Unlike the bar examination, many law students prepare for and pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE) during their law school study. The MPRE tests your knowledge of the professional conduct standards applicable to attorneys and judges. It is a two-hour test and contains 60 multiple choice questions.
Do you have to take it? The MPRE is required for bar admission in forty-nine states (all except for Wisconsin) and in D.C. Note that New Jersey and Connecticut will also accept a passing grade in your law school professional responsibility course in lieu of the exam. Unless you fall into one of these exceptions, chances are you will have to clear this hurdle. What does it take to pass?
Check requirements in your jurisdiction
Though the MPRE is administered by a national testing body, the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE), jurisdictions select the required minimum score. Scores on the MPRE range from 50 to 150 points, and jurisdictions vary in their required minimum score.
Alabama, D.C. and New Jersey, for example, permit scores as low as 75. Alaska, Connecticut, and New Mexico permit scores as low as 80. Arizona, Colorado, and Idaho permit scores as low as 85. And one state, Utah, requires an 86. The NCBE website is a good source of information on testing requirements, and can lead you to complete jurisdiction-specific information.
Score is not the only consideration in clearing this hurdle, though. Some jurisdictions require that you earn a passing score within a certain time period of your bar passage. My home state, Idaho, is an example. To be admitted in Idaho, an applicant must pass the MPRE prior to bar exam passage or within two administrations after successful completion of the bar exam. So, in other words, if the applicant cannot achieve a passing MPRE score within a certain time after the bar, the application would have to retake the bar exam! Who would want that nightmare? Check the requirements in your jurisdiction carefully so that you avoid hardships.
How many questions do I have to answer correctly to pass?
The MPRE is a 60-question multiple choice exam. Fifty of those questions are scored and 10 are unscored pretest questions, but you won’t be able to determine which items are unscored. How does the NCBE move from a raw score of questions answered correctly to a score on the 50 to 150 range?
The straight answer is that we do not know precisely. NCBE makes clear that it subjects the raw scores to a process known as equating, where scores are adjusted to account for differences in difficulty from one MPRE administration to the next. Equating makes the testing experience fair even if there are variations in test difficulty over the years. But equating means there is not a predictable relationship between raw scores and final scores. In other words, you will not know definitively how many questions you need to answer correctly prior to taking the test. Frustrating, right?
Even though the equating process makes it impossible to predict exactly how many questions you need to answer correctly, there are some generally accepted guidelines that can shed a little light on whether your practice sessions are on target. NCBE published a piece in 2011 which gives some approximate scoring bands:
- MPRE score of 85 equates to approximately 60% correct (36 questions correct)
- MPRE score of 80 equates to approximately 58% correct (34-35 questions correct)
- MPRE score of 75 equates to approximately 56% correct (33-34 questions correct)
A few questions can make the difference in whether you pass or fail. Let’s say you need an 85 to pass. Notice how the difference between 35 questions and 36 questions could make or break it for you. Thirty-five questions would net you a score of roughly 80, shy of your jurisdiction’s requirement. You need that thirty-sixth question in order to pass!
On exam day, don’t leave any of those points on the table. Try your best on every question—plan to use the full two hours allotted for the exam. It could be the difference between a passing score and needing to repeat the exam.
And, use practice sessions to your benefit. After you determine the score you need for your jurisdiction, be sure to take several full-length practice tests. This will help you see whether you are on target with your scores or whether you need to retool your approach with additional review and practice questions.
Additionally, since the MPRE is now administered online at Pearson Vue testing centers, you should consider trying a practice test using the online format. Pearson Vue offers an interactive tutorial that simulates the testing experience—this can help you build comfort and go into the exam with confidence.
How long do I have to wait for my score?
The scores typically come back within five weeks of your test administration. NCBE will post your score to your account, and it will also report your score to the jurisdiction you selected when you registered for the MPRE.
Need a primer on what the MPRE tests? Check out this helpful post.
Looking for some help to do your best in law school? Find out about our law school tutoring options.