How Long is the Bar Exam

Written by: Will Bond

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How Long is the Bar Exam

Curious about how long the bar exam will last? While it depends on the state in which you plan to take it, the bar exam normally lasts around 12 hours — spread across two days.

In this How Long Is the Bar Exam article we’ll explore the duration of the bar exam in various states as well as the factors that can influence the total testing time. Whether you’re a prospective law student or a seasoned professional, this guide will provide valuable insights on the time required to conquer the bar exam.

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How Long Does the Bar Exam Take

Generally, the bar exam lasts two days with six hours of exams on each day, though this can vary by state. In states that have adopted the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE), this test will always last a total of 12 hours because they all follow the same exam format.

The total duration can differ significantly, however, due to the varying formats of the bar exams administered in non-UBE states — some of which opt for longer or shorter testing periods than the standardized UBE format.

These two potential scenarios have been discussed in more detail below.

Uniform Bar Exam

The UBE includes a total of 12 hours of testing, which take place over the course of two days. This exam has standardized sections, and all 41 jurisdictions that have adopted it adhere to the following structure:

Day 1:

  • Multistate Performance Test (MPT): Three Hours
  • Multistate Essay Exam (MEE): Three Hours

Day 2:

  • Multistate Bar Exam (MBE): Six Hours

The exam features two, three-hour testing blocks on both days with an additional one-hour lunch break provided between the morning and afternoon sessions. During this time, you’ll be permitted to exit the exam hall in order to take a moment and get ready for the next session of testing.

Note: You can find out if your state has adopted the UBE by referring to the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) website.

State Bar Exam

Certain states have chosen to implement their own format for the bar exam that’s specific to their jurisdiction. While these state bar exams may include some — or all — of the UBE’s components, they also often include additional sections on specialized topics related to that state’s rules.

This can make these state-specific bar exams slightly longer in length. Virginia’s bar exam lasts a total of 16 hours, for example, which span across three days instead of the regular two-day structure of the UBE.

Here’s a list of all the current non-UBE states:

  • California
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii
  • Louisiana
  • Mississippi
  • Nevada
  • South Dakota
  • Virginia
  • Wisconsin

Generally, you can expect the bar exam to take place over the course of two days in almost every state. However, you’ll need to refer to your state’s specific bar exam structure for a more in-depth understanding of how long it’ll last.

Note: To get a better idea of how long your state’s bar exam lasts, use this tool from the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) to see the different sections implemented by your state.

Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE)

When considering how long it’ll take you to complete the bar exam, it’s important to consider the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE).

Applicants must pass this additional test that applicants must pass on top of the bar exam in all states except two: Wisconsin and Puerto Rico. It lasts two hours and is administered by the NCBE three times a year in March, August, and November.

Each jurisdiction sets the minimum passing score candidates must obtain in order to gain admission to the bar alongside the standard bar exam. To ensure they pass both of these exams on their first try, many candidates choose to invest in a quality bar exam prep course early on during their preparation.

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How Long to Study for the Bar Exam

When candidates consider taking this tricky exam, many wonder how much time they’ll need in order to prepare effectively. While this is ultimately up to each individual, applicants typically should aim to complete 400 hours of study, which most finish over the course of two or three months.

Here are some of the key factors that’ll influence how much time you’ll need to dedicate to preparing for the bar exam:

  • Work and Personal Commitments: If you’ll have to balance work or any other personal commitments alongside your preparation for the bar exam, you’ll naturally need to adopt a more gradual approach to studying over a longer period of time
  • Bar Exam Preparation Courses: Unlike candidates who take a self-study approach, those following a course will have much less flexibility. This makes the structure and pace of the course a key factor in how long you’ll need in order to complete your preparation
  • Bar Exam Format: The preparation time required for the bar exam can vary, depending on the state in which you plan to take it because the exam format — including the number of sections, the subjects tested, and the content of the multiple choice exam — differs from state to state

Regardless of how much time you need in order to prepare for your state’s bar exam, the most important factors contributing to your success on the day include the quality of the resources you use and your motivation and persistence.

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How Long is the Bar Exam FAQ

How long is the US bar exam?

The length of the US bar exam varies, depending on the state in which it is administered. Generally, the exam spans two days with two testing sessions of three hours and a one-hour lunch break each day. However, specific durations may differ based on state requirements. To learn more, check out our How Long is the Bar Exam article.

Is the bar exam the hardest exam?

Many candidates consider the bar exam to be very challenging due to the sheer volume of the content it tests them on. It requires a solid understanding of a plethora of areas, including criminal law, constitutional law, civil procedure, and family law. For guidance on how to succeed in this exam despite its difficulty, see our What is the Bar Exam article.

How long should I study for the bar exam?

The amount of time you’ll need to study for the bar exam can vary based on your individual circumstances, such as whether you went to a law school approved by the American Bar Association, your study habits, and your personal commitments. However, experts generally recommend dedicating at least two to three months of full-time study for a total of 300 to 400 hours of preparation.

Do I need to take the bar exam to practice law?

Yes, in most US jurisdictions, passing the bar exam is a requirement in order to demonstrate a sufficient understanding of the fundamental legal principles necessary to practice law. Many states offer alternative paths to licensure, however, such as admission on motion or reciprocity. For example, candidates qualified in a UBE state meeting certain requirements could avoid taking the New York bar exam.