Subject Overview

Texas Bar Examination Subject Overview

Introduction

Welcome to the Texas Bar Examination Pathway!  This Pathway differs from other Pathways in that 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 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.

With some planning, diligence, and confidence in your abilities, you can pass the bar exam! You already are off to a great start as a South Texas College of Law Houston student, because the law school provides many resources to assist you study for the bar exam.

Curriculum.  The South Texas College of Law Houston curriculum is structured to allow every student to take courses corresponding with the subjects tested on the Texas Bar Examination.  Moreover, the content of those courses is designed to teach the knowledge and skills both to qualify you for the practice of law in Texas and to get you ready to take the bar exam.

Bar PreView.  You may take the Bar PreView course in your last semester of enrollment.  This course, required for some students but open to all, allows you to lengthen your time preparing for the bar exam by reviewing some of the material tested on the bar exam and by giving you an opportunity to practice the skills essential for success on that exam.

BARBRI Discount.  BARBRI is the leading provider of bar exam preparation courses in the nation, and the law school has an arrangement with BARBRI allowing all graduates to take the BARBRI bar prep course at a substantially discounted price.

Bar Review Workshops.  After you graduate and while you are studying for the bar exam, the law school’s Office of Academic Success and Professional Achievement offers series of workshops that parallel and support your bar exam preparation by teaching test-taking skills and strategies specific to the bar exam and by providing many opportunities to practice those skills and to receive feedback on your work.

The next section describes the format and content of the Texas Bar Exam effective with its February 2021 administration.

What To Expect on the Texas Bar Examination

A. Overview

Effective with the February 2021 administration, the Texas Supreme Court has adopted as the Texas Bar Examination the Uniform Bar Examination (UBE) produced by the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE).  Each year, the UBE is administered during the last Tuesday and Wednesday in February and the last Tuesday and Wednesday in July.

The UBE has three parts: (1) the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE), (2) the Multistate Essay Examination (MEE), and (3) the Multistate Performance Test (MPT).  The highest possible scaled score over these three parts is 400, and a test-taker must achieve a scaled score of 270 or higher to pass in Texas.  The relative weights of the three parts of the UBE are as follows:

The Texas Board of Law Examiners (BLE) supervises the administration and grading of the Texas bar examination.  The BLE instructs examinees to be in their assigned seats by 8:30 a.m. for each morning session and by 1:30 p.m. for each afternoon session. The actual timed testing session begins immediately after the conclusion of the instructions. The BLE will not grant additional time to anyone arriving late, and once instructions begin, examinees are expected to remain seated and quiet. We therefore very strongly recommend that you plan to arrive at the examination site early enough to take care of any needs you may have and can enter the testing room and be present when instructions and testing begin.

The testing schedule for each day is as follows:

B. Tuesday – Multistate Essay Exam and Multistate Performance Test

The first day of the Texas Bar Exam consists of two different kinds of test – the Multistate Essay Examination and the Multistate Performance Test.  The total testing time for these two parts is six hours, three hours in the morning session and three hours in the afternoon session; but you should expect the testing day to take about seven hours, including time for proctoring instructions and exam collection.

1. Multistate Essay Examination: 3 Hours, 6 Essay Questions – 30% of score

The MEE consists of six 30-minute essay questions. The subjects that may be covered include Business Associations (including Agency and Partnership, Corporations, and Limited Liability Companies), Civil Procedure, Conflict of Laws, Constitutional Law, Contracts (including Article 2 [Sales] of the Uniform Commercial Code), Criminal Law and Procedure, Evidence, Family Law, Real Property, Torts, Trusts and Estates (including Decedents’ Estates, Trusts, and Future Interests), and Article 9 (Secured Transactions) of the Uniform Commercial Code.  The specific subjects covered vary from exam to exam, and some questions may include issues in more than one area of law.  The NCBE advises examinees that they should analyze MEE questions using generally accepted legal principles rather than local statutory or case law.

The NCBE’s instructions for answering MEE questions state that test-takers should demonstrate their ability to reason and analyze. Successful essay answers must show an understanding of the facts (so it is important to read questions carefully), a recognition of the issues presented by the facts, knowledge of the applicable legal principles, and the reasoning leading to a conclusion.  Identifying the legal issues raised in the facts, adducing the law relevant to those issues, and showing how that law applies to the facts of the problem are more important than the conclusions you reach.  The NCBE emphasizes that, while clarity and concision are important, answers should be complete.  It also advises that essay writers not volunteer irrelevant or immaterial information.

You can obtain more information about the MEE, including outlines of the tested subject matter for each MEE subject and samples of past MEE questions, from the NCBE website:  http://www.ncbex.org/exams/mee/preparing/

2. The Multistate Performance Test (MPT): 3 Hours, 2 Items – 20% of score

The MPT consists of two 90-minute problems.  It is intended to test your ability to use basic lawyering skills to complete a task that a beginning lawyer should be able to accomplish. 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.

Each MPT problem 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 prior knowledge of the substantive law.  Instead, the Library materials provide sufficient substantive information to complete the task.

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

C. Wednesday – Multistate Bar Examination (MBE): 6 Hours, 200 Multiple-Choice Questions – 50% of score

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 175 scored questions include 25 questions from each of the following seven subject areas:  Civil Procedure, Constitutional Law, Contracts, Criminal Law and Criminal Procedure, Evidence, Real Property, and Torts.  The 25 unscored questions are field-test items and are indistinguishable from the scored items, so you should answer all 200 questions.

The MBE is administered over a morning and an afternoon testing session.  The actual testing time is 6 hours (3 hours in the morning and 3 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 3-hour morning session and 100 questions during the 3-hour afternoon session.  Thus, examinees 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.  The NCBE instructs examinees to choose the best answer from the four stated alternatives.  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 – there is no deduction for wrong answers – so you are advised to answer every question.

The MBE does not segregate questions 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/exams/mbe/preparing/

D. The Texas Law Component

Rules 2(a)(8) and 5 of the Rules Governing Admission to the Bar of Texas requires anyone passing the UBE given in Texas in or after February 2021 to satisfy the Texas Law Component before being admitted to practice in Texas.  An applicant for admission will satisfy that requirement by taking the Texas Law Course (TLC).  The TLC consists of a series of online video lectures given by experienced Texas lawyers.  Applicants may complete the TLC up to one year before taking a bar exam and up to two years after passing a bar exam in Texas.

Applicants complete the TLC by viewing a series of online lectures and answering several “hurdle questions” at the end of each segment.  The purpose of the hurdle questions is to assess whether the applicant has a minimal level of comprehension of the material covered in that segment. As the Texas Board of Law Examiners describes them, the hurdle questions are not intended to be tricky, difficult, or hard.  It advises that applicants can successfully answer the hurdle questions if they pay careful attention to the lectures and take notes as they view them. An applicant must correctly answer most of the hurdle questions for each segment before being permitted to proceed to the next segment.  The total length of the video presentations is approximately 12 hours.

You will take the TLC through the State Bar of Texas – TexasBarCLE. There is no charge for the course, but you must register as a user of TexasBarCLE before you can register for the TLC.  You can get more information about the TLC and how to register for it from the Texas Board of Law Examiners FAQ page:  https://ble.texas.gov/faq

Transferability of Uniform Bar Examination Scores

The Texas Supreme Court adopted the UBE as the assessment of competency to practice law in Texas in part because UBE scores are transferable.  Jurisdictions that have adopted the UBE will accept transferred scores that meet their own passing standards regardless of whether the test-taker’s score meets the passing standard in the testing jurisdiction.  A law school graduate who takes the UBE may report his or her UBE score to any other UBE jurisdiction, and that jurisdiction will honor it.  Provided the examinee’s UBE score is at or above that jurisdiction’s cut score, the examinee can be admitted to practice in that jurisdiction.  Passing scores in UBE jurisdictions range from 260 to 280.

The transferability of UBE scores makes it possible for a Texas law school graduate to take and pass the Texas Bar Examination and be admitted to practice both in Texas and in any other UBE jurisdiction where his or her UBE score satisfies that state’s passing score.  Similarly, a Texas law school graduate who takes the Texas Bar Examination and receives a score below the 270 required in Texas may still be admitted to practice in another UBE jurisdiction having a lower passing score.  Of course, anyone seeking to be admitted to practice law in any jurisdiction must meet the character and fitness requirements of that jurisdiction.

The UBE thus allows lawyers to be admitted to practice in multiple states without spending the time and money needed to take multiple bar exams. This can be advantageous for a new law school graduate who wishes to look for employment in more than one state, including both Texans who wish to be admitted in other states and non-Texans who wish to practice in Texas.  The UBE is also beneficial for lawyers whose law practice involves matters in more than one state, an increasingly common feature of modern law practice.  Oil and gas lawyers, for example, often represent clients with assets located in multiple oil- and gas-producing states; and Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Colorado, and North Dakota are all UBE states.

Because of the flexibility the UBE affords, some students may wish to consider options the UBE provides.  Depending upon their personal circumstances, some students may find it advantageous to take the UBE and apply for admission to practice in other states either in lieu of or in addition to Texas, while others may find it better for them to take the UBE in another state and seek admission there, in Texas, or both.  The NCBE website shows the jurisdictions that have adopted the UBE and their passing scores. See http://www.ncbex.org/exams/ube/score-portability/minimum-scores/

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 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 MPRE question 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/exams/mpt/preparing

South Texas has only preliminary data on student performance on the MPRE, but that data suggests 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 without first taking the Professional Responsibility course and those who take the MPRE while contemporaneously enrolled in the Professional Responsibility course.

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