Is The MBE Harder Now Than It Used To Be?
Every administration we hear some students say they thought the MBE (Multistate Bar Exam) was harder than they anticipated. Whether they took the bar exam before or just practiced with past, real questions, there are many reasons students may think one exam is harder. Sometimes law schools will even say with certainty that a test administration was harder than another in the past. So in this post, we explore the question: is the MBE harder now than it used to be? In doing so, we’ll examine various factors associated with the MBE and how you can prepare so the exam doesn’t feel so difficult!
Is The MBE Harder Now Than It Used To Be?
What is the mean MBE score?
The NCBE (National Conference of Bar Examiners) is the group that drafts the MBE and also reports data on how students score for each administration. The image displays a graph charting the mean MBE scaled score over the past few MBE administrations. You can see more data about all of the NCBE’s exams here.
As you can see, mean MBE scores have decreased a bit over time. However, these numbers fluctuate on a relatively small scale (about 5 points at the greatest disparity). Changes in MBE mean scores are not exactly correlated to the difficulty of the test. That is, the MBE isn’t necessarily getting harder because the mean score is lower than it was in 2013. There are plenty of factors that go into determining the mean scores of the MBE, including who the examinees are, test day conditions, test center conditions, social conditions, etc. Further, keep in mind that fluctuations of about 5 scored points over time are bound to happen. Sure, maybe one MBE administration has a few questions that stump most of the examinees. This isn’t indicative of a trend on the MBE.
All of this is to say, no, we don’t think the MBE is getting harder.
Is the February MBE harder than the July MBE?
Like the question of whether the MBE is getting harder, this question is multi-faceted! We don’t think there’s any difference between the MBE in February and the MBE in July. Well, more specifically, there’s no difference between the actual substance of the exams. Sure, the NCBE will draft new questions, but it doesn’t make the February administration of the MBE any different from the July MBE.
That said, here’s some things to keep in mind:
- Across MBE jurisdictions, the July MBE pass rate is higher. We predict this is likely because more first-time takers take the July MBE.
- First-time bar exam takers tend to have higher pass rates than repeat takers.
- More people take the July MBE.
So basically, the answer is no, the February MBE isn’t harder than the July MBE.
But there are factors you can consider if you want to determine which MBE will be easier for you. For example, the pool of February bar exam takers is typically smaller. Maybe this can help you if you are overwhelmed by crowds? Second, if you are a first-time taker taking the February MBE, your chances of passing may actually be higher because you are competing against repeat-takers. As noted above, first-time takers tend to have higher pass rates than repeat takers. For more information about the February vs. July bar exams, check out this blog post.
These are all things that you can keep in mind. However, we tend to think it’s more helpful to do your best to prepare for the bar exam rather than speculate about whether the MBE is getting harder or which administration has the highest pass rate.
Here’s how you can prepare yourself, so the MBE doesn’t seem so hard!
The key to studying for the MBE, like any other part of the bar exam, is studying smart. We don’t think the MBE is getting harder, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have to adequately prepare. The MBE tests Civil Procedure, Constitutional Law, Contracts & Sales, Criminal Law & Procedure, Evidence, Real Property, and Torts. These subjects are divided equally among the 200 MBE questions. However, there are highly tested topics within these subjects. For example, negligence is the most tested subject within Torts. Check out our MBE frequency chart. Focusing on the topics that are tested most by memorizing outlines and doing practice problems can help you achieve a passing MBE score!
If you took the MBE and felt like it was hard, remember…
People tend to disproportionately remember the questions that were difficult, not the ones that were easy. There are 200 questions on the MBE. You are bound to have trouble on some of the questions even if you’re adequately prepared. If you’re feeling anxious, try to focus on all of the questions that you didn’t have difficulty on.
The MBE isn’t getting harder, but the MBE is often the hardest part of the bar exam for many students. Do your best to prepare and study smart. Good luck!
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