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Admission by Examination

Information about the bar exam, and the process of admission to the Massachusetts bar by examination.

Table of Contents

The Bar Admissions Process

Timeline for Bar Admissions

NOTE: The timeframes below are estimates and are subject to change. Specific dates and deadlines will be communicated via the BBE's website and Facebook page leading up to each exam.

July Bar Exam     Mid-March: Petition for Admission Opens     Early May: Petition for Admission Filing Deadline     Last Tuesday and Wednesday of July: Bar Exam     Late October: Results Released     November: Formal Admission Ceremonies     May-November: The C&F review process begins when the petition is filed. Examinees with unresolved C&F concerns requiring an interview before the Board are notified in the results email.


The Character and Fitness process begins once you file your petition. If there are concerns, the Board may contact you any time between when you file your petition and when results are released. If the Board determines that an interview is required, you would be notified of this when results are released.

Petitioners for Admission by Examination are not required to complete NCBE's Character Report.

Examinees will receive important information via email leading up to the bar exam. Please be sure to read these emails carefully and in their entirety. Failure to follow instructions or meet deadlines listed in these emails may preclude you from sitting for the exam. 

Check your spam folder often. School-issued emails tend to have stricter spam filters, so it is recommended that you use a personal (Gmail, Yahoo, etc.) email address.

There are several requirements that examinees must complete between when the petition is filed and the exam, including forms that must be electronically signed and submitted, and registering your computer if you are typing the exam. As a result, examinees are not sent a specific confirmation notice that they are eligible to sit for the exam after filing their petition. Examinees will receive an email appx. 1-2 weeks before the exam with their section assignment, which they must print and bring to the exam.

Process

The process to be admitted to the Massachusetts bar is shared between the SJC Clerk's Office for the County of Suffolk and the Board of Bar Examiners.

  1. A Petition for Admission is initially filed with the Clerk's Office.
  2. The Clerk's Office reviews that Petition to ensure that all filing requirements have been met (see SJC Rule 3:01, Section 1).
  3. If the filing requirements are met, that filing is accepted, docketed, and referred to the Board of Bar Examiners.
  4. The Board of Bar Examiners conducts an evaluations the character, acquirements and qualifications of each petitioner to determine whether they are eligible for admission to the bar. This evaluation includes, but is not limited to, a character and fitness investigation, the administration of the bar exam, and the Massachusetts Law Component.
  5. If a petitioner meets these eligibility requirements, the Board of Bar Examiners reports to the Clerk of the Supreme Judicial Court for the County of Suffolk that they are qualified for admission (see SJC Rule 3:01, Section 5).
  6. The Clerk's Office then oversees the admissions process, "either (a) in open court upon subscription to the attorney's oaths, at such times and places as the Supreme Judicial Court shall appoint, or (b) by mail in accordance with procedures established by the Supreme Judicial Court" (SJC Rule 3:01, Section 5).
  7. Those who are admitted to the bar must then register with the Board of Bar Overseers.

Where to Direct Inquiries:

SJC Clerk's Office Board of Bar Examiners
(617) 557-1050
sjc.mass.bar.admission@jud.state.ma.us
(617) 482-4466
info@bbe.state.ma.us
Filing Requirements - MPRE Score, Letters of Recommendation, Law School Certificate, etc. Bar Exam - Time and place, prohibited items, seating assignment (Boston/Springfield), etc.
E-File/Odyssey Guide and File  Massachusetts Law Component
Resolving a filing that has been rejected Testing Accommodations
Fees - Receipt, Affidavit of Indigency, etc. Character and Fitness
Impounding a petition ExamSoft registration
Amending/Updating a Petition, including change of address  

Uniform Bar Exam (UBE) Information

About the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE) Components

Massachusetts has administered the UBE since July 2018.  The UBE is a two-day exam consisting of Written portions - the Multistate Performance Test (MPT) and the Multistate Essay Exam (MEE) on Tuesday, day 1, and the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE) on Wednesday, day 2. 

Multistate Performance Test (MPT) Multistate Essay Exam (MEE) Multistate Bar Examination (MBE)
20% of Overall Score 30% of Overall Score 50% of Overall Score
One three-hour test session to respond to two items One three-hour test session to respond to six questions Two three-hour test sessions to respond to 200 multiple-choice questions
The MPT is designed to test an examinee’s ability to use fundamental lawyering skills in a realistic situation and complete a task that a beginning lawyer should be able to accomplish. The MPT is not a test of substantive knowledge. Rather, it is designed to evaluate certain fundamental skills lawyers are expected to demonstrate regardless of the area of law in which the skills are applied. The purpose of the MEE is to test the examinee’s ability to (1) identify legal issues raised by a hypothetical factual situation; (2) separate material which is relevant from that which is not; (3) present a reasoned analysis of the relevant issues in a clear, concise, and well-organized composition; and (4) demonstrate an understanding of the fundamental legal principles relevant to the probable solution of the issues raised by the factual situation. The primary distinction between the MEE and the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE) is that the MEE requires the examinee to demonstrate an ability to communicate effectively in writing. 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.

 

For more information about the UBE, please see the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE).

Scoring

The UBE is a uniformly administered, graded, and scored bar exam that results in a portable score that may be transferred by examinees to seek bar admission in other UBE jurisdictions.  In order to ensure consistency in grading across UBE jurisdictions, Massachusetts graders follow grading procedures and standards set by the National Conference of Bar Examiners.

MEE and MPT scores reflect the examinee's ability to apply the law to the relevant facts in an organized and coherent manner, demonstrating the examinee's understanding of the legal principles raised by the facts and issues identified, and effectively communicating his or her analysis in writing.

All bar exam scoring is completed anonymously, with only randomly assigned seat numbers as the sole identifier.

The MBE Score

Scores for this portion of the bar examination are based on the number of multiple choice questions answered correctly by an examinee.  The resulting “raw” scores are adjusted statistically by the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) to account for variations in the difficulty levels of the exam over time. The adjusted score is referred to as the Scaled MBE Score and is reported to one decimal point.

The MPT and MEE Scores

Scores for these portions of the bar examination are determined on the basis of a possible score of zero to seven (0-7) on each question.  The sum of the points received for each question comprises an examinee’s Raw Score.  To account for differences in question difficulty and grader leniency across examinations over time, the Raw Essay Score is converted, or “scaled,” to a distribution that has the same mean and standard deviation as the Scaled MBE Scores for all Massachusetts examinees. The resulting score, referred to as the Scaled Written Score, is rounded and reported to two decimal places.

Initial Grading

If, after the initial grading, an examinee achieves a Total Scaled Score of 270 or greater, the examinee passes the exam.

If, after the initial grading, the examinee receives a Total Scaled Score of 264 or lower, the examinee fails the exam.

If, after initial grading, an examinee’s Total Scaled Score is greater than 264 but less than 270, each of that examinee’s MEE and MPT answers are graded again by a different grader (“Re-Read”).

Re-Read

For those examinees whose essay answers were Re-Read, the final score for each essay question will be the average number of points assigned by the two gradings, rounded to 1 decimal place.  MPT and MEE exams are not subject to any further readings.  Similar to the initial scoring, the sum of the averaged points received for each MPT and MEE question is the examinee’s Raw Essay Score.

The Raw Essay Score is then converted to a Final Scaled Score using the same procedures as used before re-reading.  It is rounded and reported to two decimal places.

The Final Total Scaled Score:  To calculate an examinee’s Total Scaled Score, the scaled MBE at 50% weight, scaled MPT score at 20% weight, and the scaled MEE score at 30% weight are summed together and then rounded to the nearest whole number (i.e., any score with a decimal portion < .50 is rounded downwards while any score with a decimal portion .50 or above is rounded upward).  For example, a score of 269.49 is rounded to 269 while a score of 269.50 rounds up to 270.  

A Final Total Scaled Score of 270 or greater is required to pass the Massachusetts Bar Examination.

Portability

As of 2022, 41 jurisdictions administer the UBE. Examinees sitting for the bar exam in Massachusetts who earn a qualifying score may be able to transfer that score to another jurisdiction without having to repeat the bar exam.

Likewise, someone who earned a UBE score of 270 or greater in one of these 41 jurisdictions within the last 36 months may be eligible to transfer that score to Massachusetts and gain admission without having to repeat the bar exam. 

Score transfer typically does involve other eligibility requirements, including a qualifying MPRE score and meeting Character and Fitness standards. Please refer to the policies of the jurisdiction where you intend to transfer for more information.

For more information about transferring a score, please see the NCBE: UBE Score Portability.

Additional Resources for Uniform Bar Exam (UBE) Information

About the Bar Exam in Massachusetts

The bar exam is administered twice each year on the last Wednesday and immediately preceding Tuesday of each February and July.

Future Exams Test Dates

February 2023

February 21-22, 2023
July 2023 July 25-26, 2023
February 2024 February 27-28, 2024
July 2024 July 30-31, 2024

 

The bar exam is currently held in Boston and Springfield, MA.  Exact locations and times are subject to change, so it is important for petitioners to be aware of the information pertinent to the current exam.

Details will be available on the BBE Home Page prior to the Petition for Admission by Examination filing period.  The Petition must be filed at least 75 days prior to the exam you wish to take.

Typing the Bar Exam

Examinees may either type or handwrite their MEE and MPT responses. Examinees who wish to type must submit the Laptop Registration and Compliance Form with their Petition. See Using your laptop at the bar exam for more information.

Applicant Portal

The Applicant Portal is used by the Board of Bar Examiners to communicate with Petitioners, securely share documents, and administer the MLC. Petitioners will receive an email from the Applicant Portal after their case is referred to the BBE containing their username and a temporary password. The Applicant Portal can be found here.

Bar Exam Lodging

When possible, the Board of Bar Examiners partners with area hotels to offer rooms at a reduced group rate. This is subject to availability and available on a first-come, first-serve basis. Room block information will be updated here when available: Bar Exam Lodging

More Information

FAQs Regarding the Bar Exam in Massachusetts

Filing Instructions:

    Guide to Filing a Petition for Admission by Examination (First-Time)

    Guide to Filing a Petition for Admission by Re-Examination

Note: You are considered a first-time examinee if you have never filed a Petition for Admission to the Massachusetts bar. If you have sat for the bar in another jurisdiction, but have never petitioned in Massachusetts, you should refer to the first-time information.

After the Bar Exam

Massachusetts Law Component (MLC)

The MLC is a 50-question multiple-choice exam on key distinctions and essential highlights of Massachusetts law and procedure covering ten areas of law. Examinees receive access to the MLC exam and outlines via the Applicant Portal leading up to the bar exam, however it is strongly recommended that examinees complete the MLC after the bar exam.

Exam Administration MLC Deadline
February Bar Exam March 31
July Bar Exam September 30


Failure to complete the MLC by the dates above may result in a delay in bar admission. 

Results

Examinees are notified of their bar exam results via email. Unsuccessful examinees are subsequently sent a detailed score report via postal mail.

Results from a February exam are typically released in late April. Results from a July exam are typically released in late October. Please note these timelines are approximate and are subject to change. A specific release date will be posted each exam cycle approximately one week in advance.

Statistics from the most recent bar exam results can be found here.

Copies of Essays

If a passing score on the bar exam is not achieved, you may request copies of your essay answers by mailing a written request, including your examination seat # as indicated in the results email,  to:

Board of Bar Examiners
John Adams Courthouse
One Pemberton Square, Suite 5-140
Boston, MA 02108

Your request must be postmarked by 3 weeks after the date of results being released, and must include a bank check or money order made payable to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (not to the Board of Bar Examiners) in the amount of $25.  Personal checks are NOT accepted.  All Essays will be delivered electronically to the email address of record with your bar petition.

Copies of the MBE are unavailable.

Late requests will not be fulfilled NO EXCEPTIONS.

Pass List

As per SJC Rule 3:01 Section 4, 

Before the Board of Bar Examiners reports to the Court on the character, acquirements, and qualifications of a petitioner for admission, the Board of Bar Examiners shall publish the names of those petitioners who passed the written law examination in Massachusetts or a concurrent written exam in another Uniform Bar Examination jurisdiction, or transferred a qualifying Uniform Bar Examination score earned previously in another jurisdiction (under Rule 3:01, § 3) and who, if no objection is made, may be recommended to the Supreme Judicial Court for admission. 

Following the release of results, the names of those who have passed the bar exam will be posted to the Massachusetts Bar Exam Pass List page.

Forms and Additional Information

Please review the Guides to Filing for instructions on how to file your petition.

Forms applicable to the bar exam can be found below.

Additional Resources for Forms and Additional Information

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