of a memorandum from a supervising attorney providing the specific assignment you are to complete; it also includes the source documents containing the facts relating to the problem. Those source documents might include transcripts of interviews, depositions, hearings, or trials; pleadings; correspondence; client documents; contracts; newspaper articles; medical records; police reports; or lawyer’s notes.

The facts are sometimes ambiguous, incomplete, or even conflicting. You also may receive irrelevant as well as relevant facts. The Library may contain cases, statutes, regulations, or rules, some of which may not be relevant to the assigned lawyering task. You are expected to identify from the Library the legal principles necessary to analyze the problem and perform the assigned task. The MPT does not test your knowledge of the substantive law; the Library materials provide sufficient substantive information to complete the task.

Among the lawyering tasks you might be called upon to perform are any of the following: a legal memorandum to a supervising attorney, a letter to a client, a persuasive memorandum or brief, a statement of facts, a contract provision, a will, a counseling plan, a proposal for settlement or agreement, a discovery plan, a witness examination plan, or a closing argument.

You can obtain more information about the MPT, including samples of past MPT questions, from the NCBE website: http://www.ncbex.org/about-ncbe-exams/mpt/

C. Day Two – Multistate Bar Examination (MBE) (400 points – 40%)

The second day of the bar exam comprises the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE). The MBE consists of 200 multiple-choice questions, 175 of which are scored. The 25 unscored questions are field-test items and are indistinguishable from the scored items, so you should answer all 200 questions.

The actual testing time is six hours (three hours in the morning and three hours in the afternoon, with a lunch break in between), but you should expect the exam to take about eight or nine hours, including the time for the proctor’s instructions and for exam collection.

You will receive 100 questions during the three-hour morning session and 100 questions during the three-hour afternoon session. Thus, examinees will have an average of 1.8 minutes (or 1 minute, 48 seconds) to answer each question.

The MBE is intended to assess the extent to which you are able to apply fundamental legal principles and reasoning to evaluate the legal issue presented in the given fact patterns. Each MBE question is followed by four possible answers. You are instructed to choose the best answer from the four stated alternatives.

The MBE questions are designed to be answered according to generally accepted legal principles, unless a particular question directs otherwise. You should mark only one answer for each question, because multiple answers are scored as incorrect. Moreover, scores are based on the number of questions answered correctly, so it is advantageous to answer every question.

The subjects tested and number of scored questions for each topic are as follows:

  • Civil Procedure – 25 questions
  • Constitutional Law – 25 questions
  • Contracts – 25 questions
  • Criminal Law and Criminal Procedure
    • Criminal Law – 12-13 questions
    • Criminal Procedure – 12-13 questions
  • Evidence – 25 questions
  • Property – 25 questions
  • Torts – 25 questions

The MBE questions are not segregated by subject, nor do the questions explicitly indicate their subject matter.

You can obtain more information about the MBE, including an MBE subject matter outline and sample MBE questions, from the NCBE website: http://www.ncbex.org/about-ncbe-exams/mbe/

D. Day Three – Texas Essays (400 points – 40%)

The third day of the Texas Bar Examination consists of twelve essay questions. You will receive six questions during the three-hour morning session and another six essay questions during the three-hour afternoon session. There is a lunch break between the morning and afternoon sessions.

On average, you will have thirty minutes to write your answer to each essay question. The total actual testing time is six hours, but you should expect the exam to take about nine hours, including the time for proctor instructions and exam collection.

The Texas essay questions are intended to test your knowledge of Texas substantive law. The Texas essays resemble law school essay examination questions, although they tend to be less factually rich than the typical law school exam question and less open to multiple plausible answers. Nevertheless, as on a typical law school exam, you will be expected to perform the following tasks:

  1. Identify the legal issue(s): You should express in a lawyerly fashion the legal problems posed by the facts presented.
  2. State the pertinent legal rule(s): You should explicitly describe the legal rule or rules that provide the framework for resolving each issue presented.
  3. Apply the law: You must explain how the stated principles of Texas law apply to the specific facts presented in the scenario provided for you.
  4. Reach a conclusion: You should answer each specific question by describing how a court would likely resolve the issue or how you would advise a client, even if you must answer in provisional or probabilistic terms.

The subjects tested on the Texas essays and the number of questions for each are as follows:

  • Business Associations – 2 essay questions
  • Consumer Law – 1 essay question
  • Family Law (including Marital Property) – 2 essay questions
  • Texas Real Property (including Oil & Gas) – 2 essay questions
  • Trusts and Guardianship – 1 essay question
  • Uniform Commercial Code – 2 essay questions
  • Wills & Estates – 2 essay questions

Bankruptcy and Federal Income Tax are “crossover” topics, by which the BLE means that you could expect to find a bankruptcy or federal income tax issue embedded in one of the questions on the twelve tested subjects. Although the essays are not identified by subject area, the related questions—business associations, family law, real property, UCC, and wills and estates—appear together; the consumer law and trusts and guardianship questions also appear together.

The Texas BLE website provides more information about the Texas essays, including examples of past questions and selected answers to them: http://www.ble.state.tx.us/

About the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam

Rule V of the Rules of the Supreme Court of Texas Governing Admission to the Bar of Texas provides as follows:

No Applicant for admission to the Texas Bar shall be issued a license to practice law in Texas until such person has furnished to the Board evidence that (s)he has passed the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE) with a scaled score of 85.

The Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE) is a sixty-question, two-hour, multiple-choice examination administered three times each year—in March, August, and November. The test consists of fifty scored questions and ten field-test questions that are not scored. The field-test questions are indistinguishable from the scored questions, so examinees should answer all of the questions presented on the test. The MPRE is required for bar applicants in all but two states—Maryland and Wisconsin.

The National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) drafts the MPRE. The exam is designed to measure the examinee’s knowledge and understanding of established legal standards governing an attorney’s professional conduct, not to assess an individual’s personal ethical values. Questions dealing with the disciplinary rules of professional conduct will be governed by the American Bar Association (ABA) Model Rules of Professional Conduct. Test questions covering judicial ethics apply the current ABA Model Code of Judicial Conduct.

The remaining questions, outside the disciplinary context, are designed to measure an understanding of the generally accepted rules, principles, and common law regulating the legal profession in the United States. On these questions, the correct answer will be governed by the view reflected in a majority of cases, statutes, or regulations on the subject.

To the extent that Texas law varies from the model rules, it is not covered by the examination. The NCBE publishes an MPRE Subject Matter Outline describing the MPRE’s scope of coverage and the approximate percentage of items that are included in each major area.

Each of the MPRE questions describes a factual scenario along with a specific question and four possible answers. The MPRE directs examinees to choose the best answer from the four stated options. The examinee should mark only one answer for each question, because multiple answers are scored as incorrect. Since scores are based on the number of questions answered correctly, it is advisable for test-takers to answer every question.

If a question seems too difficult, the NCBE recommends that you go on to the next question and come back to the skipped question later. The NCBE also publishes the MPRE Sample Test Questions for examples of test questions similar to those on the MPRE. You can obtain more information about the MPRE on the NCBE website:
http://www.ncbex.org/about-ncbe-exams/mpre/

South Texas College of Law has only preliminary data on student performance on the MPRE, but that data indicates that students who have completed the required law school Professional Responsibility course prior to taking the MPRE perform better on the test than those who take the MPRE while contemporaneously enrolled in the Professional Responsibility course.

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