Arkansas Bar Exam

Written by: Nik Ventouris

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Arkansas Bar Exam

Passing the Arkansas bar exam is an essential part of being admitted into the state’s bar and beginning a successful career practicing law.

In this guide, we’ll break down everything you need to get started, including:

  • The bar exam’s eligibility criteria, content, and structure
  • The steps you can take in order to give yourself the best chance of passing on your first attempt
  • The additional requirements you’ll need to satisfy in order to become admitted into the state’s bar

We’ll also briefly look at the process of getting admitted through Admission on Motion.

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Arkansas Bar Exam Overview

The Arkansas Bar Exam is overseen by the State Board of Law Examiners, which consists of 11 members who serve 6-year terms. These members are selected from various congressional districts across Arkansas.

If you are interested in sitting the bar exam in Arkansas, you should know that it is held biannually, typically in February and July. The specific dates and locations are subject to change and are made available prior to the examination, so make sure to stay updated through the Arkansas Judiciary website.

When it comes to the registration, you will have to pay an application fee of $1,000 to the Clerk of the Supreme Court of Arkansas.

This payment should be made via a money order or cashier’s check that remains valid for at least six months from the date it is issued — this makes sure it will cover the duration of your application processing period.

Keep in mind that in order to be eligible for the AR bar exam, you will need to satisfy the criteria outlined in Rule XI: Requirements for Taking Examination, as amended by the Arkansas Supreme Court:

  1. Legal Status in the United States: To sit for the Arkansas Bar Exam, you must either be a U.S. citizen, a lawfully admitted permanent resident, or an alien with authorization to work or study in the U.S.
  2. Education Requirements: You are required to hold a Juris Doctorate (J.D.) degree from a law school that is accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA). This educational requirement ensures that all candidates have a foundational level of legal knowledge and training.
  3. Character and Emotional Stability: As part of the application process for the Arkansas bar exam, you’re required to provide Character and Fitness Reference Forms, which must be sent to the Board of Law Examiners directly from your references. These forms serve to corroborate your background and character from multiple perspectives.

Note: For additional testing accommodations or extra time due to a disability, you can reach out to the Arkansas State Board of Law Examiners.

Arkansas Exam Structure

Since 2020, the state of Arkansas has adopted the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE), which adheres to the following structure:

Day 1:

  • Multistate Performance Test (MPT): Two 90-minute Multistate Performance Test Questions (20%)
  • Multistate Essay Examination (MEE): Six 30-minute Multistate Essay Exam questions (30%)

Day 2: 

  • Multistate Bar Examination (MBE): 200-question multiple-choice exam (50%)

The UBE exam is scored out of 400 points, 270 of which need to be answered correctly in order for a candidate to receive a passing mark.

Moreover, candidates will be required to pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE) to be eligible for the Arkansas bar.

Below, we’ve broken down the content and structure of each exam-related requirement in more detail.

Multistate Performance Test (MPT)

The MPT is made up of two 90-minute parts, and the materials for each part contain a “File” and a “Library”. 

The File consists of source documents that contain all of the facts of a specific case.

As the examinee, the assignment that you will need to complete will be described in a memorandum from a supervising attorney.

The File can also include things like transcripts of interviews, depositions, pleadings, trials, client documents, newspaper articles, police reports, and any other similar documents.

Keep in mind that irrelevant information is generally included, and facts are sometimes incomplete, ambiguous, or even conflicting.

This is meant to mirror legal practice, in which a client’s or supervising attorney’s version of events may be unreliable or entirely incomplete. In such a scenario, you will be expected to recognize when facts are inconsistent or missing in the exam and identify sources of additional facts.

The Library part contains things like cases, statutes, and regulations, some of which may also not be relevant to the task that you will be assigned. You will need to be able to extract the legal principles required to analyze the legal problem you’ll be presented with and perform the requested task.

For more information, you can have a look at the National Conference of Bar Examiners’ Instructions for Taking the MPT document.

Free summaries of MPTs from recent examinations are also offered (e.g., MPT Summaries of 2023).

Multistate Essay Exam (MEE)

The MEE consists of six 30-minute sections that can cover a variety of legal areas, including:

  • Civil Procedure
  • Business Associations (e.g., Agency and Partnership, LLCs, Corporations, etc.)
  • Conflict of Laws
  • Constitutional Law
  • Contract Law
  • Family Law
  • Criminal Law
  • Torts
  • Trust and Estates

Keep in mind that questions can often include issues in more than one area of law. This means that it’ll be important to ensure that you have a “wide” range of understanding rather than a deep focus on one or two subjects.

Note: For more information, have a look at the NCBE’s official Instructions for Taking the MEE document or check out a few official MEE questions.

Multistate Bar Exam (MBE)

The MBE is made up of 200 multiple-choice questions, which are broken down into 175 scored questions and 25 unscored questions.

The exam is broken down into two three-hour sections, with one administered in the morning and one in the afternoon, both of which contain 100 questions each.

Keep in mind that there are no scheduled breaks during either one of the sections.

All 175 scored questions on the exam are distributed evenly, with 25 questions being attributed to each of the following seven topics:

  • Constitutional Law
  • Civil Procedure
  • Contract Law
  • Real Property
  • Tort Law
  • Evidence
  • Criminal Law and Procedure

Each question on the MBE exam will have four potential answers. You should choose what you believe is the best answer — keep in mind that scores are based on the number of questions answered correctly, and points are not subtracted for answering incorrectly.

If you want to have a look at the exact format, you can have a look at the NCBE’s official MBE Sample Test Questions document.

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Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE)

The MPRE is made up of 60 multiple-choice questions (50 scored questions and 10 unscored questions) and is administered via Pearson VUE.

Like the MBE exam, each question offers four possible answers, one of which is correct.

The exam’s content is based on law that relates to the conduct and discipline of attorneys and judges and includes the American Bar Association’s (ABA) Model Rules of Professional Conduct and Model Code of Judicial Conduct, as well as important constitutional common law and generally accepted principles.

In relation to questions of professional responsibility in the context of evidentiary issues (e.g., litigation sanctions, attorney-client evidentiary privilege, etc.), the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the Federal Rules of Evidence will apply unless otherwise stated.

Note: You will have two hours to complete the MPRE exam in its entirety.

For more information, we recommend having a look at the NCBE’s Official Sample Test Questions document. A holistic Subject Matter Outline is also offered.

How to Pass the Arkansas Bar Exam

In order to give yourself the best chance of passing the Arkansas UBE exam on your first attempt, it’s important to take enough time to make sure that you are adequately prepared.

Arkansas Bar Exam Tips

Despite the infamous difficulty of Arkansas’ bar exam, passing it on your first attempt is definitely possible with the right tools and preparation techniques.

Below, we’ve broken down a few key tips that should aid you in your licensing journey:

  • Start Strong in Your First Year: This is important due to the fundamental areas of law practice that the first year of law school generally covers, such as Contract Law, Tort, and Constitutional Law
  • Leverage Academic Support: If your law school offers additional support services that are aimed at improving your preparation, we recommend utilizing these as much as possible. This can involve one-on-one tutoring, academic counseling, and mock exam programs
  • Obtain Practical Legal Experience: If possible, we recommend gaining as much practical experience as you can during law school (i.e., through summer internships, mock trials, etc.). This is because this can go a long way in cementing your legal knowledge
  • Adopt a Broad Study Approach: When studying for the bar, you should aim for a wide-ranging understanding of various subjects rather than an in-depth study of a few. This is important due to the huge amount of content that you will need to learn and/or will be tested on

Most importantly, make sure you remain consistent so that you do not have to resort to last-minute cramming.

Research has shown that we are able to retain a higher degree of information – and more easily – when revisiting old content in comparison to when learning it for the first time. This is known as Ebbinghaus’s Forgetting Curve.

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Other Arkansas Bar Requirements

Apart from qualifying for and passing the Arkansas bar exam, there are several other requirements you will need to meet in order to become and/or remain a licensed attorney in the state, including:

  1.  Moral Character and Emotional Stability
  2.  Continuing Legal Education (CLE)

1. Moral Character and Emotional Stability Evaluation

After passing the Arkansas bar examination, your application will undergo a final review by the Board of Law Examiners, with particular attention being paid to it by the Chair of the Board. This review focuses on the thoroughness and adequacy of your pre-exam Character and Fitness responses.

During this phase, the Board may delve deeper into your background if your initial responses necessitate further clarification or if additional information is required. In this case, you may be required to provide more details on any legal issues, professional conduct, or past actions.

The manner in which you respond to these inquiries plays a significant role in the final decision regarding your admission. It’s essential to approach this phase with transparency and thoroughness, as any unresolved concerns may lead to additional review processes, such as a formal hearing.

Ultimately, the decision to admit you to the Bar will depend on your ability to convincingly demonstrate your suitability for the legal profession.

Note: Keep in mind that the burden of proof in establishing your moral character and emotional stability will rest on you, not the Board.

2. Continuing Legal Education (CLE)

As a newly admitted attorney, you will be required to meet the ongoing Continuing Legal Education (CLE) requirements set by the Arkansas Continuing Legal Education Board in order to remain licensed.

These requirements include completing 12 hours of CLE per year, with a minimum of one hour focused on ethics, as per Rule 3 of the Arkansas Rules for Minimum Continuing Legal Education.

Keep in mind that the first round of CLE will need to be completed by June 30 of the year following your admission to the Bar. On top of this, you’ll also be obligated to complete a mandatory ethics/skills course within the first two years of your certification.

Note: Should you exceed the annual CLE hours requirement, you can carry over up to 12 surplus hours to the next reporting period.

Admission on Motion (Reciprocity)

If you are an experienced lawyer, you may be eligible for entry to the Arkansas Bar without taking the exam, according to Rule XVI of the Arkansas Rules Governing Admission to the Bar. 

This process requires you to meet all standard educational and character requirements mentioned earlier, along with the following additional criteria:

  • Active Practice of Law: You must have been actively engaged in the practice of law for at least three of the past five years in one or more states, territories, or the District of Columbia
  • Good Standing: You need to provide a Certificate of Good Standing from all jurisdictions where you are currently admitted
  • No Pending Legal Discipline: You are required to establish that you are not subject to any lawyer discipline or involved in pending disciplinary matters in any jurisdiction

Note: Arkansas has specific reciprocity agreements with certain states. These agreements establish distinct standards for Admission on Motion, potentially offering more flexibility than the general admission guidelines.

A full list of reciprocity states for Arkansas can be found below:

District of ColumbiaMississippiTennessee
IllinoisNew HampshireWashington
IowaNew YorkWisconsin
KansasNorth Carolina

For detailed information on reciprocity agreements with Arkansas you can refer to this official document provided by the Arkansas Judiciary website.

Arkansas Bar Exam FAQ

Can you take the bar without going to law school in Arkansas?

To be eligible for the Arkansas bar exam, a Juris Doctorate from an ABA-accredited law school is required. There are no provisions in Arkansas allowing individuals to take the bar exam without specific legal education. Interested in finding out more? Check out our What is the Bar Exam article.

How long is the Arkansas bar exam?

The Arkansas bar exam spans two days, incorporating a wide range of subjects tested to assess the examinees’ legal expertise. Day one involves two 90-minute Multistate Performance Test questions and six 30-minute Multistate Essay Exam questions. Day two features a 200-question Multistate Bar Examination.

How hard is it to pass the Arkansas State bar examination?

The state of Arkansas has adopted the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE), which demands in-depth preparation across a variety of legal subjects.  Achieving a passing grade involves securing sufficient MEE and MPT scores within the overall requirement of a 270 scaled score, which underlines the need for a strategic and comprehensive study approach.

How much does the AR bar exam cost?

The Arkansas bar exam cost is $1,000.00. This fee is payable to the Clerk of the Supreme Court and should be made via a money order or cashier’s check, valid for at least six months from the date of issuance.