Michigan Bar Exam

Written by: Will Bond

Last updated:

Passing the Michigan 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; and
  • 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 applying for Admission Without Examination.

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Michigan Bar Exam Overview

The Michigan Board of Law Examiners (the Board) administers the bar exam and manages the admission of applicants to the state’s bar. It holds the exams twice a year — on the last Tuesday and Wednesday in February and July. The exams take place at the Kellogg Center in February and the Breslin Center in July.

Candidates must file their exam application and pay the $400 fee by Nov. 1 if they wish to take the February exam. Alternatively, the application deadline for the July exam is March 1.

While candidates can file a late application electronically up until Dec. 15 for the February exam and May 15 for the July exam with an additional $100 fee, the Board won’t accept any submissions received after these dates.

Keep in mind that in order to be eligible for the Michigan bar exam, you’ll need to satisfy the following criteria per the Rules for the Board of Law Examiners:

  1. Age Requirement: All applicants to the state bar must be 18 years of age or older.
  2. Good Moral Character: The Board must determine that each candidate applying for admission to the bar possesses the fitness, ability, and good moral character needed to practice law in this state.
  3. Qualifying Undergraduate Education: All candidates must have completed at least 60 semester hours or 90 quarter hours toward an undergraduate degree. This education must be obtained from an accredited school, which includes universities and junior or community colleges.
  4. Juris Doctor (JD) Degree From an Approved Law School: All candidates must obtain a JD degree from a law school that’s:
    • Located in the United States, its territories, or the District of Columbia; and
    • Requires three school years of study for full-time students and four for part-time students to graduate. (Each school year must last a minimum of 30 weeks)

Note: Law schools approved by the American Bar Association (ABA) are automatically considered sufficiently reputable and qualified.

Michigan Exam Structure

In 2021, the state of Michigan 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 268 in order to receive a passing mark.

In addition to the UBE, candidates also must obtain a passing score of 75 or greater on the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE) in order to earn admission to the Michigan 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 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 Michigan Bar Exam

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

Michigan Bar Exam Tips

Despite the infamous difficulty of Michigan’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 (e.g., 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 Michigan Bar Requirements

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

  1. Satisfying the Character and Fitness Requirements
  2. Completing the Michigan Law Basics Online Training
  3. Getting Sworn in With a Michigan Court
  4. Applying to the State Bar of Michigan (SBM)

1. Satisfying the Character and Fitness Requirements

As part of the process to qualify for admission to the Michigan state bar, you must successfully pass a character and fitness investigation. This’ll verify you possess the qualities necessary to practice law, such as honesty, reliability, and a respect for the law and the rights of others.

This process starts once you submit your Affidavit of Personal History (APH) with the state bar and pay the relevant fees. This comprehensive questionnaire contains 58 questions about your background, academic record, and employment history that you must submit under oath to the state bar.

While no specific actions will automatically deny you admission to the Michigan state bar, you’ll be considered holistically based on your past conduct. This process checks all parts of your character and ability to practice law, but certain issues may face deeper scrutiny like:

  • Abuse of the legal process
  • Academic misconduct
  • Acts involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation
  • Evidence of mental or emotional instability
  • Neglect of professional obligations
  • Unlawful activities

Your candor throughout this process will play a large role in determining your fitness to practice law in Michigan. Making false statements or intentionally omitting information on the APH can be a telling indicator of your current character and fitness.

Note: Ultimately, it’s your burden to prove with convincing evidence that your character warrants admission to the bar.

2. Completing the Michigan Law Basics Online Training

As of Feb. 15, 2023, the Michigan Supreme Court (MSC) and the Board require all applicants to complete the Michigan Law Basics online training course in order to receive their official UBE results. It comes with a $99 fee.

Designed by the Board and the Institute of Continuing Legal Education (ICLE), this course gives candidates a foundation in the six major areas of law practice in this state:

  • Civil Litigation
  • Criminal Law
  • Family Law
  • Probate and Estate Planning
  • Torts and No-Fault Law

The course takes around 12 hours to finish. In this time, you’ll need to work your way through six lessons and answer two “hurdle” questions at the end of each one. You’ll then receive a unique certificate of completion, which you’ll need to download and submit to the Board by email as part of the bar admissions process.

While you can register for this course at any time after graduating from law school, access to it will only remain valid for 60 days from your registration date. If you fail to complete the training within this period, you must re-register and pay the fee again.

Note: You can register for the Michigan Law Basics online training course on the Institute of Continuing Legal Education’s website.

3. Getting Sworn in With a Michigan Court

After passing the bar exam, you’ll receive a written certification by mail that you’ll need in order to be sworn in as an attorney in Michigan. You can either present this individually to a Michigan circuit court or attend a mass admission ceremony.

If you want to be sworn-in individually, you’ll need to contact a local Michigan circuit court in order to schedule your ceremony. It’s important to note that not all judges have the ability to swear in candidates virtually, so you’ll need to check with the court if you’re interested in this option.

When it comes to mass ceremonies, there’s a variety of different Michigan bar associations and circuit courts that hold them.

For example, the Washtenaw County Bar Association is a good option because it hosts several virtual admission ceremonies throughout the year. Alternatively, you can find more information regarding other admission ceremony options by emailing jhatter@michbar.org.

Regardless of which path you choose, a licensed Michigan attorney will need to make a motion for your admission in open court. This makes it easier for most applicants to opt for a mass admission ceremony in which the host bar association will organize someone to make this motion for you. If you have a relative or friend that’s qualified as a Michigan attorney, however, having them swear you in individually is also an option.

Once a licensed attorney makes the motion to swear you in, the court will have you take the Lawyer’s Oath and officially allow you to join the SBM by putting through an order. Right after the ceremony, you’ll need to get a copy of this order and submit it to the SBM.

Note: You’ll only have three years to present the admission order before it expires.

4. Applying to the State Bar of Michigan

After being sworn in, prospective attorneys in this state must submit an online application to the SBM. As noted above, you can’t complete your SBM application without a copy of the order of admission from your swearing-in ceremony.

Upon receipt of your application, payment, and order of admission, the SBM will send you an email within 10 business days that contains your “P number.” This number is what registers your license to officially practice law within this state.

Admission Without Examination

The state of Michigan permits admission on motion without examination. In order to qualify for this admission option, however, you must meet the following requirements listed under Rule 5 of the Supreme Court Rules Concerning the State Bar of Michigan:

  • Meet the educational and fitness requirements under Rules 1 and 2(B);
  • Be licensed to practice law in a US jurisdiction;
  • Be in good standing with the bar in the jurisdiction(s) you’re admitted;
  • Demonstrate an intention to either practice law in Michigan or teach law full time at a well-known and recognized Michigan law school; and
  • Have done one of the following in three of the five years immediately preceding your application for admission on motion:
    • Actively practiced law as your principal occupation;
    • Taught law full time at a respected US law school; or
    • Served in the US military as a legal officer (e.g., as a judge advocate or legal specialist). This must be officially confirmed by a high-ranking officer or their representative, including the dates in which you served

If you satisfy the requirements outlined above, you may download, complete, and submit the Application for Admission Without Examination by mail. Next, you’ll need to fill out an application for a Request for Preparation of a Character Report online at this website.

You also must return money orders in the amounts of $800 to the State of Michigan and $550 to the National Conference of Bar Examiners, respectively.

It’s worth noting that the application process for admission without examination isn’t based on reciprocity. Attorneys from any US jurisdiction are eligible as long as they meet the criteria outlined above.

Note: For more information on the process of applying for admission without examination in Michigan, see the Michigan Courts website.

Michigan Bar Exam FAQ

How hard is the Michigan bar exam?

While challenging, the Michigan bar exam is considered to be of a similar difficulty to most other states because Michigan adopted the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE). Yet, passing is a big feat due to the breadth of law topics tested and the endurance required to complete multiple days of testing.

How much does it cost to take the Michigan bar exam?

The cost to take the Michigan bar exam for first-time candidates is approximately $400. However, this fee can vary for repeat test takers or late registrations. Additional costs may include preparatory courses, materials, and a character and fitness investigation fee. For more Michigan bar exam information, see the overview above.

What score do you need to pass the Michigan bar exam?

To pass the Michigan bar exam, you need a minimum scaled score of 268 on the UBE in addition to at least 75 on the MPRE. While Michigan bar exam results vary from year to year, passing the bar exam is definitely doable with the right preparation.

How long is the Michigan bar exam?

The Michigan bar exam is conducted over two days. The first day consists of the MPT and MEE, which are three hours long each while the second day consists of the six-hour MBE. With all the Michigan bar exam subjects included, it should take a total of 12 hours to complete the entire bar exam spread across two days.