If you’re deciding whether to take the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE) or the California Bar Exam, then you’ve come to the right place.
First, do you have to live and work in California? If so, there’s no need to read any further: you need to take the California Bar Exam. Passing the exam is the only way to become licensed in California.
On the other hand, if you’re more open to where you settle down, then you should also consider taking the UBE. The UBE makes it extremely easy to transfer your score to different states around the country.
But there are also important substantive differences between the two exams:
What’s on the UBE?
The UBE is a two-day exam consisting of two hundred multiple choice questions (the Multistate Bar Examination or “MBE”), six thirty-minute subject essays (the Multistate Essay Examination or “MEE”), and two one-and-a-half hour essays that test lawyering skills (the Multistate Performance Test or “MPT”).
The multiple choice questions count for 50% of the total score and test the areas of Civil Procedure, Constitutional Law, Contracts, Criminal Law and Procedure, Evidence, Real Property, and Torts. The subject essays count for 30% of the total score and pull questions from all of these areas plus Business Associations (Agency and Partnership; Corporations and Limited Liability Companies), Conflict of Laws, Family Law, Trusts and Estates, and Secured Transactions. The performance tests that measure lawyering skills count for 20% of the total score and ask examinees to write memos, briefs, contracts, etc. based on a reading of various facts, cases, statutes, and other documents.
What’s on the California Bar Exam?
The California Bar Exam is a three-day exam consisting of the MBE (i.e. the same two hundred multiple choice questions that are on the UBE), six one-hour essays, and two three-hour performance tests. Note: this is all subject to change starting with the July 2017 exam.
California tests the same multiple choice questions that are on the UBE, but they only count for 35% of the total score. The essays count for 39% of the total score and test all of the subjects appearing on the multiple choice questions plus Business Associations (Agency and Partnership; Corporations and Limited Liability Companies), California Civil Procedure, Community Property, California Evidence, Professional Responsibility, Remedies, Trusts, and Wills. California’s performance tests use the same format as the UBE’s but California’s are twice as long and count for 26% of the total score.
What’s the Difference Between the UBE and the California Bar Exam?
There are two essential differences between the two exams:
First, the UBE places equal emphasis on the multiple choice questions and the writing portion, while the California Bar Exam places relatively greater weight on the written component: the multiple choice questions account for 50% of the score on the UBE and 35% of the score in California. Moreover, the California exam consists of two full-days of writing, while the UBE only has one. Students who find that they are skilled at multiple choice tests may opt for the UBE over the California exam.
Second, the UBE prioritizes breadth of knowledge over depth of knowledge, while California places relatively greater emphasis on in depth legal analysis. The UBE’s subject essays are only thirty minutes long, half the time allotted to each California subject essay. California subject essays tend to ask for the general rules, the exceptions, and the exceptions to the exceptions, but the UBE doesn’t have time to ask for much more than the basic rules. Students who are more big picture-oriented may prefer the UBE since they will be able to quickly apply the basic rules, while more detail-oriented students may prefer the California Bar Exam, which provides more time to argue the facts and apply the nuances of the law.
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Did you find this post helpful? Check out some other great articles:
- Three Reasons Why You Should Support the MBE
- Steps to Making Your Own Bar Exam Schedule
- Are You Wasting Time Studying for the Bar Exam
- What are You Waiting For? It’s Time to Study for the Bar Exam
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