Kentucky Bar Exam

Written by: Will Bond

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Kentucky Bar Exam

Passing the Kentucky 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 on motion for out-of-state attorneys.

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Kentucky Bar Exam Overview

The Kentucky bar exam is administered by the Office of Bar Admissions, which is made up of the Kentucky Board of Bar Examiners and the Character and Fitness Committee. These organizations oversee the examination process and ensure that candidates meet the necessary legal and character standards for practicing law in Kentucky.

Aspiring applicants should note that the exam takes place twice a year on the last Tuesday and Wednesday of February and July. You’ll need to submit an application in order to take these exams, which is due by October 1st for the February exam and February 1st for the July exam.

Keep in mind that regular filing fees are set at $875 for non-attorneys and $1,200 for attorneys. Late filings — up to November 10th for the February exam and March 10th for the July exam — have higher fees (i.e., $1,125 for non-attorneys and $1,450 for attorneys).

Keep in mind that in order to be eligible for the Kentucky bar exam, you will need to satisfy the following criteria according to the Rules of the Supreme Court of Kentucky (SCR):

  1. Legal Education: You must have completed the degree requirements for a J.D. or equivalent professional degree from a law school approved by the American Bar Association (ABA) or by the Association of American Law Schools (AALS), as detailed in SCR 2.014.
  2. Professional Responsibility: You must have passed the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE) with a scaled score of 80 or higher, as detailed in SCR 2.015.
  3. Intent to Practice: You must demonstrate an intent to engage in the practice of law within Kentucky, with a commitment to abide by the rules, duties, and standards imposed upon attorneys in this state.

Note: Extended late filing is additionally available until December 10th for the February exam and May 10th for the July exam — though this will cost $1,375 for non-attorneys and $1,700 for attorneys.

Kentucky Exam Structure

Since 2021, the state of Kentucky 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, 266 of which need to be answered correctly in order for a candidate to receive a passing mark.

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 Kentucky Bar Exam

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

Kentucky Bar Exam Tips

Despite the infamous difficulty of Kentucky’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 Kentucky Bar Requirements

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

  1. Pass the Character and Fitness Evaluation
  2. Complete the New Lawyer Program
  3. Satisfy the Continuing Legal Education Requirements

1. Character and Fitness Evaluation

Under SCR 2.011, applicants who have passed the Kentucky bar exam must undergo an evaluation conducted by the Committee of Character and Fitness. This assessment is designed to ensure that all prospective attorneys adhere to the highest standards of honesty, fairness, and respect for legal and judicial processes.

More specifically, the committee will conduct a thorough examination of each applicant’s past and present behavior in order to identify any instances of potentially disqualifying actions, such as unlawful and academic misconduct or substance abuse.

This comprehensive assessment requires applicants to submit their financial and criminal history records, as well as any other information deemed pertinent by the committee.

Note: Applicants are responsible for covering all costs associated with the committee’s investigation, which can vary significantly based on the depth required.

2. New Lawyer Program Requirement

Under SCR 3.640, newly admitted attorneys to the Kentucky Bar are required to complete the New Lawyer Program (NLP) within 12 months of their admission. The NLP consists of a day of in-person training and a second day of remote learning, which is accessible through on-demand programming.

The Kentucky Office of Bar Admissions requires new attorneys to take this course in order to ensure they receive the necessary training in important areas such as legal ethics and law practice management.

Keep in mind that exemptions from the NLP are granted under specific conditions, such as if an attorney has been previously admitted in another jurisdiction for a minimum of five years or has completed a similar program approved by the Director of Continuing Legal Education (CLE) at the Kentucky Bar Association.

Note: Failing to complete the NLP within the specified 12-month period will result in suspension or other disciplinary actions.

3. Continuing Legal Education (CLE) Requirements

Following successful admission to the Kentucky Bar, attorneys are required to complete 12 hours of Continuing Legal Education (CLE) every year, as specified in SCR 3.645. As part of this requirement, at least two hours must be dedicated to ethics, professional responsibility, and professionalism.

Attorneys must certify the completion of these CLE activities by August 10 of each year. Any additional hours an attorney completes on top of the mandatory 12 CLE hours can be carried forward for two years, up to a maximum of 24 hours (four of which may be in ethics).

Failing to comply with these CLE requirements or failure to certify completion by the due date indicated above may lead to suspension from practice. Additionally, a late filing fee of $50.00 is charged for each certificate submitted after the August 10th deadline.

Note: For more detailed information, please see the Kentucky Bar Association’s CLE Rules.

Admission on Motion (Reciprocity)

Under SCR 2.110, attorneys from other jurisdictions may be admitted to the Kentucky Bar without having to sit for the bar examination, provided they meet the following criteria:

  • Admission in Reciprocal Jurisdictions: Applicants must be admitted to practice before the highest court in the District of Columbia or another state offering reciprocity with Kentucky
  • Active Legal Practice Requirement: Applicants must have engaged in the active practice of law, or full-time teaching at an ABA-accredited law school, for five out of the seven years immediately preceding the application
  • Character and Fitness Evaluation: Must successfully complete the Character and Fitness Evaluation, which affirms their good moral character and fitness to practice law, in line with the standards applied to other applicants

In addition, an application must be submitted to the Kentucky Office of Bar Admissions with a $1,500 non-refundable fee.

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

AlabamaMassachusettsPennsylvania
AlaskaMichiganSouth Dakota
ArizonaMinnesotaTennessee
ArkansasMississippiTexas
ColoradoMissouriUS Virgin Islands
ConnecticutNebraskaUtah
District of ColumbiaNew HampshireVirginia
GeorgiaNew YorkWashington
IdahoNorth CarolinaWest Virginia
IllinoisNorth DakotaWisconsin
IndianaOhioWyoming
IowaOklahoma
KansasOregon

For more comprehensive information visit the Kentucky Office of Bar Admissions.

Kentucky Bar Exam FAQ

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

In Kentucky, you cannot take the bar exam without completing law school. Eligibility for the bar exam requires a J.D. or equivalent professional degree from an ABA or AALS-approved law school, as outlined in SCR 2.014. Interested in finding out more? Take a look at our What is the Bar Exam article.

How long is the Kentucky bar exam?

The Kentucky bar exam spans two days. The first day covers the Multistate Performance Test (MPT) and Multistate Essay Examination (MEE), while the second focuses on the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE). This is a rigorous 200-question multiple-choice test that evaluates knowledge across fundamental areas of law.

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

Passing the Kentucky State bar examination is challenging but certainly achievable with the right preparation. The examination follows the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE) format, which requires a thorough understanding of legal principles. Having said that, reviewing previous Kentucky bar exam results can also be helpful.

How much does the KY bar exam cost?

The Kentucky bar exam cost starts at $875 for non-attorneys and $1,200 for attorneys, with late filing increasing these fees, up to $1,375 for non-attorneys and $1,700 for attorneys. For more detailed Kentucky bar exam information, which includes KY bar exam reciprocity, check out our Kentucky Bar Exam article.