Utah Bar Exam

Written by: Will Bond

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Utah Bar Exam

Passing the Utah 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 on motion as an out-of-state attorney.

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Utah Bar Exam Overview

The bar exam in Utah is developed by the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) and administered by the Utah State Bar, which is responsible for both overseeing the application process and setting the passing score.

In Utah, the bar exam occurs twice a year on the last consecutive Tuesday and Wednesday of February and July. In order to take it on either of these Utah bar exam dates, you must submit an application by the appropriate filing deadlines: Oct. 1 for the February exam and March 1 for the July exam.

The Utah bar exam cost is $550 for student applicants while attorney applicants have to pay $850. Late filing is available until Nov. 1 for the February exam and April 1 for the July exam, but you’ll need to pay a late fee for this privilege. This fee is currently $100 for applications filed by Oct. 15 and March 15, and then $300 for any filings made after these dates.

In order to be eligible for the Utah bar, you must satisfy the following criteria per Rule 14-703 of the Utah Supreme Court’s Rules of Professional Conduct:

  1. Have paid the prescribed fees and filed the required Application as a Student Applicant in accordance with Rule 14-707;
  2. Be at least 21 years old;
  3. Have graduated with a first professional degree from an approved law school;
  4. Be of good moral character according to Rule 14-708 (see below);
  5. Obtain a passing grade on the Utah bar exam and the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE);
  6. Have a clean record of ethical, civil, and professional behavior; and
  7. Have paid the appropriate bar license and court enrollment fees under Rule 14-716 (see below).

Note: In order to apply to take the bar exam, you’ll first need to register for a personal Bar Admission Registration account on the Utah State Bar website.

Utah Exam Structure

In 2013, the state of Utah 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.

Candidates also must obtain a passing score of 86 on the MPRE in order to be eligible for the Utah 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 Utah Bar Exam

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

Utah Bar Exam Tips

Despite the infamous difficulty of Utah’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 Utah Bar Requirements

Apart from qualifying for and passing the Utah 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 Requirements
  2. Submitting a Motion for Admission
  3. Taking the Attorney Oath
  4. Completing the Mandatory Continuing Legal Education (MCLE) requirements

1. Satisfying the Character and Fitness Requirements

As part of the application process to the Utah State Bar, you must be approved by the Character and Fitness Committee before you can take the bar exam as per Rule 14-708.

After you submit your application for admission, the NCBE will review the information included in your character and fitness questionnaire and start a background investigation into your past conduct. If the NCBE finds no problems with your submission, it should contact you within 48 hours.

The NCBE will then provide the Utah State Bar with the results of this background investigation and the Character and Fitness Committee will either approve or deny your admission to the Utah State Bar.

When considering each applicant, the Character and Fitness Committee looks for a record of conduct that justifies the trust of clients, courts, and other parties in the legal profession. Throughout this process, the burden of proof will be on you to provide convincing evidence you possess the moral character and fitness required to practice law in this state.

This investigation will involve, but isn’t limited to, your:

  • Court Records
  • Criminal History
  • Financial History (Including Civil Cases)
  • Professional History
  • Education
  • References
  • Bar Admission in Other Jurisdictions

While the Utah State Bar won’t discuss active investigations, it’ll contact you if there are any problems with your questionnaire or if it needs any additional documents. If your application is denied, you’ll need to wait a minimum of one year before reapplying per Rule 14-708(h) unless your denial letter specifically states otherwise.

Note: You can learn more about the character and fitness investigation process on the Utah State Bar’s Bar Operations & Admissions website.

2. Submitting a Motion for Admission

After you gain the approval of the Utah State Bar Office of Admissions as eligible to practice law, you must then submit a motion for admission to the Utah Supreme Court.

This process involves a number of key steps:

  1. Once you file this motion, you’ll receive an email from the Utah State Bar’s Licensing Department with details on how — and by when — you must pay the licensing fees. Look out for an email from this address: licensing@utahbar.org.
  2. After the licensing deadline cited in the Licensing Department’s email, all eligible applicants who’ve paid their fees will have their motion sent to the Bar Commission for approval.
  3. If the Bar Commission approves your motion, it’ll add your name to the final motion for admission list to be reviewed by the Utah Supreme Court.
  4. When the Utah Supreme Court approves of your addition, it’ll sign the motion for admission and provide you with a date for your licensing swearing-In ceremony.

These swearing-in ceremonies occur four times each year in February, May, August, and October. The one you’ll participate in will depend on the date you submit your motion for admission and if you pay your filing fees by the deadline.

Note: If you miss the deadline to pay your filing fees, you’ll have to wait until the next swearing-in ceremony in order to be admitted.

3. Taking the Attorney Oath

Once your motion for admission is approved, you can officially take the attorney oath. This is a mandatory step that all Utah attorneys must take during a swearing-in ceremony in order to be able to legally practice law within this state.

You can do this at any time after receiving notification that your motion for admission has been approved. Because the Utah Supreme Court — not the Utah State Bar — organizes these ceremonies, you’ll need to get in touch with the Court about the date and location of the next one.

Note: You can find more information on this entire process on the Utah State Bar’s Bar Operations & Admissions website.

4. Completing the MCLE Requirements

Under Rule 14 of the Utah Supreme Court’s Rules of Professional Practice, licensed Utah lawyers must complete a minimum amount of MCLE by June 30 each year in order to continue practicing in this state.

Specifically, you’ll need to complete at least 12 hours of accredited MCLE hours each year, including one hour in each of the following subjects:

  • Legal Ethics
  • Professionalism and Civility

Additionally, you’ll need to spend a minimum of six hours in “verified CLE” courses — live classes carried out in real time. You can then complete the remaining hours in either verified CLE or “elective CLE” courses — recorded classes you’ll study by yourself.

Once you complete all 12 MCLE hours, you’ll have until July 31 to file your Certificate of Compliance and pay the $10 compliance filing fee. If you fail to finish all MCLE hours by June 30, or if you miss the July 31 filing deadline, you’ll have to pay an additional $100 late fee.

Note: To keep track of your remaining MCLE credit hours in the current reporting cycle and pay any associated fees, log in to the Utah State Bar’s Practice Portal.

Admission on Motion (Reciprocity)

Unlike law school applicants, certain qualified attorneys may be eligible to apply to the Utah State Bar without taking the bar exam. To be eligible for this application path, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Be at least 21 years old;
  • Have been admitted by exam to practice law in the highest court of another US jurisdiction;
  • Possess a first professional degree from an approved law school;
  • Have obtained a passing score on the MPRE;
  • Be qualified in a US jurisdiction that offers admission by reciprocity under its rules to Utah lawyers;
  • Have been practicing law full time in such a jurisdiction for 36 of the 60 months immediately preceding the date you filed your application;
  • Be a member in good standing in all the jurisdictions you’re currently admitted in;
  • Demonstrate a clean record of ethical, civil, and professional behavior;
  • Have never been disbarred (or any effective equivalent) in any state and not be subject to a pending disciplinary matter; and
  • Satisfy the good moral character and fitness requirements under Rule 14-708

Note: Certain jurisdictions have entered into specific reciprocity agreements with Utah and have established specific standards for admission on motion. These can be more lenient than the general rules for admission discussed above.

Here’s a full list of reciprocity jurisdictions for Utah:

AlabamaMaineOhio
AlaskaMarylandOklahoma
American SamoaMassachusettsOregon
ArizonaMichiganPennsylvania
ArkansasMinnesotaSouth Dakota
ColoradoMississippiTennessee
ConnecticutMissouriTexas
District of ColumbiaMontanaVermont
GeorgiaNebraskaVirgin Islands
IdahoNew HampshireVirginia
IllinoisNew JerseyWashington
IndianaNew MexicoWisconsin
IowaNew YorkWyoming
KansasNorth Carolina
KentuckyNorth Dakota

For more information, visit the reciprocity page on the Utah State Bar’s Bar Operations & Admissions website.

Utah Bar Exam FAQ

How hard is the Utah bar exam?

The exam is of a similar difficulty to the bar examination in any state. Because Utah adopted the Uniform Bar Examination (UBE), the Utah bar exam format is largely similar to those adopted in the other 40 jurisdictions that also examine candidates with the UBE. While challenging, passing the Utah bar exam is definitely doable with the right preparation.

What is the passing score for the Utah bar exam?

In order to pass the Utah bar exam, you’ll need to obtain a minimum score of 260 on the UBE and at least 86 on the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE). For more Utah bar exam information, see our overview above.

What is the pass rate for the Utah bar exam?

Recent Utah bar exam results indicate that law students in this state had great success this year. With an overall pass rate of 90% and nearly 95% of test takers passing on their first attempt, the outlook for aspiring lawyers in Utah looks promising.

Which state has the hardest bar exam?

California is almost universally regarded as the most challenging state in which to take the bar exam, which is reflected in its low overall pass rate of only 52%. Regardless of whether you take the bar exam in Utah or California, the biggest factor dictating the difficulty of this exam is how well you prepare for it.