Maryland Bar Exam

Written by: Will Bond

Last updated:

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

This guide will 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 application process for admission without examination.

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Maryland Bar Exam Overview

In Maryland, the State Board of Law Examiners (SBLE) is responsible for administering the bar examination and recommending qualified candidates to the Supreme Court of Maryland for admission to the bar.

If you’re interested in taking the bar exam in this state, it’s held twice a year on the last consecutive Tuesday and Wednesday of February and July.

In order to register for these exams, the SBLE must receive your Notice of Intent by December 20 for the February exam and April 1 for the July exam. Regardless of the date you choose, you’ll have to pay the same $400 Notice of Intent fee in order to submit an application.

If the SBLE receives your Notice of Intent after these deadlines, it won’t accept it unless you can provide a good reason why it should allow you to take the bar exam. You can provide this rationale by filing a good cause request via mail with the SBLE.

Keep in mind that in order to be eligible to file a Notice of Intent to take the bar exam in Maryland, you’ll need to satisfy the following criteria per Rule 19-206 of the Maryland Bar Admission Rules:

  1. Complete the necessary pre-legal education. All candidates must have completed the necessary pre-legal education to be admitted to a law school approved by the American Bar Association (ABA).
  2. Graduate from an ABA-approved law school. Candidates must have graduated with a Juris Doctor (JD) or equivalent degree from a law school located in the United States and approved by the ABA. The SBLE will only waive this requirement if an applicant:
    • Was granted admission to the bar in another US state; or
    • Completed their initial law degree outside the United States, but satisfied the graduation requirements for a Master of Laws (LLM) degree at an ABA-approved US law school
  3. Complete a character questionnaire. All candidates must have already filed a completed character questionnaire or file one alongside their Notice of Intent to take the bar exam in Maryland.

Note: If you need a waiver of the law school education requirement, you must obtain this before you submit your Notice of Intent to take the bar exam in Maryland.

Maryland Exam Structure

In 2019, the state of Maryland adopted the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE). The UBE 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%)

Of the UBE exam’s possible total of 400 points, candidates must score at least 266 in order to receive a passing mark.

Moreover, candidates also must obtain a passing score of 85 on the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE) in order to be eligible for the Maryland 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:

  • Federal 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 ABA’s 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 and holistic Subject Matter Outline.

How to Pass the Maryland Bar Exam

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

Maryland Bar Exam Tips

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

Here are 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, tort, and constitutional Law
  • Leverage academic support. If your law school offers additional support services aimed at improving your preparation, use these as much as possible. This can involve one-on-one tutoring, academic counseling, and mock exam programs
  • Obtain practical legal experience. If possible, gain as much practical experience as you can during law school (i.e., through summer internships, mock trials, etc.). This experience can go a long way in cementing your legal knowledge
  • Adopt a broad study approach. When studying for the bar, aim for a wide-ranging understanding of various subjects rather than an in-depth study of a few. This is important given the huge amount of content you’ll need to learn for this test

Most importantly, make sure you remain consistent so you don’t have to resort to last-minute cramming.

Research shows people retain a higher degree of information — and more easily — when revisiting old content vs. learning it for the first time. This is known as Ebbinghaus’s Forgetting Curve.

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Other Maryland Bar Requirements

Apart from qualifying for and passing the Maryland bar exam, you’ll need to meet several other requirements in order to become — and remain — a licensed attorney in the state. These include:

  1. Completing the Character Questionnaire
  2. Satisfying the Mandatory Continuing Legal Education (CLE) Requirements
  3. Filing a Interest on Lawyer Trust Accounts (IOLTA) Report
  4. Submitting a Pro Bono Report

1. Completing the Character Questionnaire

As is the case in the majority of states, applicants must successfully pass an investigation into their character and be deemed fit by the Court of Appeals of Maryland in order to gain admission to the state bar.

This investigation into your character begins when the SBLE sends Part II of your application (the Character Questionnaire) to one of its seven Character Committees.

You’ll submit this application online by creating your Character Questionnaire using the SBLE’s eBar System and then filing a hard copy alongside your official academic transcripts and a $300 fee. You must do this before or at the same time as filing your Notice of Intent — whether you plan to take the UBE in Maryland or transfer a qualifying UBE score from another jurisdiction.

Throughout this process, it’s up to you to prove you have the right moral character and are fit to practice law according to Maryland Rule 19-203. As such, the SBLE encourages you to treat this requirement as importantly as the bar exam itself.

Note: You can find more information on this process in the SBLE’s Character Questionnaire Filing Checklist & Instructions.

2. Satisfying the Mandatory CLE Requirements

Following a report by the Maryland Judiciary released in September 2023, the Supreme Court of Maryland decided to implement a minimum CLE requirement for attorneys admitted to the bar in this state.

Specifically, this involves completing a minimum of 12 CLE hours each year, including one hour in each of the following areas:

  • Ethics and Professionalism
  • Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
  • Health and Wellness

Notably, you may carry over up to 12 additional CLE hours you earn in one year to the next reporting period. If you complete 24 CLE hours in one year, for example, you could use them to satisfy the requirements for both the current and subsequent reporting periods.

The reporting period for this CLE requirement is tied to the IOLTA and Pro Bono reports (see below), which extend from July 1 to June 30. This means you’ll have until June 30 each year to complete these mandatory CLE hours and until Sept. 10 to file this joint report.

Note: You can find more information about Maryland’s CLE requirements on the Maryland State Bar Association website.

3. Filing an IOLTA Report

Since 2002, all admitted attorneys on active status in Maryland have had to provide an annual report on any attorney trust accounts they may have under Rule 19-409 from which IOLTA needs to be collected.

There are two main purposes for the requirement to submit an IOLTA report:

  1. Transparency and Accountability: It ensures transparency and accountability regarding client funds held in IOLTA accounts, which hold client monies in escrow (e.g., retainer fees or settlement funds). This transparency allows the Maryland Courts and legal community to monitor the proper management of client funds and prevent potential misuse.
  2. Funding Legal Aid Programs: The state uses the interest earned on these trust accounts to support legal aid organizations, which provide critical legal services to low-income Marylanders who can’t afford legal representation.

Lawyers must file this report online through the Attorney Information System (AIS) by Sept. 10 each year with filing typically opening on July 10. Failure to file a timely IOLTA report can result in decertification.

The state uses IOLTA funds to support organizations in Maryland that provide legal help to persons of limited means. See a list of legal services programs that receive grants from the Maryland Legal Services Corporation (MLSC).

Note: To learn more about this reporting requirement, visit the official Maryland Courts website.

4. Submitting a Pro Bono Report

Alongside your CLE hours and IOLTA report, you’ll also need to simultaneously submit a report about any pro bono activities you engaged in during the previous reporting period per Maryland Rule 19-503.

It’s important to note this mandatory reporting requirement doesn’t make pro bono service itself mandatory, but rather the filing of an annual Lawyer Pro Bono Legal Service Report through the AIS platform.

If you haven’t performed any pro bono service during a reporting period, you’ll just need to fill out the report and list that you completed zero hours.

If you fail to submit this report by the Sept. 10 deadline, the Supreme Court of Maryland will enter an order prohibiting you from practicing law in this state. In order to be recertified and resume practicing law, you’ll need to file a delinquent report and pay a $50 fee.

Note: For more information about the Pro Bono reporting process, see the Maryland Pro Bono page of the Maryland Courts’ website.

Admission on Motion (Reciprocity)

Since 2019, attorneys qualified in other US jurisdictions have been to apply for admission to the Maryland bar without examination as long as they:

  1. Are currently admitted and in good standing with the bar of another US state;
  2. Passed the bar exam in this state or were admitted by diploma privilege;
  3. Satisfy the good moral character and fitness requirements applicable to attorneys in Maryland; and
  4. Have accumulated the required professional experience by working for either three of the most recent five years or more than 10 years in total in one of the following:
  • a. The full-time practice of law in a US state;
  • b. A full-time teaching position at an ABA-approved law school;
  • c. Full-time employment as a judge of a court of record of a state; or
  • d. A combination of the above

If you satisfy the above requirements, the next step is to submit a Petition for Admission Without Examination through the SBLE’s eBar system. This involves submitting both an online and hard copy of your application. The latter must include the following documents:

  • A Statement of Professional Qualifications: This should be a chronological list of your professional qualifications, starting with the date you were first admitted to the bar
  • Your Certificate(s) of Good Standing: You’ll need to provide a certificate of good standing issued within the three months prior to your application for each jurisdiction in which you’re currently admitted
  • A Completed NCBE Character Questionnaire: Just like applicants applying for admission with an exam, you’ll need to complete the online character questionnaire through the NCBE website before printing it out and signing it to submit alongside the hard copy of your application

The hard copy of your application should also include the $700 petition fee as a check or money order payable to the Maryland State Board of Law Examiners. You can pay the $550 NCBE character investigation fee online or by a check or money order payable to the NCBE.

Note: You can find more information on the requirements and application process on the Maryland Courts’ Admission Without Examination page.

Maryland Bar Exam FAQ

Does Maryland have a hard bar exam?

While the Maryland state bar exam is no more or less challenging than what candidates will face in any of the other states that adopted the Uniform Bar Examination (UBE), its difficulty will ultimately depend on an individual’s preparation and understanding of the law. Make sure you’re thoroughly prepared for this by checking out our overview of the Maryland Bar Exam.

How long is the Maryland bar exam?

The Maryland bar exam spans two days. Day one focuses on the Multistate Performance Test (MPT) and the Multistate Essay Examination (MEE) — each lasting three hours. On day two, examinees tackle the six-hour Multistate Bar Examination (MBE). All in all, the Maryland bar exam includes 12 hours of testing distributed equally across two days.

What is a passing bar exam score in Maryland?

In Maryland, a passing score for the bar exam is 266 out of the possible 400 total points. Achieving this score requires a combination of strong preparation and a good grasp of both the MBE and the state-specific components. Passing the Maryland bar exam is undoubtedly very challenging, but it’s definitely doable with the right preparation.

How many times can you fail the bar exam in Maryland?

In Maryland, the policy for taking the bar exam is quite accommodating because there’s no cap on the number of attempts a candidate can make. However, this may be subject to change with the upcoming NextGen bar exam that Maryland plans to begin administering in July 2026.