Minnesota Bar Exam

Written by: Nik Ventouris

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Minnesota Bar Exam

Passing the Minnesota 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 as an out-of-state attorney.

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Minnesota Bar Exam Overview

The Minnesota Board of Law Examiners (the Board) administers the bar exam under the authority of the Minnesota Supreme Court. The Board has nine members who oversee the examination process and assess the fitness of applicants to practice law.

The exam occurs biannually on the last Tuesday and Wednesday of February and July. Candidates must submit an application by October 15 for the February exam or March 15 for the July exam. The board does, however, accept late applications (until December 1 for the February exam and May 1 for the July exam).

First-time applicants who haven’t previously been admitted to the bar in another jurisdiction must pay a $600 application fee if they file by the regular deadline — this increase to $800 for late filings.

Applicants already licensed in another jurisdiction for more than six months must pay a $1,050 application fee by the regular deadline or $1,250 if they file late.

In order to be eligible for the Minnesota bar exam, you must meet the below criteria according to the Rules for Admission to the Bar as amended by the State of Minnesota Supreme Court on Oct. 1, 2021:

  1. Legal Age: Applicants must be at least 18 years old, which they can verify through a government-issued ID or birth certificate.
  2. Educational Qualification: Applicants must hold a Juris Doctor (JD) or Bachelor of Laws (LLB) degree from an American Bar Association (ABA)-approved law school.
  3. Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE): Applicants must pass the MPRE with a scaled score of 85 or higher.

Note: Applicants who haven’t taken the MPRE may still apply for the bar exam under Rule 4E — as long as they submit a passing score within 12 months of the Board approving their application.

Minnesota Exam Structure

In 2014, the state of Minnesota adopted the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE). The 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%)

Of the UBE exam’s possible total of 400 points, candidates must score at least 260 in order 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 Minnesota Bar Exam

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

Minnesota Bar Exam Tips

Despite the infamous difficulty of Minnesota’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 Minnesota Bar Requirements

Apart from qualifying for and passing the Minnesota 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. Passing the Character and Fitness Evaluation
  2. Satisfying the Continuing Legal Education (CLE) Requirements

1. Passing the Character and Fitness Evaluation

Prior to their admission to the Minnesota bar, applicants must undergo a Character and Fitness Evaluation conducted by the Board’s Character and Fitness Committee.

This evaluation thoroughly examines the suitability of each applicant for the legal profession, focusing on aspects such as:

  • Honesty and Integrity: The committee carefully examines the completeness and accuracy of all documents submitted by applicants in order to ensure full disclosure
  • Financial Responsibility: The committee also reviews applicants’ financial history to ensure they’ve managed their finances responsibly — a good indication of their ability to manage client funds ethically
  • Legal and Academic Conduct: The committee evaluates any history of legal issues, academic misconduct, or disciplinary actions within educational or professional settings. This review includes, but is not limited to, criminal records, academic dishonesty, and any employment issues that might reflect on the applicant’s ethical practice of law
  • Rehabilitation and Candor: Applicants must demonstrate rehabilitation from past misconduct and complete honesty in disclosing their history. In particular, the committee assesses whether or not the applicant has made amends and shown significant positive changes in behavior that align with the profession’s ethical standards

Note: The Character and Fitness Evaluation is a comprehensive assessment of an applicant’s current character — not just a review of past actions. Therefore, each applicant should address any concerns raised directly with the Board by providing additional context or information.

 2. Satisfying the CLE Requirements

Upon admission to the bar, attorneys in Minnesota must fulfill CLE requirements to keep their licenses active.

Specifically, attorneys will need to complete 45 hours of approved CLE courses within a three-year reporting period. Of these hours, at least three must focus on ethics or professional responsibility and at least two must address the elimination of bias in the legal profession.

Notably, this state allows attorneys to earn a portion of their CLE credits through pro bono work in order to accommodate diverse ways of learning and contributing to the legal community. Under this guideline, attorneys can claim one CLE credit for every six hours of qualified pro bono legal representation with a limit of six credits per three-year reporting period.

Keep in mind that the Minnesota Board of Continuing Legal Education requires attorneys to submit an affidavit of CLE compliance by August 31 following the conclusion of each reporting period, which runs from July 1 to June 30 over three years.

Note: For detailed information on CLE requirements, visit the Minnesota Board of Continuing Legal Education website.

Admission on Motion (Reciprocity)

Admission on motion allows experienced lawyers from other states or jurisdictions to gain admission to the bar without taking the Minnesota bar exam. This process, as outlined in Rule 7A, caters to attorneys who have actively practiced law and shown a commitment to their profession.

Eligibility for admission on motion under Rule 7A is contingent upon an applicant satisfying the character and fitness, educational, and MPRE criteria outlined above. They also must:

  • Hold an active law license from another US state or jurisdiction
  • Have engaged in the lawful practice of law for a minimum of 1,000 hours per year during 36 of the 60 months immediately before applying
  • Maintain good standing in all jurisdictions where they are — or have been — licensed

Applicants also must submit specific documents from each jurisdiction where they’ve been licensed, which include certificates of good standing, disciplinary records, and other documents that affirm their legal practice credentials and ethical standing.

Note: This process thoroughly examines an applicant’s legal career, which includes client representation, involvement in limited liability companies (LLCs), judicial roles, governmental legal work, contributions to legal education, and research and writing responsibilities.

This meticulous evaluation helps to ensure attorneys admitted through reciprocity bring the essential skills, experience, and knowledge required to effectively meet the legal needs of Minnesotans thus enriching the state’s legal community with their varied expertise.

For more details, visit the Board’s Admission on Motion page.

Minnesota Bar Exam FAQ

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

No, you need a JD or LLB degree from an ABA-approved law school in order to take the Minnesota bar exam. This requirement ensures all candidates have undergone comprehensive legal education before practicing law within the state. Interested in learning more? Check out our What is the Bar Exam article.

How long is the Minnesota bar exam?

The Minnesota bar exam spans two days. The first day covers the Multistate Performance Test (MPT) and Multistate Essay Examination (MEE) while the second day focuses on the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE). Each day involves several hours of testing to comprehensively assess candidates’ legal knowledge and application of their skills.

How hard is it to pass the Minnesota state bar examination?

The Minnesota bar exam covers a broad range of legal topics, including key aspects of the Uniform Commercial Code. You’ll also need to familiarize yourself with UBE score requirements. Additionally, a comprehensive study of various legal areas, such as property law (which includes future interests and decedents estates), can significantly increase your chances of passing.

How much does the Minnesota bar exam cost?

The Minnesota bar exam fee for first-time applicants not admitted in another jurisdiction is $600. Missing the regular filing deadlines incurs a late filing fee, which raises the total to $800. For applicants already licensed in another jurisdiction for more than six months, the fee is $1,050 or $1,250 with the late-filing fee.