Texas Bar Exam

Written by: Nik Ventouris

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Texas Bar Exam

Passing the Texas 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 explore alternative admission options.

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Texas Bar Exam Overview

The Texas bar exam is administered by the Texas Board of Law Examiners, which oversees the examination process in the state.

If you’re interested in taking the exam, you should know that it is held twice a year, on the last Tuesday and Wednesday of February and July.

Keep in mind that to be eligible for the Texas bar exam, you will need to satisfy the following criteria in accordance with the Texas Board of Law Examiners and Supreme Court:

  1. ABA-Approved Law School Study (Juris Doctor Graduates): You must have attended and graduated from a law school in the United States that was approved by the American Bar Association (ABA) at all times during your attendance.
  2. State-Accredited Law School Study: If you have a JD from a state-accredited law school, you must meet the eligibility requirements outlined in Rule 13 section 3 of the Rules Governing Admission to the Bar of Texas.
  3. Foreign Law School Study: For foreign-trained applicants, the eligibility requirements are addressed in Rule 13 sections 4-5. These ensure that your education is durationally and substantially equivalent to that provided by an ABA-approved law school.

Note: The fee for the exam is between $225 and $490 (excluding the $50 laptop fee) for law students and re-applicants, but can be higher for practicing attorneys (e.g., up to $1140 + $50 laptop fee).

Texas Exam Structure

Since February 2021, the state of Texas 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, 270 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 pass the following course in order to be eligible for the Texas bar:

  • Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE)
  • Texas Law Component (TLC)

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’ (NCBE) 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 consists of 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.

Texas Law Component (TLC)

In alignment with the Texas Supreme Court’s directives, the Texas Board of Law Examiners (TBLE) has established the Texas Law Component (TLC) to address Texas-specific legal knowledge.

This includes both a course component and an exam component.

TLC Course

The TLC is an online course focusing on key areas of Texas law, including:

  • Administrative Law
  • Texas Civil Procedure
  • Texas Criminal Procedure
  • Business Associations in Texas
  • Family Law as practiced in Texas
  • Professional Responsibility (Texas-specific rules)
  • Property Law including Oil and Gas
  • Wills and Trusts (Texas-specific aspects)

The course comprises approximately 15 hours of video lectures with embedded questions. You will need to answer these questions correctly in order to proceed to subsequent lectures.

TLC Exam

The TLC Exam is a 50-question, multiple-choice, open-book test. Despite being open-book, the exam is challenging, and so thorough preparation is recommended.

You can choose to take the exam one year before taking the Texas bar exam or up to two years after, but it must be completed before you can commence practicing law.

Note: Keep in mind that there is no cost to take the exam.

How to Pass the Texas Bar Exam

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

Texas Bar Exam Tips

Despite the infamous difficulty of Texas’ 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 Texas Bar Requirements

To become and remain a licensed attorney in Texas, you will need to meet a few additional requirements in addition to passing the bar exam:

1. Moral Character and Fitness Certification

Texas Rule 2(a)(5) requires all applicants for the Texas Bar to be evaluated for their moral character and fitness. This process requires:

  • Undergoing a comprehensive background check
  • Providing detailed information about personal history and conduct
  • Addressing any incidents or issues that might reflect on moral character
  • Responding to inquiries by the Texas Board of Law Examiners

Note: The main goal of this certification is to make sure you’re an honest person, someone who won’t obstruct the administration of justice, and someone who will abide by all laws when representing your clients.

2. Oath of Office

In accordance with Section 82.037, each person admitted to practice law in Texas will need to take an Oath of Office before receiving a license.

This confirms that you will:

  • Support the constitutions of both the US and Texas
  • Operate with honesty, integrity, and civility while practicing law
  • Operate to the best of your ability when representing your clients’ unique interests

The oath shall be endorsed on each person’s license, subscribed by the person taking the oath, and attested by the officer administering the oath.

This step not only marks the official commencement of your legal career but also serves as a perpetual reminder of your duty to maintain the integrity of the legal profession.

3. Complete the Course for Newly Licensed Lawyers

Since 1996, the Supreme Court of Texas has mandated newly licensed lawyers within the state to complete a course that bridges the gap between law school and legal practice.

However, in 2009 this course was renamed to the “Justice James A. Baker Guide to Ethics and Professionalism in Texas” by the Supreme Court — which it’s still known as to this day.

This mandatory 4-hour and 5-minute course is essential for new attorneys to understand and adhere to the ethical and professional standards that apply to lawyers in Texas. In particular, it focuses on critical areas such as Ethics, Practice Management, Career Killers, and even includes a panel discussion on “Launching Your Legal Career-Tips for Success.”

Newly licensed attorneys are required to complete this course within 12 months of their licensure. The course fee is set at $150, though you will incur an additional $150 administrative late fee if you fail to complete the course within the 12-month period.

Failure to complete the course within 16 months of receiving your bar card results in an administrative suspension from practicing law. You will then need to pay an additional $25 fee to reinstate your license after completing the course.

Note: You can learn more about this course by visiting the Texas Center for Legal Ethics website.

Admission on Motion (Reciprocity)

Admission on Motion, called Admission Without Examination in Texas, is a reciprocity agreement between jurisdictions outside Texas, whereby someone can practice law within the state without having to sit for the Texas bar exam.

To be licensed in Texas without taking the Texas bar examination, the following conditions must be met:

  • Educational Background: Possess a J.D. from an ABA-approved US law school or satisfy the Rule 13 exemption from the law study requirement
  • Legal Practice License: Hold a license to practice law in another state
  • Professional Experience: Demonstrate active and substantial engagement in the lawful practice of law for at least five of the seven years immediately preceding your application. For applications submitted before December 1, 2019, never having failed the Texas bar examination is required
  • Moral Character and Fitness: Be certified by the Board as having good moral character and fitness
  • MPRE Score: Achieve a score of 85 or higher on the MPRE
  • Texas Law Component: Satisfy the requirements of Rule 2(a)(5) and complete the Texas Law Component for applications submitted on or after December 1, 2019
  • Registration and Oath: Register with the State Bar of Texas, pay bar dues and a licensing fee, and take the required Oath
  • Ethics and Professionalism Course: Complete the Justice James A. Baker Guide to Ethics and Professionalism in Texas within 12 months of being licensed

Note: There are certain jurisdictions that have entered into specific formation reciprocity agreements with Texas. The state of Texas recognizes these jurisdictions as meeting its strict standards.

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

AlabamaLouisianaOklahoma
AlaskaMaineOregon
ArizonaMarylandPennsylvania
ArkansasMassachusettsPuerto Rico
CaliforniaMichiganRhode Island
ColoradoMinnesotaSouth Carolina
ConnecticutMississippiSouth Dakota
DelawareMissouriTennessee
FloridaMontanaUtah
GeorgiaNebraskaVermont
HawaiiNevadaVirgin Islands
IdahoNew HampshireVirginia
IllinoisNew JerseyWashington
IndianaNew MexicoWashington D.C.
IowaNorth CarolinaWest Virginia
KansasNorth DakotaWisconsin
KentuckyOhioWyoming

For more information, you can have a look at the Texas Board of Law Examiners’ Admission Without Examination webpage.

Texas Bar Exam FAQ

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

In Texas, to sit for the bar exam, you generally need to have a JD from an ABA-approved law school or a state-accredited law school. Unlike other states, Texas doesn’t offer a combination of law school study and law office study as a pathway to taking the bar exam.

How long is the Texas bar exam?

The Texas bar exam is administered over two days as part of the Uniform Bar Examination (UBE). In addition to the UBE, applicants must also complete the MPRE and Texas Law Course (TLC), which can be done before or after the UBE.

How hard is it to pass the Texas state bar examination?

The difficulty of passing the Texas bar exam is comparable to other states that administer the UBE. The passing rate varies depending on the educational background of the examinees. For example, first-time takers from ABA law schools tend to have higher pass rates. In Texas the average pass rate is 71%.

How much does the Texas bar exam cost?

The fees for the Texas bar exam can range anywhere between $225 and $1140, which will depend on whether you’re a Texas law student, an out-of-state law student, a US attorney licensed in another state, or a foreign-trained applicant. There are also additional fees for late filing and other miscellaneous items, such as using a laptop during the exam ($50 fee).