Missouri Bar Exam

Written by: Nik Ventouris

Last updated:

Passing the Missouri 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 through an admission of motion.

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Missouri Bar Exam Overview

The Missouri bar exam is administered by the Missouri Board of Law Examiners (MBLE), which was established in 1944 by the state’s Supreme Court.

The Board is comprised of six members serving nine-year terms who are responsible for determining eligibility for bar admission, conducting the bar exams, and evaluating the character and fitness of applicants.

If you are aiming to take the Missouri bar exam, you should know that it occurs twice a year — on the last Tuesday and Wednesday of February and July.

When it comes to registration, you should keep in mind that the MBLE begins accepting applications for the February exam from September 1 and from February 1 for the July exam.

There are a number of different applicant categories, such as first-time examinees and repeat takers, with fees that range between $560 and $1400.

Keep in mind that in order to be eligible for the Missouri bar exam, you will need to satisfy the following criteria set by the Missouri Supreme Court in Rules 8.03, 8.07, and 8.08:

  1. Legal Status in the United States: Applicants must be either a citizen or national of the United States, an immigrant alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence in the United States, or an alien otherwise authorized to work lawfully in the United States.
  2. Educational Requirements: As per Rule 8.07(c), eligibility for the bar examination requires completion of all graduation requirements for a Juris Doctor (JD) degree from an ABA-approved law school, which can be verified by the submission of an official transcript.

Note: Graduates from non-ABA-approved or foreign law schools may still be eligible to take the Missouri bar examination by meeting Rule 8.07(d) or (e) requirements, which specify under what circumstances they could be admitted to the bar.

Missouri Exam Structure 

Since 2011, the state of Missouri 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, 260 of which need to be answered correctly in order for a candidate to receive a passing mark.

Moreover, candidates will be required to pass the following supplementary exams and complete the following course to be eligible for the Missouri bar:

  • Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE)
  • Missouri Educational Component Test (MECT)

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.

Missouri Educational Component Test (MECT)

The Missouri Educational Component Test (MECT) is a mandatory open-book test prepared by the Supreme Court of Missouri and the Missouri Board of Law Examiners.

It is designed to ensure that applicants have a thorough understanding of specific Missouri law, which supplements the general legal principles covered in the Uniform Bar Examination (UBE).

In accordance with Rule 8.08(c), all applicants who have passed the bar exam must achieve a minimum score of 28 out of 33 on the MECT to be granted entry to the Missouri Bar.

The test encompasses a variety of legal topics, such as:

  • Civil Procedure
  • Real Property
  • Trusts
  • Business Associations
  • Missouri Courts
  • Administrative Law
  • Trust Account Management

It is important to note that you are required to complete both the MECT and the MPRE within one year of receiving written notification of passing the bar exam.

Note: For more information, including detailed study materials, applicants are encouraged to review the resources available at the Missouri Courts website.

How to Pass the Missouri Bar Exam

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

Missouri Bar Exam Tips

Despite the infamous difficulty of Missouri’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 comprehensive grasp of the various subjects tested 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 Missouri Bar Requirements

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

  1. Character and Fitness Evaluation
  2. Ineligibility Considerations
  3. Providing Proof of Moral Character

1. Character and Fitness Evaluation

After passing the Missouri Bar Exam, you will be required to undergo a character and fitness evaluation by the Missouri Board of Law Examiners. This process can potentially last several months, sometimes extending beyond six, until the board presents you with your Character and Fitness Report.

The board will conduct a full examination of your honesty, integrity, financial responsibility, respect for the legal system, and professional behavior.

It should be noted that in the case of any past misconduct, particular attention is paid to assessing the severity of the conduct, your age at the time, and any steps you have taken towards rehabilitation.

Note: If any issues arise during your evaluation, the Board may arrange an investigative hearing to clarify these concerns.

2. Continuing Legal Education

Once admitted to the Missouri bar, attorneys must annually fulfill specific Minimum Continuing Legal Education (MCLE) requirements, which amount to 15 hours of CLE activities or programs.

Of these hours, at least three must be allocated to accredited ethics-related programs, covering vital topics such as professionalism, substance use, mental health, as well as legal and judicial ethics.

Additionally, at least one hour is dedicated to topics like explicit or implicit bias, diversity, inclusion, or cultural competency, which aligns with the board’s focus on bias elimination.

Note: For more information on your Continuing Legal Education requirements, visit the Missouri Bar’s official MCLE page.

3. Ineligibility Considerations

The Missouri Supreme Court, through Rule 8.04, has laid out clear criteria for ineligibility related to bar admission, which remain relevant even after successfully passing the bar exam.

These criteria primarily focus on past legal transgressions, which include felony convictions and any history of legal infractions.

Essentially, the Court requires a demonstration of rectitude and reform, particularly in cases involving serious offenses or recurrent misdemeanors.

Keep in mind that the board is of the opinion that the privilege to practice law in the state of Missouri carries with it responsibility, and thus the burden of demonstrating that the requirements of the rules have been met, rests upon the applicant.

Note: For additional details on ineligibility criteria for the Missouri bar, please refer to the official page on the Missouri Courts website.

Admission on Motion (Reciprocity)

If you are an experienced lawyer, you may be granted entry to the bar without having to sit the examination through an Admission on Motion, as outlined in Rule 8.10.

To be eligible, the first requirement is that the applicant must have received a first professional degree in law, either a J.D. or LL.B., from a law school approved by the American Bar Association (ABA) at the time of graduation.

Furthermore, for five of the ten years immediately preceding the application date, the applicant must meet one or more of the following conditions:

  • Active License and Practice: The applicant must have held an active license to practice law and been engaged in full-time legal practice in a state, other than Missouri, a US territory, or the Washington D.C.
  • Service as a Government Lawyer or in the Armed Forces: Full-time service as a lawyer with the US government or its armed forces qualifies as part of the five-year requirement.
  • Teaching Law: Teaching full-time at an ABA-approved law school is considered equivalent to practicing law for this requirement
  • In-House Counsel Practice: Full-time practice of law as in-house counsel, primarily based in an office located in a state, other than Missouri, a US territory, or the Washington D.C., also meets the requirement

Keep in mind that a combination of the aforementioned practices can be used to fulfill the five-year practice requirement.

Note: Missouri has reciprocal agreements with certain jurisdictions that may offer more flexible standards for admission on motion than the general criteria outlined previously.

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

ArizonaMinnesotaSouth Dakota
GeorgiaNew HampshireVermont
IdahoNew JerseyVirginia
IllinoisNew MexicoVirgin Islands
IndianaNew YorkWashington
IowaNorth CarolinaWashington DC
KansasNorth DakotaWest Virginia

For additional details, please visit the Admission on Motion/Reciprocity section on the Missouri State Board of Law Examiners’ website.

Missouri Bar Exam FAQ

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

In Missouri, you usually need a JD law degree from an ABA-approved school to take the bar exam. For those from non-ABA-approved or foreign law schools, eligibility is possible under Rule 8.07(d) or (e), which may involve presenting a transferred MBE score along with other specific legal qualifications.

How long is the Missouri bar exam?

The Missouri bar exam spans two full days. On the first day, candidates tackle the Multistate Performance Test and the Multistate Essay Examination. The second day is dedicated to the Multistate Bar Examination, a 200-question multiple-choice test, which is essential to achieve a high scaled score. Interested in finding out more? Check out our What is the Bar Exam article.

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

Missouri has adopted the UBE for its bar examination, which is generally considered quite challenging. However, practicing with past exams has been shown to effectively increase average MBE scores, so make sure to incorporate them into your study plan.

How much does the Missouri bar exam cost?

The cost of taking the Missouri bar exam, which evaluates your understanding of uniform principals of law, ranges between $560 and $1400. This fee varies depending on whether you are a first-time examinee, a repeat taker, or fall into a special category like in-house counsel or a foreign-trained lawyer.