Colorado Bar Exam

Written by: Nik Ventouris

Last updated:

Passing the Colorado 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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Colorado Bar Exam Overview

The Colorado bar examination, as detailed in C.R.C.P. 202.3 of the Supreme Court’s Rules Governing Admission to the Bar, is overseen by the Colorado State Board of Law Examiners. 

The Board, which consists of the Character and Fitness Committee and the Law Committee, assesses bar applications, with each committee focusing on unique parts of the evaluation process.

If you are thinking of sitting the exam, it’s important to note that it is held biannually on the last Tuesday and Wednesday of February and July.

The standard application fee is $710, which applies if you register by November 1st for the February exam and by April 1st for the July exam. Late registrations are also accepted until December 1st and May 1st, respectively, but are accompanied by an additional late fee of $200.

Keep in mind that in order to be eligible for the Colorado bar exam, as per Colo. R. Civ. P. 203.4, amended through Rule Change 2024(4), applicants must meet one of the following criteria:

  1. Graduates of ABA-Accredited Law Schools: Must hold a J.D. or L.L.B. degree from an ABA-accredited law school, which ensures a comprehensive legal education.
  2. Graduates of State-Accredited Law Schools: Must hold a J.D. or L.L.B. from a state-accredited law school and have obtained admission to practice in another U.S. jurisdiction, with three years of active legal practice in the past five years.
  3. Foreign Law Graduates: Must have a law degree from a common law, English-speaking nation outside the U.S., be admitted to the bar in that nation or another jurisdiction, be in good standing, and have spent three of the past five years in active practice.

Note: Members of the Board of Law Examiners are immune from suit for all conduct performed in the course of their official duties, as per Rule 202.5 of the Colorado Rules Governing Admission to Practice Law.

Colorado Exam Structure

Since 2012, the state of Colorado 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 following supplementary exams and complete the following course in order to be eligible for the Colorado bar:

  • Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE)
  •  Practicing with Professionalism Course

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.

Practicing with Professionalism Mandatory Course

All Colorado Bar admission applicants, including attorneys and LLPs, are mandated to complete the “Practicing with Professionalism” course.

This 8-hour course, which is developed by the Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel in collaboration with the Colorado Bar Association, aims to instill high standards of professionalism in the legal community.

It does this by emphasizing professional responsibility, legal ethics, and the qualities to which members should aspire, such as a commitment to justice and public service.

When planning to take this course, it’s important to consider its timing in relation to your Colorado bar exam schedule. Since this course’s certification is valid for 18 months, it’s advisable not to complete it too early in order to ensure it’s still valid by your initial exam attempt and any necessary retakes.

Note: You can find more detailed information on this course by visiting the Colorado Supreme Court’s website.

How to Pass the Colorado Bar Exam

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

Colorado Bar Exam Tips

Despite the infamous difficulty of Colorado’s 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 Colorado Bar Requirements

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

  • Pass the Character and Fitness Evaluation
  • Complete the Continuing Legal Education (CLE) Requirements

Character and Fitness Evaluation

Applicants that pass the bar exam must undergo a rigorous character and fitness evaluation. This is conducted by the Character and Fitness Committee and designed to both ensure the integrity of the legal profession and safeguard public interest.

For this reason, the committee will thoroughly review each applicant’s past conduct, focusing on aspects such as any history of unlawful behavior, academic and employment misconduct, acts involving dishonesty or fraud, and the overall impact of these actions on other individuals. 

Having said that, factors like the age at which certain behaviors occurred and the severity of the misconduct are also taken into consideration.

In situations where concerns about an applicant’s suitability to practice law in Colorado remain unresolved, the committee may request for an inquiry panel interview before reaching a final conclusion.

Note: Any employer references you choose to provide will be contacted as part of the thorough verification process (spanning up to 10 years).

Continuing Legal Education (CLE)

New members of the Colorado bar are mandated to complete 45 CLE credit hours during each compliance period, as per Rule 250 of the Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure.

This includes at least two credit hours in equity, diversity, and inclusivity, and at least five credit hours in legal ethics or professionalism.

The compliance period begins from the date of admission and ends on December 31st of the third full year thereafter.

Note: For more information, we recommend visiting the Colorado Bar Association CLE website.

Admission on Motion (Reciprocity)

If you are an experienced lawyer in another state, you may be granted entry to the bar without having to retake the bar exam, as outlined in C.R.C.P. 203.1 of the Supreme Court’s Rules, through a process known as “Admission on Motion”.

To qualify for Admission on Motion, you’ll need to meet the general educational and character and fitness criteria previously discussed, as well as the following additional requirements:

  •  Active Legal Practice: You need to have been actively practicing law for at least three of the past five years in one or more U.S. jurisdictions
  • Good Standing: You must have maintained a good standing in all jurisdictions where you were and/or are currently admitted
  • No Pending Disciplinary Matters: You can’t have been subject to any attorney discipline or currently have any pending disciplinary matters in any jurisdiction

In addition to the above requirements, you’ll also need to complete the MPRE prior to admission. Keep in mind that if you have over 15 years of active experience, a passing MPRE score from any time in your career will be considered valid.

For other applicants, it’s essential that the MPRE score is obtained within the last five years. Furthermore, you will be required to complete the Colorado Professionalism course within six months of your admission to the bar.

Note: The 2021 update to C.R.C.P. 203.1 by the Colorado Supreme Court eliminated the requirement for state-specific reciprocity agreements, which expanded eligibility to attorneys from all U.S. jurisdictions.

For more information, refer to the Rules Governing Admission To the Practice Of Law In Colorado.

Colorado Bar Exam FAQ

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

In Colorado, while the bar exam typically requires a law degree from an accredited institution, there are exceptions for temporary law practice. These exceptions provide a pathway for military spouses and pro bono lawyers to practice law without passing the bar exam, facilitated through a specific application process managed by the Office of Attorney Admissions.

How long is the Colorado bar exam?

 The Colorado bar exam, a critical step for a recent law school graduate, spans two days. It involves comprehensive assessments through the MPT, MEE, and MBE sections. This exam is essential for attorney registration, which marks the transition from academic study to professional legal practice.

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

The Colorado State bar examination, adopting the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE) format, is challenging but achievable. It tests a wide range of legal topics and skills, similar to those explored when crafting a comprehensive law school application. Success requires consistent study, balancing theoretical knowledge with practical legal understanding. Interested in finding out more? Check out our What is the Bar Exam article.

How much does the Co bar exam cost?

The standard application fee for the Colorado Bar Exam is $710. If you miss the first filing deadline, there’s an additional late fee of $200, making it crucial to meet the applicable filing deadline. The last filing deadline is December 1st for the February exam and May 1st for the July exam.