West Virginia Bar Exam

Written by: Will Bond

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West Virginia Bar Exam

Passing the West Virginia 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 Without Examination (Reciprocity).

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West Virginia Bar Exam Overview

In West Virginia, the bar examination is administered by the West Virginia Board of Law Examiners (WVBLE) — a body consisting of seven members of the WV State Bar appointed by the state’s Supreme Court of Appeals to overview the admission of candidates to practice law.

Applicants seeking to gain admission to the bar through examination will have two opportunities to do so each year: once on the last Tuesday and Wednesday of February and again on the same days during July.

Registrations need to be carried out between August 1 and November 1 for the February exam cycle and between March 1 and April 1 for the July exam cycle. It costs $500 to submit this application, though an additional $200 processing fee must be paid for any late submissions (up until December 1 and May 1).

West Virginia Bar Exam Requirements

Keep in mind that in order to be eligible for the West Virginia bar exam, you’ll need to satisfy the following criteria under Rule 2 of the WV Supreme Court of Appeals’ Rules for Admission to the Practice of Law:

  1. Meet the Age Requirement: All applicants must be at least 18 years of age in order to be eligible.
  2. Approved Undergraduate Institution: Applicants are required to have graduated with an A.B., B.S., or an equivalent/higher degree from an approved college or university.
  3. Graduate from an Approved Law School: Applicants must have graduated with an LLB or J.D. from an approved law school, or satisfy one of the following equivalent situations:
    • Graduates of non-ABA accredited law schools who have passed another state’s bar exam and been admitted to practice law.
    • Graduates of law schools that aren’t accredited by the ABA but are reputable enough for their students to be able to take the bar exam of the state the school’s based in, who have also:
      1. Completed three years of law office study and work in the same state as either a paralegal or legal assistant under the supervision of a West Virginia attorney; and
      2. Been vouched for by two West Virginia attorneys (one of whom supervised the applicant for at least six months) as competent and of good moral character.
    • Graduates of reputable law schools that, while not approved by the ABA, have been deemed to be substantially equivalent by the WV Board of Law Examiners
    • Graduates of foreign law schools in a jurisdiction where the common law of England is used and the educational requirements for bar admission are deemed equivalent to those in West Virginia who have also:
      1. Completed at least 30 credit hours of basic courses at an ABA- accredited law school within a period of 36 months of the starting date of study.

Note:  It is the burden of each applicant (and their institution where necessary) to demonstrate to the WV Board of Law Examiners that they are eligible to take the bar exam in this state. You may be requested to provide the Board with specific information and documents so that they can make this determination.

West Virginia Exam Structure

Since 2017, the state of West Virginia 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.

Candidates also must obtain a passing score of 80 on the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE) within 25 months of completing the UBE to be eligible for the West Virginia 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
  • Federal 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 your MBE scaled score is 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 West Virginia Bar Exam

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

West Virginia Bar Exam Tips

Despite the infamous difficulty of West Virginia’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 West Virginia Bar Requirements

Apart from qualifying for and passing the West Virginia 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. Meeting the Character and Fitness Requirements
  2. Taking the Oath of Attorney
  3. Completing the Bridge-the-Gap Program
  4. Satisfying the Mandatory Continuing Legal Education (MCLE) Requirements

1. Meeting the Character and Fitness Requirements

All applicants for admission by examination or admission on motion must demonstrate to the West Virginia Board of Law Examiners that they possess the moral character and fitness necessary to be able to practice law in the state.

This investigation into an applicant’s character and fitness is automatically triggered once they submit an application to the Board — after this, the process unfolds in the following three steps:

  1. The Board will forward a copy of your application to the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) so they can prepare a character report. After receiving this report, the Board will then forward it, alongside another copy of your application, to the closest District Character Committee to where you live or plan to practice law.
  2. The members of the local District Character Committee will then review the application and the NCBE’s report before deciding whether there are any issues or queries that need to be investigated further. If you fail to provide any requested documentation, or attend any hearings you’re invited to, you’ll fail to satisfy your burden to prove your fitness for the state bar.
  3. Once the District Character Committee reaches a decision regarding your application, they’ll transmit this recommendation (whether positive or negative) to the Board of Law Examiners — who are ultimately responsible for determining whether or not you’re fit to practice law.

If the Board recommends against your admission to the State Bar, you’ll have 30 days from the date you received a written notification of this to file an exception with the Clerk of the Supreme Court of Appeals.

Note: It’s not just your past conduct that interests the Board — under Rule 5.2 (e), you’ll be under continued observation by the District Character Committee up until the date set by the Court for admission of successful applicants to the bar.

2. Oath of Attorney

After passing the West Virginia Bar Exam and satisfying the character and fitness requirements, the Board will issue a certificate of eligibility for all successful applicants to the Clerk of the Supreme Court of Appeals.

Soon after, you should be notified by mail at the address listed on file with the West Virginia Board of Law Examiners that you’ve been admitted to the bar.

You’ll then have 12 months from the date of your certificate of eligibility being issued to appear before the Supreme Court of Appeals, take the oath of attorney, and sign the Clerk’s roll of attorneys. This ceremony will mark your official admission to the West Virginia bar.

Note: You cannot be admitted to the West Virginia bar without taking the oath administered by the Clerk of the Supreme Court of Appeals and by signing the roll of attorneys.

3. Bridge-the-Gap Program

Once admitted, new members of the West Virginia bar will have 24 months to complete the mandatory, state-sponsored Bridge-the-Gap Program.

This is a seminar designed to introduce attorneys to the practical aspects of legal practice in the state. It’s offered biannually at no cost for newly admitted members, and can provide CLE credits for completion.

Any new members that fail to complete this program within this 24-month period will be issued a notice of noncompliance. If you still haven’t taken this program six months after the date this notice was sent, you’ll be automatically suspended from practicing law in this state until you comply with this requirement and pay a $200 reinstatement fee.

You may be exempt needing to take this program if you can certify to the Executive Director that:

  1. You’ve been admitted to practice law in another state for at least five years; or
  2. You’ve finished an equivalent mandatory training program for new lawyers in another US jurisdiction that’s made up of at least seven credits, including two credits in one of the following:
    • Legal ethics
    • Office management
    • Attorney well-being
    • Elimination of bias in the legal profession

If you meet the criteria for exemption, you’ll have 24 months following your admission to the West Virginia State Bar to submit an exemption request — there are no extensions offered for this.

Note: You can find out the date and location of the next scheduled Bridge-the-Gap Program on the West Virginia State Bar website.

4. Continuing Legal Education (CLE) Requirements

In order to maintain your license to practice law in this state, you’ll be required to complete at least 24 hours of continuing legal education (CLE) every two fiscal years.

In particular, a minimum of three of these 24 credit hours must be spent on one of the following courses:

  • Legal ethics
  • Office management
  • Attorney well-being
  • Elimination of bias in the legal profession

In addition to taking these courses, you’ll also need to submit a report certifying that you’ve completed the required number of credit hours by July 1 of every even year. This can either be done online, through the State Bar’s Membership Portal, or by submitting a paper-based report alongside a $25 processing fee.

This practice is mandatory in order to ensure you maintain the knowledge needed to be able to meet your professional duty as an attorney. If you go over the minimum CLE requirements, up to six credits can be carried forward to the next reporting period.

Note: As detailed under State Bar Administrative Rule 6, if you fail to satisfy these minimum CLE requirements, your attorney license could be suspended.

Admission Without Examination (Reciprocity)

According to Rule 4 of the West Virginia Rules for Admission, attorney applicants from reciprocity states (see below) may be eligible for admission without examination if they can demonstrate:

  • An intention to practice law in West Virginia at least on a minimal basis
  • That they have been lawfully practicing as an attorney for at least five of the seven years immediately preceding their application
  • That the standards of admission to the Bar in a state they were previously qualified in were equivalent to those in West Virginia when they were admitted
  • That they are in good standing in all the states in which they’ve been admitted to practice law (evidence of this must be submitted)
  • Proof of good moral character and mental and emotional stability — this must be proved with the affidavits of at least two attorneys at law
  • That they’ve obtained a scaled score of 80 or above on the MPRE prior to being admitted. The Board may accept MPRE scores achieved in another jurisdiction within the past 25 months upon the applicant’s request

After confirming you satisfy all the requirements outlined above, you’ll need to complete the character and fitness application specific to West Virginia on the NCBE website and then submit a paper application alongside a $2000 fee payable to the West Virginia Board of Law Examiners.

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

ColoradoMinnesotaPennsylvania
ConnecticutMississippiSouth Dakota
District of ColumbiaMissouriTennessee
IllinoisNebraskaTexas
IndianaNew MexicoVermont
IowaNew YorkVirginia
KentuckyNorth CarolinaWashington
MaineNorth DakotaWisconsin
MassachusettsOhio
MichiganOklahoma

Note: For more information on the application process, see the Instructions for Applicants Applying on Motion/Reciprocity heading on the West Virginia Judiciary website.

What is the Bar Exam FAQ

What is the passing score for the West Virginia bar exam?

In West Virginia, candidates must obtain a minimum score of at least 270 on the Uniform Bar Examination (UBE). After this, you’ll have 25 months from the present exam to obtain a passing score of 80 or more on the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE) in order to qualify for the state bar. For more West Virginia bar exam information, see our overview above.

How much does it cost to take the bar exam in West Virginia?

The cost to take the bar exam in West Virginia includes several fees, including a $500 application fee, and an NCBE character and fitness investigation fee that varies between $395 and $925 depending on where you obtained your first law degree. It’s worth noting that, for applications for admission by examination, an additional fee of $200 is imposed for late submissions.

How many times can you take the bar exam in West Virginia?

Applicants will only have four opportunities to achieve a passing score on the bar exam (whether taken in West Virginia or another jurisdiction). After this, you won’t be able to attempt the West Virginia bar exam again without the Board of Law Examiners’ permission. Passing the West Virginia bar exam is undoubtedly very challenging, but it is definitely doable with the right preparation.

How do I become a lawyer in WV?

To become a lawyer in West Virginia, you must follow several steps. These include completing a bachelor’s degree, graduating from an accredited law school, passing the bar exam, and meeting character and fitness requirements. After fulfilling these prerequisites, you can apply for admission to the West Virginia State Bar.