Oregon Bar Exam

Written by: Will Bond

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Oregon Bar Exam

Passing the Oregon 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 for admission as an out-of-state attorney.

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Oregon Bar Exam Overview

The Oregon Board of Bar Examiners (the Board) administers the bar exam under the governance of the Oregon Supreme Court.

The bar exam is held twice a year on the last consecutive Tuesday and Wednesday of February and July, and costs $750 (for first-time takers) and $1,750 (for out-of-state attorneys).

To register for either of these exam cycles, you will need to submit your application by November 15 for the February exam or April 15 or the July exam. Having said that, you should note that you’ll have up until the late-filing deadlines of December 15 and May 15 to complete this step (with an additional fee of $350).

In order to be eligible for the Oregon bar exam, you must satisfy one of the following criteria per Rule 3.05 of the Oregon Supreme Court’s Rules for Admission of Attorneys:

  1. Graduate from an American Bar Association (ABA)-approved law school with a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) or Juris Doctor (JD) degree.
  2. Graduate from a US law school with a JD or LLB degree and:
    • Be admitted to practice law by the highest tribunal in a US jurisdiction with admission requirements equivalent to those in Oregon; or
    • Have continuously engaged in practicing law for a minimum of three of the five years immediately prior to taking your Oregon bar exam
  3. Graduate from a foreign law school and be able to prove that:
    • The admission requirements in the foreign jurisdiction are substantially equivalent to those in Oregon
    • The foreign jurisdiction in which you’re currently admitted to practice law uses the Common Law of England as the basis for their legal system
    • You graduated from a law school equivalent to one approved by the ABA as assessed by the Board

Note: Applicants can qualify under Rule 3.05(4) if they’ll complete their JD or LLB degree requirements within 120 days of taking the Oregon bar exam.

Oregon Exam Structure

In 2017, the state of Oregon 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.

Candidates also must obtain a passing score of 85 on the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE) in order to be eligible for the Oregon 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 Oregon Bar Exam

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

Oregon Bar Exam Tips

Despite the infamous difficulty of Oregon’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 Oregon Bar Requirements

Apart from qualifying for and passing the Oregon 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 Investigation
  2. Taking Your Oath of Admission
  3. Enrolling in the New Lawyer Mentoring Program (NLMP)
  4. Satisfying the Mandatory Continuing Legal Education (MCLE) Requirements

1. Passing the Character and Fitness Investigation

In order to qualify for the Oregon bar, all applicants must demonstrate they possess the key attributes required for this profession (i.e., honesty, integrity, and a respect for the rights, safety, and wellbeing of others). To ensure applicants meet this requirement, the Board investigates their moral character and fitness before recommending the Oregon Supreme Court accept or deny their application.

If the Board discovers any of the following conduct in your past, it may invite you to an evidentiary hearing to investigate it further:

  • Unlawful conduct
  • Academic misconduct
  • Providing false/misleading information or omitting any relevant information from any bar application
  • Abuse of the legal process (e.g., frivolous lawsuits or defenses)
  • Neglecting professional obligations
  • Violating a court order

If the Board is dissatisfied with an applicant’s moral character or fitness to practice law, the applicant will receive a notice of this decision by mail. They’ll then have 30 days from the date cited on this notice to request an evidentiary hearing and justify why they don’t feel they should be denied admission.

Note: You can read more about the rules regulating the character and fitness investigation under Rules 1, 6, and 9 of the Oregon Supreme Court’s Rules for Admission of Attorneys.

2. Taking Your Oath of Admission

Once the Board and Oregon Supreme Court deem you qualified to practice law in this state, you’ll need to take your oath of admission. To do this, you’ll need to submit this registration form to the Oregon Supreme Court within 30 days of receiving your notice of admission.

You should receive this notice that you’ve passed the bar exam by “written or electronic means” soon after the Court is able to act on the Board’s report identifying the applicants recommended for the bar. This report is usually submitted to the Court within 60 days of the date you took your bar exam.

After this, you’ll attend a swearing-in ceremony in which you’ll take the oath of admission before an Oregon judge.

During this ceremony, you’ll stand before a judge and recite an oath that states you pledge to:

  • Uphold the Constitution of the United States and the State of Oregon;
  • Conduct yourself ethically and professionally per the Oregon Rules of Professional Conduct;
  • Faithfully carry out your duties to all clients and the courts; and
  • Promote the administration of justice

This ceremony marks your official entry into the state bar and signifies your commitment to uphold the ethical and professional standards expected of lawyers.

3. Enrolling in the NLMP

Since 2011, all new lawyers in Oregon must take part in the NLMP. Once admitted to the Oregon bar, you’ll have 28 days to enroll in the NLMP by completing the online enrollment survey on the Oregon State Bar website.

This year-long program is designed to support your transition into practice by allowing you to make connections with experienced mentors in the legal community. These mentors offer advice, support, and guidance on how to navigate the early stages of your legal career.

You’ll be assigned a mentor based on your geographic location and practice areas. You’ll also receive a deadline by which you need to complete the program — typically either May 31 or Dec. 31 — between 12 and 18 months from the date you got your assigned mentor.

By your assigned deadline, you’ll need to submit a completion packet to the Oregon State Bar. This packet should contain:

  • A signed copy of your certificate of completion; and
  • A $100 program fee

Note: If you fail to enroll in the NLMP within 28 days, the Oregon State Bar will grant you a 60-day grace period to complete the enrollment process. After this, the executive director of the Oregon State Bar may recommend the Oregon Supreme Court suspend your bar membership until you complete the program.

4. Satisfying the MCLE Requirements

All members of the Oregon State Bar must complete 45 MCLE credits by April 30 of each reporting period, which lasts three years. While you must finish all of these credits by this deadline, you’ll have until May 31 to submit your MCLE report.

As part of these 45 MCLE hours, all active lawyers need to complete the following minimums during each three-year reporting period:

  • Ethics (Five Hours)
  • Abuse Reporting (One Hour)
  • Mental Health and Substance Use Education (One Hour)
  • Access to Justice (Three Hours in Alternate Reporting Periods)

In addition to this, different types of MCLE credits have limits on the amount you can earn in each reporting period per Rules 5.5 to 5.12 of the Oregon State Bar’s MCLE Rules and Regulations.

This table outlines these different MCLE credit types, their limits, and several examples:

Credit TypeCredit CapExamples
Category 1No limit per reporting periodGroup CLE seminars (e.g., live group programs or recordings)
Law school/graduate-level courses at reputable universities
Participating in the Oregon State Bar NLMP
Category 220 credits per three-year reporting period
10 credits per short reporting period
Teaching (e.g., CLE programs or at a law school)
Working as an Oregon bar examiner
Volunteering for the legal ethics/disciplinary system
Category 3Six credits per three-year reporting period
Three credits per short reporting period
Personal management assistance activities
Volunteering to judge moot courts
Pro bono work

The initial reporting period will be slightly shorter for new lawyers admitted by exam, lasting from the date they became a member of the Oregon State Bar until April 30 of the next calendar year. During this period, they’ll only need to complete 15 credit hours of MCLE that include:

  • An Oregon State Bar-approved introductory course on access to justice (Three Hours)
  • Ethics (Two Hours)
    • Oregon Ethics and Professionalism Course (One Hour)
  • Mental Health and Substance Use Education (One Hour)
  • Practical Skills (Nine Hours)
    • Oregon Practice and Procedure (Four Hours)

Importantly, new lawyers will earn six of the nine required practical skills MCLE credits in their first three-year reporting period for finishing the NLMP.

Admission Based on Comity (Reciprocity)

In order to overcome the inherent reliance of reciprocity on other participating states, the Oregon Supreme Court replaced admission by reciprocity with a new comity rule in 2023.

Under this rule, licensed attorneys may be eligible for the Oregon bar without having to sit the state bar exam as long as:

  • They earned a JD or LLB degree from an ABA-accredited law school or otherwise satisfy the requirements of Rule 3.05 (see above)
  • They passed a bar exam in another US jurisdiction
  • They’ve been admitted to practice law in at least one other US jurisdiction
  • They possess a currently active membership to practice law in the highest court of a US jurisdiction
  • They’ve practiced law full time for at least 24 of the 48 months immediately prior to the date of their application
  • They meet the good moral character and fitness requirements
  • They complete their application for admission based on comity within six months by providing any information requested by the Board and Oregon Supreme Court
  • They pay all application fees (and other associated costs) imposed by the Board and the Oregon Supreme Court
  • They haven’t been subject to any suspensions in the 60 months immediately before applying
  • They’re not subject to any ongoing inquiries, investigations, or disciplinary cases in another state

If you meet the requirements listed above, you may submit an Application for Admission Through Comity to the Oregon State Bar and pay the corresponding $1,750 fee.

Note: For more information on this topic, refer to Rule 15.05 of the Oregon Supreme Court’s Rules for Admission of Attorneys.

Oregon Bar Exam FAQ

Can you become an attorney in Oregon without taking the bar exam?

Currently, qualified attorneys in other US jurisdictions may be eligible to practice in Oregon without taking the bar exam if they meet certain requirements. Additionally, Oregon is planning to introduce a new path for law students to qualify through supervised practice rather than the bar exam in the near future. For more information on the requirements for each of these admission routes, check out our overview above.

Why is Oregon getting rid of the bar exam?

Motivated by a shortage of public defenders, the Oregon Supreme Court unanimously decided to make it easier to enter the legal field within the state in an approach similar to the temporary “diploma privilege” used in the pandemic. From May 2024, law school graduates may choose the “Supervised Practice Portfolio Examination” — allowing them to prove themselves on the job instead of through the traditional bar exam approach.

Which US state has the hardest bar exam?

Statistically, California is widely considered to have the hardest bar exam due to its comparatively low average pass rate of 34%. Yet, the biggest factor that will influence the difficulty of these bar exams is how prepared you are for them — not the state you take it in.

What is the pass rate for the Oregon bar exam?

The Oregon bar exam has a reasonably high average pass rate when compared to many other states — in July 2023, for example, 69% of all test takers passed. If you’re looking to ensure you pass the bar exam in Oregon on your first attempt, it’s essential to ensure you prepare effectively.