South Carolina Bar Exam

Written by: Nik Ventouris

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Passing the South Carolina 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

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South Carolina Bar Exam Overview

In South Carolina, the bar exam is administered by the South Carolina Board of Law Examiners — a body established by the Supreme Court of South Carolina to regulate the admission of candidates to practice law.

The exam is conducted twice a year, in the last weeks of February and July. In order to take the bar exam, you’ll need to register between August 1 and 31 for the February exams or between December 1 and January 10 for the July exams and pay a $1000 filing fee.

If you miss these dates, you’ll still be able to register up until September 30 for the February exam and January 31 for the July exam, but will have to pay a late filing fee of $1500 — any applications received after these dates will not be accepted.

In order to be considered eligible to take the bar exam under Rule 402 of the South Carolina Appellate Court Rules (SCACR), you’ll need to:

  1. Be at least 21 years old
  2. Graduate from an ABA-approved law school with a Juris Doctor (JD) or Bachelor of Laws (LLB) degree
  3. Be considered to be of good moral character by the Committee on Character and Fitness
  4. Not be disbarred, suspended, or the subject of a disciplinary proceeding in any jurisdiction

Note: For more information, you can have a look at the SC Supreme Court’s Office of Bar Admissions page.

South Carolina Exam Structure

Since 2017, the state of South Carolina 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.

Moreover, candidates will be required to pass the following supplementary exams and complete the following course in order to be eligible for the South Carolina bar:

  • Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE)
  • South Carolina Candidate Course of Study

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 South Carolina Bar Exam

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

South Carolina Bar Exam Tips

Despite the infamous difficulty of South Carolina’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 South Carolina Bar Requirements

Apart from qualifying for and passing the South Carolina bar exam, there are a couple of additional requirements you’ll need to meet in order to become and remain a licensed attorney in the state, including:

  • Passing a character and fitness interview
  • Completing the Course of Study on South Carolina law
  • Fulfilling the continuing legal education (CLE) requirements

Character and Fitness Interview

All candidates looking to practice law in South Carolina will be required to pass a character assessment administered by the Committee on Character and Fitness.

This mandatory background check is initiated when you submit your application for admission, which will be considered alongside any further information the Committee deems relevant to determine whether you possess the qualities and character needed to practice law in South Carolina.

Generally, a positive determination is required on this character assessment to be able to sit the UBE in South Carolina. However, if the Committee still hasn’t reached a decision on your application by February 1st (for the February exam) or July 1st (for the July exam), you’ll be able to take the exam and receive the results of this determination afterwards.

Note: If you’re unhappy with the determination given to you by the Committee on Character and Fitness, you’ll have 15 days to submit a petition to review to the Supreme Court.

Course of Study on South Carolina Law

The Course of Study on South Carolina law is an 11-part video series that’s mandatory for all candidates looking to be admitted to the South Carolina Bar. To successfully complete this course, you’ll have to pass a test consisting of three questions for each module, with up to three attempts allowed.

While this series covers a wide range of topics, the main 11 modules include:

  • Real Property
  • Family Law
  • Torts and Conflicts of Laws
  • Workers’ Compensation
  • Insurance Law
  • Business Entities and Partnerships
  • Civil Procedure and Evidence
  • Trusts and Estates
  • Article 2 of the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC)
  • Criminal Law
  • Ethics and Professional Responsibility

Each of these modules is self-contained, meaning you can view them in any order. Once you’ve successfully finished all the course’s modules, you’ll have until the deadline given to you by the Office of Bar Admissions to report this course completion to the SC Bar via email.

This will then be reported to the South Carolina Supreme Court Office of Bar Admissions and you’ll be eligible for the next scheduled swearing-in date.

Note: No continuing legal education credit is awarded for successfully finishing this course.

Mandatory Continuing Legal Education (MCLE) Requirements

According to SCACR Rule 408, you’ll be required to complete at least 14 hours of Mandatory Continuing Legal Education (MCLE) courses each year once you’ve been admitted to the South Carolina Bar. This time should be broken down accordingly in each reporting year:

  • Legal ethics or professional responsibility (2 hours)
  • Live, in-person MCLE (6 hours)

Additionally, you’ll be required to complete one hour of classes on substance abuse, mental health issues, or stress management in the legal profession every two reporting years. All MCLE hours must be completed by March 1 and an MCLE Compliance Report must be filed by April 15 each year.

If you fail to satisfy these MCLE requirements by these deadlines, the South Carolina Supreme Court Commission on CLE and Specialization will assess a late filing fee for you that must be paid.

Note: If your MCLE Compliance Report isn’t received and postmarked by April 15, you’ll be suspended from being able to practice law under SCACR Rule 419.

Attorney Applicants (Reciprocity)

Unlike a number of other states, South Carolina does not offer admission to the bar on the basis of motion or reciprocity. This means that attorneys who are licensed in other jurisdictions must take the South Carolina bar exam to be admitted to the South Carolina Bar.

There are no provisions that allow attorneys to bypass this requirement based on their admission in another state or foreign country. This is in contrast to some other states which do allow for admission on motion under certain conditions.

This means that attorney applicants will need to meet the same requirements as everyone else, including passing the South Carolina Bar Exam, Character and Fitness Determination, and Course of Study on SC Law.

South Carolina Bar Exam FAQ

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

To take the South Carolina bar exam, it is mandatory to have graduated with a Juris Doctorate (JD) or LLB from a law school accredited by the American Bar Association. This requirement is set by the State Supreme Court of South Carolina, ensuring that all applicants have received formal legal education before they sit for the bar exam. For more information on the bar exam, check out our What is the Bar Exam article.

How long is the South Carolina bar exam?

The South Carolina bar exam is a two-day Uniform Bar Examination (UBE), which typically takes place in February and July. The first day of the exam you’ll tackle the Multistate Essay Exam (MEE) in the morning and the Multistate Performance Test (MPT) in the afternoon, while on the second day you’ll only need to complete the Multistate Bar Exam (MBE).

How hard is it to pass the South Carolina State bar examination?

Passing the South Carolina bar exam is known to be challenging as it requires a comprehensive understanding of a wide range of different legal subjects. However, passing this exam is highly likely as long as you commit to your studying and prepare effectively. To read more about the eligibility requirements, we recommend our South Carolina Bar Exam article.

How much does the SC bar exam cost?

Application fees for the South Carolina bar exam range between $1,000 and $1,500 depending on how late you file your submission. However, there are a number of other fees associated with the exam to factor in, such as a laptop use fee and fees for transferring UBE scores or for character and fitness applications.