Michigan And Uniform Bar Exam

What Are The Differences Between The Michigan And Uniform Bar Exam?

Although 36 states have adopted the Uniform Bar Exam, Michigan is not one of them! Michigan continues to administer its own bar exam. You may be wondering how the Michigan Bar Exam is different from the Uniform Bar Exam. In this post, we discuss the differences!

What Are The Differences Between The Michigan And Uniform Bar Exam?

Overview of the Bar Exam

Both the Uniform Bar Exam and the Michigan Bar Exam are two-day exams. The first day is the written essay portion and the second day is the multiple-choice portion. Each day has two sessions: a morning and an afternoon session.

Day One: Essays

Michigan’s written portion of the exam consists of 15 essay questions (nine essays in the morning and six essays in the afternoon).  On the other hand, the UBE written portion consists of two performance tests (the Multistate Performance Test or MPT) in the morning and six essays in the afternoon session (the Multistate Essay Exam or MEE).  The MPT requires applicants to complete a “lawyerly task” based on a hypothetical fact pattern. Michigan’s bar exam does not include a performance test.

There are more “testable” subjects on the Michigan Bar Exam than there are on the Uniform Bar Exam.  In addition to the seven MBE subjects (Civil Procedure, Contracts, Constitutional Law, Criminal Law and Procedure, Evidence, Real Property, and Torts), the following subjects can be tested on the essay portion of both the Michigan Bar Exam and the Uniform Bar Exam:

  • Agency & Partnership
  • Corporations & LLCs
  • Conflict of Laws
  • Family Law
  • Secured Transactions
  • Decedents’ Estates (Wills)
  • Trusts & Future Interests

Michigan has seven additional testable subjects, meaning that there are over 20 subjects that could be tested on the Michigan Bar exam. On the Michigan essays, all of the foregoing subjects could potentially appear, as well as the following additional subjects:

  • Creditor’s Rights
  • Equity
  • Negotiable Instruments/Commercial Paper
  • No-Fault
  • Personal Property
  • Professional Responsibility
  • Workers Compensation

Additionally, the Michigan bar exam tends to test applicants’ knowledge of Michigan-specific rules.  So, for instance, if you are taking the Michigan Bar Exam, you need to learn the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for the MBE portion of the exam, and the Michigan Rules of Civil Procedure for the essay portion of the exam.  By contrast, the UBE generally tests the majority law (and sometimes applicable minority approaches), but not the law of any particular jurisdiction.

Day Two: Multiple Choice

Whether you are taking the Uniform Bar Exam or the Michigan Bar Exam, you will face the same multiple-choice questions.  Every jurisdiction administers the Multistate Bar Exam (“MBE”) on the second day of the bar exam.  The MBE is drafted and prepared to test applicants’ knowledge of the “majority” law.  The MBE is comprised of 200 multiple-choice questions.  Of those 200, 175 of the questions are scored and 25 of them are “test” questions that the NCBE evaluates for use on future examinations.

How are the tests scored?

Each jurisdiction that administers the UBE sets the minimum passing score.  The UBE is scored on a 400-point scale and the passing scores range from 260 to 280.  The MBE portion of the exam is worth 50% of the score, the essays are worth 30%, and the performance tests are worth 20% of the score.

Michigan’s bar exam is scored on a 200-point scale.  Essentially, an applicant’s score is out of 400 points, and then it is divided by two.  Michigan requires applicants to obtain a minimum score of 135 to pass.  Michigan equally weights the MBE portion and essay portion of its bar exam (meaning that each is worth 50% of the total score).

Which test is harder?

We are often asked whether the Michigan Bar Exam or the Uniform Bar Exam is more difficult.  There is no clear answer to this question.  While Michigan requires applicants to have knowledge of more subjects, UBE jurisdictions require not only longer essays but also the performance test portion of the exam.  Some people consider the MPT an “easy” portion of the bar exam, while others find it quite difficult.  Which test is “easier” is going to be highly dependent on a test-takers’ strengths and weaknesses, and could even vary from one administration to the next.


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