Washington State Bar Exam

Written by: Will Bond

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Washington State Bar Exam

Passing the Washington State 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.

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Washington State Bar Exam Overview

The Washington State bar exam is administered via the Washington State Board of Bar Examiners, which operates under the guidance of the Washington State Bar Association (WSBA) Board of Governors in line with the Admission and Practice Rules (APR) of the Washington Supreme Court.

If you plan to take the bar exam, you’ll have two opportunities to do so each year on the last consecutive Tuesday and Wednesday of February and July.

In order to be eligible to take the bar exam, you’ll need to submit an application by the relevant filing deadlines. The filing deadline is October 5 for the February exam and March 5 for the July exam. You must submit this application along with the filing fee, which ranges from $585 to $620.

Candidates may submit late applications for both the February and July exam cycles up until November 5 and April 5, respectively, with an additional $300 fee.

In order to be eligible for the Washington State bar exam, you must satisfy one of the following criteria per the Washington Supreme Court Admission and Practice Rule (APR) 3:

  1. Graduate with a Juris Doctor (JD) degree from an American Bar Association (ABA)-accredited law school.
  2. Finish the Washington Supreme Court APR 6 Law Clerk Program.
  3. Graduate with a Juris Doctor (JD) degree from any law school in the United States as well as obtain a Master of Laws (LLM) degree from an ABA-approved law school that meets the Supreme Court APR 3 requirements.
  4. Graduate with a law degree from a foreign university that qualifies you to practice law, and earn an LLM degree from an ABA-approved law school that meets the Supreme Court APR 3 requirements.
  5. Qualify to practice law in any jurisdiction where English common law is present and be able to demonstrate legal experience for three of the five years prior to your application.

Note: In addition to one of the above requirements, all candidates must be deemed to be of good moral character and fit to practice law in order to be admitted to the bar.

Washington State Exam Structure

In 2013, the state of Washington 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 must pass the following supplementary exams in order to be eligible for the Washington State bar:

  • Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE)
  • Washington Law Component (WLC)

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.

Washington Law Component (WLC)

As part of the process of gaining admission to the Washington bar, all applicants must successfully complete the Washington Law Component (WLC). This four-hour test features 60 multiple-choice questions that assess a candidate’s knowledge of various areas of Washington-specific law.

The WLC aims to provide newly licensed Washington State attorneys with a working understanding of the specific aspects of Washington law that differ from the topics covered in the UBE. During the exam, you’ll receive outlines of 15 topics related to state law to which you may use while taking the test.

In order to pass, you’ll need to obtain a minimum score of 80% — there’s no limit on the number of times you may take the WLC in order to obtain a passing score. You can access and take the WLC through your online admissions account shortly after submitting your application to the bar and paying the relevant filing fees.

Keep in mind that this must be taken online unless you’re applying for military spouse admission by motion. In that case, you will receive a test packet by mail that contains instructions and a deadline by which to complete the test. Candidates can obtain this test packet by contacting the WSBA Admissions Department after submitting a completed application.

Note: The WSBA offers a number of research materials designed to help bar applicants with this test.

How to Pass the Washington State Bar Exam

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

Washington State Bar Exam Tips

Despite the infamous difficulty of Washington State’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 Washington State Bar Requirements

Apart from qualifying for and passing the Washington State 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. Completing the Preadmission Education Program (PREP)
  2. Paying Your Washington State Bar Association (WSBA) Annual License Fees
  3. Satisfying the Mandatory Continuing Legal Education (MCLE) requirements

1. Completing the Preadmission Education Program (PREP)

After successfully passing the bar exam in Washington State, you’ll need to complete the PREP in order to be able to apply for licensure.

This prerequisite course requires qualifying attorneys in Washington State to watch four hours worth of online videos available to view on demand. These videos cover the following topics:

  1. WSBA 101: Welcome
  2. Career Advancement
  3. Equity and Inclusion Within the Legal Profession
  4. Ethics
  5. Skills
  6. How to Start a Solo or Small-Firm Practice
  7. Personal Well-Being

In order to satisfy the admissions requirement, you’ll need to submit a certification through the WSBA online admissions page to verify you’ve watched these videos. Keep in mind that you don’t need to watch the content for all seven modules, only the content of the four that most interest you.

2. Paying Your WSBA Annual License Fees

The WSBA requires all active attorneys to pay an annual license fee in order to maintain their membership and continue to practice law within the state. This license fee is due by February 1 each year.

After satisfying all the other requirements and gaining admission to the bar, you’ll be able to pay this fee annually through the WSBA online user homepage. You can make your payment online with a credit card or electronic payment or by mail after printing the payment form and submitting it along with a check to the WSBA.

Depending on when you become a member of the bar in Washington State, you may be eligible for a reduced license fee during your first year of membership.

Note: For more information, refer to the fee schedule on the WSBA website.

3. Satisfying the MCLE Requirements

Washington State requires all active attorneys to complete a total of 45 MCLE credit hours in approved course subjects each three-year reporting period. This ensures lawyers within this state maintain their competence and stay up-to-date with developments in the law.

In particular, the WSBA stipulates these these 45 credit hours should include courses on:

  • Law and Legal Procedure (15 Hours)
  • Ethics (Six Hours With at Least One Hour Focused on Equity)

You’ll have until December 31, 2026 (when the current reporting period ends) to complete these MCLE requirements. You also can carry over up to a maximum of 15 additional credits to the following reporting period.

It’s your responsibility to keep track of the MCLE credits you complete as well as report them to the WSBA by the deadline above. You can do this via the MCLE online system, which you can log into using your myWSBA account details.

Any credit requirements you complete between the December 31 deadline and February 1 following the current reporting period will incur a $150 late fee that further increases by $300 for each consecutive late reporting period.

Note: You can find more information on the MCLE requirements on the WBSA website.

Admission on Motion (Reciprocity)

According to Washington Supreme Court APR 5(b), practicing lawyers in other jurisdictions within the United States may be able to qualify for the Washington State Bar without an examination as long as they:

  • Are qualified to practice law in another US jurisdiction;
  • Are currently in good standing in that jurisdiction; and
  • Have been actively practicing law for at least three of the five years prior to their application.

If you meet these requirements, you may submit an application for admission on motion electronically through the WSBA online admissions page.

Alongside this application, you’ll also need to submit the following documents:

  • A notarized and signed Authorization and Release form (unaltered);
  • Two signed Good Moral Character Certificates; and
  • All relevant Certificates of Admission to Practice and Good Standing in all jurisdictions in which you’re currently or have ever been admitted

All of the above forms must be dated within the six months immediately preceding the date on which you submit your application.

It’ll cost $620 for US attorneys to submit this application in addition to an investigation fee they must pay to the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE). The NCBE will contact you once the WSBA approves your application to provide details on how you can make this payment.

Note: Keep in mind that this process stopped being based on reciprocity in 2014, meaning that qualifying attorneys can apply from any US jurisdiction if they meet the requirements outlined above.

Washington State Bar Exam FAQ

How hard is the Washington State bar exam?

The Washington State bar exam is widely recognized as a rigorous assessment, demanding dedicated study and a thorough understanding of legal principles. Having said that, while passing the Washington State bar exam may seem tricky, it’s definitely doable with the right preparation and study materials.

How long is the Washington State bar exam?

The Washington State bar exam typically spans two days and includes around 15 hours of examination time in total. Each day consists of multiple sessions that cover various legal topics, including multiple-choice questions, essay questions, and performance tests, making it a comprehensive evaluation of candidates’ legal knowledge and skills. For more Washington bar exam information, see our overview above.

How much does the bar exam cost in Washington State?

The cost of the bar exam in Washington State varies based on several factors, including registration fees, exam materials, and the type of application (e.g., attorney applicants or UBE score transfer applicants). While the application fee for this exam will cost $620 at most, general applicants can expect to spend several hundred to more than a thousand dollars to complete the entire admission process.

How is the Washington State bar exam structured?

In Washington State, candidates will be required to take the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE), which is broken down into three main parts: the Multistate Performance Test (MPT), the Multistate Essay Examination (MEE), and the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE). In addition to this standardized lawyer bar exam, candidates will also need to take the supplementary Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE) and Washington Law Component (WLC).