New Jersey Bar Exam

Written by: Nik Ventouris

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Passing the New Jersey 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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New Jersey Bar Exam Overview

The New Jersey bar examination is organized and overseen by the New Jersey Board of Law Examiners, under the authority of the Supreme Court of New Jersey.

If you’re looking to take the New Jersey bar exam, you should know that it is scheduled biannually with dates set for the last Tuesday and Wednesday of February and July.

The standard registration fee is $675 if you submit your application by October 31 for the February exam, and by March 31 for the July session.

If you miss the initial deadlines, there will still be chances to sign up; for the February exam, you will be able to enroll by November 15, and for the July exam, by April 15, for a fee of $950. After these dates, your last chance to enroll will be November 30 for February and April 30 for July, with the fee going up to $1,200.

Keep in mind that in order to be eligible for the NJ bar exam, you will need to satisfy the following criteria:

  1. You must be at least 18 years of age.
  2. You must have earned a Juris Doctor from an ABA-accredited law school.
  3. If you have been admitted to practice law in another jurisdiction, you must have maintained good standing and have no outstanding disciplinary actions.

Note: If you’re planning to register for the New Jersey bar exam, the process can be completed online through the New Jersey Board of Bar Examiners’ website.

New Jersey Exam Structure

Since 2017, the state of New Jersey 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.

Candidates will also be required to pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE) to be eligible for the New Jersey 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 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 New Jersey Bar Exam

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

New Jersey Bar Exam Tips

Despite the infamous difficulty of New Jersey’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 New Jersey Bar Requirements

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

  1. Certification of Character
  2. Oath of Admission
  3. Lawyers’ Fund for Client Protection
  4. Continuing Legal Education (CLE)

1. Certification of Character

Certification of Character is a mandatory requirement for bar admission in New Jersey.

This process involves a thorough review of your personal and professional background by the Committee on Character, whose purpose is to ensure that all candidates possess the moral integrity and ethical standards necessary to practice law.

This includes examining your academic record, employment history, financial transactions , and any legal matters you may have been involved in. The Committee may request additional documentation or conduct interviews to assess your character in greater depth if they so choose.

Note: The Certification of Character process also includes a criminal history check, which is conducted through the FBI and the New Jersey State Police.

2. Oath of Admission and Signing the Attorney’s Roll

Under Supreme Court R. 1:27-1(d), candidates must take the Oath of Admission and sign the attorney’s roll. This step formally marks their entry into the legal profession.

Following eligibility for bar admission, this Oath must be completed within 90 days. After you take the oath, a further obligation is to send the signed signature card to the Clerk of the Supreme Court within 30 days.

If you want to review the specifics of the Oath of Admission — including instructions and requirements — check out the relevant document provided by the New Jersey Board of Bar Examiners.

3. Lawyers’ Fund for Client Protection and Disciplinary Oversight Committee

The Lawyers’ Fund provides compensation to clients affected by attorney misconduct, and as a newly admitted member of the New Jersey Bar, you will eventually be required to contribute to it.

These mandatory contributions, as directed by the state’s Supreme Court, are essential for maintaining client protection and upholding professional discipline within the legal community.

Keep in mind that during your first year as a practicing attorney, you will be exempt from this fee, and a reduced fee will be applied in your second year.

Note: For more information on these contributions, refer to the Lawyers’ Fund for Client Protection and Disciplinary Oversight Committee.

4. Continuing Legal Education (CLE)

As a newly admitted attorney in New Jersey, specific CLE requirements will apply to you.

Under Rule 1:42, within your first two years of practice, you’ll be required to complete 16 CLE credits.

These must cover six out of nine designated legal subject areas, which include topics like ethics, civil litigation, criminal law, and family law, among others.

Note: For a comprehensive list of these subject areas and additional information, visit the New Jersey Courts’ Continuing Legal Education website.

Admission on Motion (Reciprocity)

Admission by Motion, which has been effective since September 1, 2016, provides a pathway for experienced lawyers licensed in other jurisdictions to join the New Jersey bar without having to retake a bar examination.

Keep in mind that all applicants will need to meet the following criteria for admission, including:

  • Holding a Juris Doctor Degree from an ABA-accredited law school
  • Demonstrating fitness and character necessary for the practice of law, as assessed by the Committee on Character
  • Achieving a score of 75 or higher on the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE), or passing an approved law school ethics course with a grade of C- or better

Applicants are required to fulfill additional requirements set by the court, such as:

  • Continuous legal practice for at least five out of the last seven years in another jurisdiction
  • Successful completion of a bar examination in another jurisdiction
  • Completion of a course or courses on New Jersey ethics and professionalism, as determined by the court

To apply for admission by motion in New Jersey, you should:

  • Submit the online application through the New Jersey Board of Bar Examiners’ website
  • Pay the non-refundable application fee of $1,500
  • Provide all necessary documentation, including proof of legal education, active practice, and standing in another jurisdiction

Note: Certain states have specific reciprocity agreements with New Jersey, offering more lenient standards for admission on motion in comparison to the standard rules. To qualify under these agreements, applicants must meet the requirements outlined in rules 1:24-11:24-4, and 1:27-1.

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

ColoradoMinnesotaSouth Dakota
District of ColumbiaMissouriTexas
GeorgiaMontanaUS Virgin Islands
IllinoisNew HampshireVermont
IndianaNew MexicoVirginia
IowaNew YorkWashington
KansasNorth CarolinaWisconsin
KentuckyNorth DakotaWyoming

Note: For more details on reciprocal jurisdictions with New Jersey, refer to this publication provided by the New Jersey Board of Bar Examiners.

New Jersey Bar Exam FAQ

Can you take the New Jersey bar without going to law school?

No, in New Jersey, a Juris Doctor degree from an ABA-accredited law school is mandatory to take the bar exam. This rule applies universally, ensuring that everyone, from aspiring attorneys to future Jersey law school professors, receives the necessary legal education and training. Interested in finding out more? Check out our What is the Bar Exam article.

How long is the New Jersey bar exam?

The two-day exam starts with the Multistate Performance Test (MPT) and the Multistate Essay Examination (MEE), followed by the 200-question Multistate Bar Examination (MBE) on the second day. You will also need to complete the professional responsibility course, which you will be able to do in your own time. Note: New Jersey bar exam dates fall on the last Tuesday and Wednesday of February and July.

How hard is it to pass the New Jersey State bar examination?

The New Jersey bar exam challenges each individual differently, being a complex test that spans across a wide array of legal topics. This means that successfully navigating this exam will require not only rigorous study but also access to detailed New Jersey bar exam information.

How much does the New Jersey bar exam cost?

The New Jersey State bar exam fee is $675 if you register by the standard deadlines of October 31 for the February exam and March 31 for the July exam. Missing these deadlines will increase the fee to $950 during the first late registration period and to $1,200 in the final late registration period.