Ohio Bar Exam

Written by: Will Bond

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Ohio Bar Exam

Passing the Ohio 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 applying as an out-of-state attorney.

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Ohio Bar Exam Overview

The bar exam is administered by the Ohio Board of Bar Examiners (the Board).

Appointed by the state’s Supreme Court, the Board’s main purpose is to oversee the admission of applicants to the bar.

If you plan to take the bar exam in Ohio, it’s held twice a year on the last Tuesday and Wednesday of February and July. You’ll have until November 1 for the February exam and April 1 for the July exam to submit your application and pay the $330 filing fee.

You’ll need to pay a $430 filing fee, however, if you apply after these deadlines (up until December 10 for the February exam or May 10 for the July exam).

Keep in mind that in order to be eligible for the Ohio bar exam, you will need to satisfy the following criteria according to Rule 1 of the Supreme Court Rules for the Government of the Bar of Ohio:

  1. Application to Register as a Candidate for Admission: Each person intending to take the Ohio bar exam must file an Application to Register as a Candidate for Admission to the Practice of Law with the Office of Bar Admissions by Nov. 15 in their second year of law school.
  2. Minimum Age Requirement: All applicants must be at least 21 years old in order to qualify to take the Ohio bar exam.
  3. Approved Undergraduate Education: All applicants must have earned a bachelor’s degree from a college or university accredited by one of the bodies in Section 3(H)(1).
  4. Graduate from an Accredited Law School: Applicants must have obtained either a Juris Doctor (JD) or Bachelor of Laws (LLB) degree from a law school approved by the American Bar Association. Graduates of foreign law schools must instead meet the requirements outlined in Sections 2(C)(1-2) or 11(B)(7).
  5. Character and Fitness Approval: Before they take the Ohio bar exam, all applicants must demonstrate they possess the required moral qualifications for this profession by satisfying the character and fitness requirements contained within Section 11.

Note: All candidates must file their applications for bar admission in Ohio online through the Bar Admissions Portal.

Ohio Exam Structure

In 2021, the state of Ohio 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, 270 of which need to be answered correctly in order for a candidate to receive a passing mark.

Moreover, candidates must pass the following supplementary exams in order to be eligible for the Ohio bar:

  • Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE)
  • Ohio Law Component (OLC) Test

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.

Ohio Law Component (OLC)

Following amendments made to the Supreme Court of Ohio Rules Governing the Bar in June 2020, applicants to the bar in this state also must take and pass a jurisdiction-specific test called the Ohio Law Component (OLC).

This online, open-book exam includes 25 multiple-choice questions that cover aspects of Ohio law specific to this state. In order to pass, you’ll need to obtain a score of 80% or higher — although there’s no limit to how many times you can retake this test if you don’t achieve this score on your first attempt.

Unlike other parts of the bar exam, you won’t need to memorize specific concepts for this test. Instead, it’ll access your ability to access and apply legal knowledge that’s unique to Ohio in a variety of example situations. You’ll have access to the OLC outlines on your testing computer throughout the duration of this test, but won’t be able to use the “find” function (Ctrl + F).

There’s no time limit within which you’ll need to complete this test, and you’ll receive your results immediately after finishing.

Note: You can find more information on this pre-admission test in the Board’s Course Outlines for the Ohio Law Component.

How to Pass the Ohio Bar Exam

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

Ohio Bar Exam Tips

Despite the infamous difficulty of Ohio’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 Ohio Bar Requirements

Apart from qualifying for and passing the Ohio 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. Satisfying the Character and Fitness Investigation
  2. Taking an Oath of Office
  3. Completing Your Attorney Registration
  4. Finishing the New Lawyer Training (NLT) Program
  5. Meeting the Continuing Legal Education (CLE) Requirements

1. Satisfying the Character and Fitness Investigation

In order to ensure all candidates admitted to the Ohio bar possess the good character and moral qualifications to practice law, the Ohio Supreme Court appointed the Board of Commissioners on Character & Fitness to investigate each candidate.

This investigation, which is automatically triggered when you submit your Application to Register as a Candidate for Admission to the Practice of Law (Registration Application) with the Office of Bar Admissions, has three main steps:

  1. NCBE Background Verification: First, the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) will review the character questionnaire you submitted alongside your Registration Application. It’ll verify this information with your references, review police records, and carry out any other necessary checks it deems necessary to produce a comprehensive report on your character.
  2. Admissions Committee Investigation: Once the NCBE submits its report to the Office of Bar Admissions, it’ll review that report and notify you in writing of a personal interview you must attend within 35 days. You may need to provide additional information before this interview.
  3. Review by the Board of Bar Examiners: The Board will review the Admissions Committee’s recommendation and notify you via email around three weeks prior to the date of the bar exam if you’ve been approved to take the exam.

Note: You can learn more about the qualities and characteristics the Board seeks in applicants in the Supreme Court of Ohio’s Essential Eligibility Requirements report.

2. Taking an Oath of Office

After successfully passing the Ohio bar exam and gaining admission to the state bar, you’ll need to take an oath of office per Rule 1, Section 9 of the Supreme Court Rules for the Government of the Bar of Ohio.

The Office of Bar Admissions will contact you shortly after your bar application has been approved with scheduling information regarding your bar admissions ceremony. After you affirm before a state or federal judge to be bound by this oath, you’ll receive a certificate of admission.

Note: If you fail to take your oath of office within 12 months of your approval for bar admission, your application will be considered withdrawn.

3. Completing Your Attorney Registration

Within 30 days of your date of admission (i.e., the day on which you took your oath of office), you must register online through the Attorney Services Portal.

Following this initial registration, you’ll also need to continue to register in the same way every odd-numbered year.

Here are the biennial registration fees for the upcoming registration periods:

  • 2023/2025: $400
  • 2025/2027: $450

Failure to complete registration within 30 days of admission will result in a $100 late fee. You’ll receive a notice of this noncompliance by mail along with a deadline by which you must comply. If you still haven’t registered by this deadline, you’ll be suspended from practicing law.

Note: If suspended, you’ll need to file an application for reinstatement and pay a $300 reinstatement fee on top of any relevant application fees.

4. Finishing the New Lawyer Training (NLT) Program

Under Rule 1, Section 14 all newly admitted attorneys must complete at least 12 hours of NLT instruction by the end of their first biennial compliance period.

In particular, NLT should involve three hours on the following specialized topics:

  1. Professional Conduct, Professional Relationships, Obligations of Lawyers, or Aspirational Ideals of the Profession (One Hour)
  2. Fundamental Law Office Management Practices (One hour)
  3. Client Fund Management (One Hour)

You can obtain the rest of the nine general credit hours either through instruction on substantive law topics related to specific practice areas or by participating in the Lawyer to Lawyer Mentoring Program.

The following lawyers are exempt from the requirement to complete the NLT program:

  • Attorneys admitted on motion (i.e., without examination)
  • Inactive status attorneys
  • Attorneys granted an exemption by the Commission on Continuing Legal Education
  • Attorneys admitted temporarily as military spouses

If you fail to complete the NLT program in a timely manner, you’ll have to pay a late fee and may be suspended from practicing law.

Note: The requirement to complete the NLT program is separate from the general CLE requirements for active attorneys (see below), which you’ll also need to complete.

5. Meeting the CLE Requirements

In order to continue practicing law in Ohio, all attorneys registered for active status must complete 24 hours of CLE every two years.

As part of these 24 CLE hours, you must complete at least 2.5 hours in any combination of the following areas:

  • Legal Ethics
  • Professionalism
  • Alcoholism, Substance Abuse, or Mental Health Issues
  • Access to Justice and Fairness in the Courts
  • Interacting With Self-Represented Litigants
  • Pro Bono Representation

Depending on the first letter of your last name, the deadline for completing these CLE hours can vary:

  • A through L: Dec. 31 of each odd-numbered year
  • M through Z: Dec. 31 of each even-numbered year

You also may carry over up to 12 hours of any excess CLE hours you’ve earned to the next compliance period.

Admission on Motion (Reciprocity)

According to Rule 1, Section 10, candidates who’re already qualified as attorneys in another US jurisdiction can apply for admission to the Ohio bar without taking an exam if they meet all of the following:

  • They were granted admission to the bar by the highest court of another US state (or in Washington, DC)
  • They’ve practiced law on a full-time basis for at least five of the 10 years immediately preceding their application to the Ohio bar
  • They haven’t failed an Ohio bar exam within the five-year period immediately preceding their application to the Ohio bar
  • They’ve never practiced law without authorization
  • They’re a US citizen or resident alien
  • They satisfy the general admission requirements discussed at the start of this article

Unlike a number of other states, admission on motion to the Ohio bar isn’t based on reciprocity (also known as comity). This means applicants from any US jurisdiction who meet the set of requirements outlined above are eligible for this admission route to the bar.

To apply for admission on motion, you’ll need to submit an application online through the Bar Admissions Portal and pay the application fee set by the NCBE.

Note: For more information, visit the Supreme Court of Ohio’s Application for Admission Without Examination page.

Ohio Bar Exam FAQ

How hard is the Ohio bar exam?

Taking the Ohio bar exam and passing it is no small feat. In addition to passing the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE), you’ll also need to obtain a passing score on relevant Ohio-specific components to qualify for admission. While it can be tricky to pass the Ohio bar exam, effective preparation is the best way to ensure you succeed on your first attempt.

Where is the Ohio Bar exam in 2024?

In Ohio, the bar exam typically takes place at either the Roberts Centre, 123 Gano Road, Wilmington, Ohio, or the Greater Columbus Convention Center, 400 N. High Street, Columbus, Ohio. For more Ohio bar exam information, see our overview above.

Can anyone take the Ohio Bar exam?

No. In order to be able to take the bar exam in this state, candidates must meet the requirements set by the Ohio Supreme Court. These include being at least 21 years old, obtaining the necessary undergraduate and legal education, satisfying the character and fitness requirements, and submitting a Registration Application in the second year of law school.

What is the passing score for the Ohio Bar exam?

In order to be eligible for admission to the Ohio State Bar, you’ll need to obtain a passing score of at least 270 out of 400 on the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE), 85 on the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE), and at least 80% on the Ohio Law Component (OLC) test.