New Mexico Bar Exam

Written by: Nik Ventouris

Last updated:

Passing the New Mexico 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 “on motion” for out-of-state attorneys.

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New Mexico Bar Exam Overview

The New Mexico bar exam is administered by the New Mexico Board of Bar Examiners (the Board), under the authority of the New Mexico Supreme Court.

The state’s bar exam occurs biannually on the last Tuesday and Wednesday of February and July. Registration deadlines are October 1 for the February exam and March 1 for the July exam.

The application fee for first-time UBE takers or first-time retakers (from any other state) is $500. For applicants who’ve taken the UBE more than once, the retake fee is $750. Additionally, an application submitted after November 1 for the February exam or after May 1 for the July exam will incur a late fee of $500.

In order to be eligible for the New Mexico bar exam, you must satisfy the following criteria according to the guidelines established under Rule 15 of the New Mexico Rules Governing Admission to the Practice of Law:

  1. Complete the Required Legal Education: Applicants must have a Juris Doctor (JD) or equivalent degree from a law school accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA). Alternatively, they must hold a JD degree from a non-ABA-approved law school and have practiced law for four of the last six years immediately preceding their application.
  2. Submit a Character and Fitness Application: Applicants also must complete the Character and Fitness Application via the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) website. This includes providing all necessary releases for the Board to access personal information relevant to the assessment, as well as submitting three character and fitness references.
  3. Provide a Full Credit Report: Applicants must submit a full credit report within 30 days of their application for admission. This will need to be issued by one of the three major credit-reporting agencies.
  4. Disclose Any Disciplinary Histories (If Applicable): Applicants must fully disclose any disciplinary actions taken against them in educational or professional contexts. This includes detailed accounts of the incidents as well as resolutions and any sanctions imposed.

Note: Pursuant to Rule 15-202(A)(4) NMRA, all applicants must comply with all child and spousal support obligations as outlined in the judgment and order for support under the Parental Responsibility Act, Sections 40-5A-1 through 40-5A-13 NMSA 1978 in order to be admitted to the practice of law.

New Mexico Exam Structure

In 2016, the state of New Mexico 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 must pass the following supplementary exam and complete the following course in order to be eligible for the New Mexico bar:

  • Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE)
  • New Mexico Law Class (NMLC)

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.

New Mexico Law Class (NMLC)

To be eligible for the New Mexico bar, all applicants must complete the New Mexico Law Class (NMLC).

This online, on-demand course aims to acquaint applicants with specific areas of New Mexico law, such as Indian and community property law, civility in the legal profession, and the disciplinary process of the state.

The course is available for free for all applicants. New Mexico attorneys using it to fulfill Continuing Legal Education (CLE) credits will, however, incur a $100 fee.

Current and prospective New Mexico bar applicants, including law students, are encouraged to engage with the NMLC material at any stage of their preparatory journey.

Note: For more information on the NMLC, we recommend having a look at the Thinkific website.

How to Pass the New Mexico Bar Exam

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

New Mexico Bar Exam Tips

Despite the infamous difficulty of New Mexico’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 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 Mexico Bar Requirements

Apart from qualifying for and passing the New Mexico bar exam, you must meet several other requirements in order to become a licensed attorney in the state. These include:

  1. Passing the Character and Fitness Review
  2. Completing the Continuing Legal Education (CLE) Requirements

1. Passing the Character and Fitness Review

New Mexico’s bar exam process includes a Character and Fitness Review at multiple stages: before, during, and following the exam. More specifically, once results are announced, successful candidates with unresolved character and fitness issues will receive a notification that their admission requires further scrutiny.

The Board may request an interview to explore these concerns more thoroughly. At this phase, the Board also will investigate any aspects of the applicant’s background not previously examined or that have recently come to light. This investigation will focus on areas like criminal, educational, or employment history discrepancies.

This meticulous approach is designed to leave no shadow of doubt about a candidate’s ethical suitability for the legal profession, ensuring all who enter the bar will uphold the highest standards. Importantly, both the Board and the applicant have the right to be represented by legal counsel during any hearings and in proceedings that occur before or after these hearings.

Keep in mind that the Board is empowered with subpoena authority, enabling it to mandate the live testimony of witnesses or the deposition thereof as well as the requisition of relevant documents.

2. Completing CLE Requirements

After gaining admission to the bar, licensed attorneys in New Mexico must meet CLE obligations as outlined in Supreme Court Rules 18-101 to 18-303 NMRA.

Specifically, attorneys need to complete 12 CLE hours each year with two of those hours dedicated to ethics. A minimum of eight of these hours should come from interactive sources like live webcasts or seminars while up to four hours can be from self-study activity.

Keep in mind that the deadline for reporting the previous year’s CLE hours is February 1. Missing this deadline will result in a $275 late fee, with an extended reporting period up until April 30 being applicable.

Having said that, failing to satisfy all CLE requirements by May 1 can lead to the New Mexico Supreme Court suspending your license to practice law.

Note: For more information on CLE requirements, refer to the State Bar of New Mexico website.

Admission on Motion (Reciprocity)

New Mexico offers an admission on motion pathway for experienced attorneys from reciprocally recognized states, which allows them to obtain licensure without taking the state’s bar exam.

Qualified applicants must meet all previously outlined eligibility criteria, including educational qualifications and character and fitness standards, and pay a $2,500 application fee.

Additionally, admission on motion applicants must:

  • Maintain or have resigned in good standing from all jurisdictions where they were previously admitted, ensuring no ongoing disciplinary investigations or suspensions.
  • Adhere to any child or spousal support orders, which affirms their compliance with personal legal responsibilities
  • Have actively practiced law for the necessary duration — five out of the last seven years — either within a reciprocal state or in New Mexico under a Qualified Employer Limited License
  • Verify their practice occurred in a state with which New Mexico has established reciprocity

Here’s a full list of the states that have reciprocity with New Mexico:

ConnecticutMissouriU.S. Virgin Islands
District of ColumbiaNebraskaUtah
GeorgiaNew HampshireVermont
IdahoNew JerseyVirginia
IllinoisNew YorkWashington
IndianaNorth CarolinaWest Virginia
IowaNorth DakotaWisconsin

For more information on reciprocity, visit the Reciprocity Applicants page on the New Mexico Board of Bar Examiners website.

New Mexico Bar Exam FAQ

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

No, taking the bar exam in New Mexico without attending law school isn’t an option. All applicants must either have a JD degree from an ABA-accredited law school or, or from a non-ABA-accredited school in addition to four years of experience practicing law. For more New Mexico bar exam information, check out our New Mexico Bar Exam article.

How long is the New Mexico bar exam?

The New Mexico bar exam, which follows the UBE format, is conducted over a period of two days. The first day includes two MPT tasks and six MEE questions while the second day features the 200-question MBE. It’s important for prospective candidates to note that the New Mexico bar exam format will embrace significant changes with the introduction of the NextGen bar exam — anticipated to launch in July 2026.

How hard is it to pass the New Mexico state bar examination?

Successfully navigating the New Mexico state bar exam — which is essential in order to practice law — is a challenging process. This is because the exam rigorously tests a wide spectrum of legal knowledge in areas like negotiation and dispute resolution, and is relatively time-consuming.

How much does the New Mexico bar exam cost?

The application fee is $500 for first-time Uniform Bar Examination (UBE) takers in New Mexico. For applicants who’ve taken the UBE more than once, the retake fee increases to $750. Moreover, late applications will incur an additional $500 fee. Interested in learning more? Check out our What is the Bar Exam article.