First Jurisdictions Announce Plans to Adopt NextGen Bar Exam
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MADISON, WISCONSIN, November 1, 2023 — Five jurisdictions are the first to announce that they intend to administer a new bar exam, which will replace the licensure test currently given to aspiring attorneys across the US. Bar admission agencies in Maryland, Missouri, and Oregon intend to first administer the NextGen bar exam in July 2026. Wyoming intends to first administer the exam in July 2027. Connecticut has not yet finalized its first administration date.
The new exam is being developed by the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE), which currently develops bar exam content for 54 of 56 US jurisdictions. In the US, the highest court in each jurisdiction has authority over the admission of attorneys to practice in its courts, aided by its own bar admissions agency.
“We are thrilled to have these jurisdictions on board as part of the inaugural administration of the NextGen bar exam,” said NCBE President and CEO Judith Gundersen. “NCBE looks forward to working with all jurisdictions as their high courts and boards of bar examiners determine the appropriate timing and details for moving forward into a new era of lawyer licensure in the US.”
“The NextGen bar exam is the product of the input of over 15,000 US attorneys, judges, justices, and legal educators,” said John McAlary, Chair of the NCBE Board of Trustees and Executive Director of the New York State Board of Law Examiners. “It represents the first major re-envisioning of the bar exam in the past 25 years and is a reflection of the advances that we see in the legal profession, in courts, and in law schools.”
Jeff Shipley, the director of the Maryland State Board of Law Examiners, commented, “Maryland is excited to be able to announce now our intention to adopt the NextGen bar exam beginning in July 2026, providing our law schools with ample notice so that they can begin preparing for the change. We believe the NextGen exam will be a valuable tool for helping ensure that every newly licensed attorney in Maryland is ready to begin practicing law.”
“Missouri has long been a leader in embracing forward-thinking enhancements in attorney licensure, including being the first state to adopt the concept of a portable bar examination score with the Uniform Bar Examination,” said Hon. Cynthia L. Martin, Judge of the Court of Appeals, Western District of Missouri, who chairs the Implementation Steering Committee overseeing implementation of the NextGen exam. “That proud tradition continues with Missouri’s commitment to be among the first states to administer the NextGen bar examination in July 2026. Missouri’s decision reflects trust and confidence in the research underlying development of the NextGen bar exam, which will emulate a ‘day in the life’ of a lawyer by integrating the assessment of core lawyering skills and foundational doctrine, consistent with the expectations of a newly licensed lawyer securing a general license to practice law in the interest of public protection.”
“This new model of bar exam is consistent with Oregon’s high standards and emphasis on protecting the public by assessing an applicant's legal skills and knowledge,” said Oregon State Bar President Lee Ann Donaldson. “This model will ensure that new Oregon attorneys are practice-ready when they join our bar.”
Designed to reflect the work performed by newly licensed attorneys, the NextGen bar exam will test nine areas of legal doctrine (civil procedure, contract law, evidence, torts, business associations, constitutional law, criminal law, real property, family law) and seven foundational lawyering skills (legal research, legal writing, issue spotting and analysis, investigation and evaluation, client counseling and advising, negotiation and dispute resolution, client relationship and management). Tenets of attorney ethics will also be tested in conjunction with other topics and skills.
The new exam will balance the skills and knowledge needed in litigation and transactional legal practice and will reflect many of the key changes that law schools are making to their own curricula, building on the successes of clinical legal education programs, alternative dispute resolution programs, legal research, and legal writing and analysis programs. See https://www.ncbex.org/exams/nextgen/content-scope for detailed outlines of the legal doctrine and skills that will be tested on the exam.
The subjects and skills to be tested were developed through a multi-year, nationwide legal practice analysis focused on the most important knowledge and skills for newly licensed lawyers (defined as lawyers within their first three years in practice).
The NextGen exam will include multiple-choice questions, including some similar to those used on the multiple-choice portion of the current bar exam, and a new type of question that requires examinees to select two correct answers; integrated question sets, which will feature a mixture of short-answer and multiple-choice questions in response to a common fact scenario; and performance tasks similar to those encountered in the Multistate Performance Test (MPT) section of the current bar exam. Sample questions are available on the NextGen website.
Questions for the NextGen exam are written by diverse teams of law professors and deans, practicing attorneys, and judges drawn from jurisdictions throughout the US and are thoroughly pretested prior to administration. To date, potential NextGen questions have been pretested by over 2,500 law students and graduates from 70 law schools across the US, and 94 law schools in 43 jurisdictions are currently signed up to participate in the next stage of this research beginning in January 2024. The test development process is being conducted in accordance with the same best practices in licensure exam development utilized by a broad range of exams, including those for medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, engineering, accounting, and other licensed professions.
Like the current bar exam, the NextGen bar exam will be administered, and the written portions graded, by the individual US jurisdictions. The exam will be taken on examinees’ own laptops at in-person, proctored testing locations. It will be divided into three sessions of three hours each, with each session containing two integrated question sets, one performance task, and two blocks of stand-alone multiple-choice questions. These three-hour sessions will be administered over one and a half days, with six hours of testing time on day one and three hours on day two. The current bar exam is typically administered in 12 hours over two full days.
The NextGen bar exam will be equated to ensure comparability across administrations and between jurisdictions and can be paired with additional bar exam components developed independently by the administering jurisdictions. The NextGen bar exam may be used by individual jurisdictions as the basis for scaling their own bar exam components.
The NextGen bar exam will replace the current Uniform Bar Examination (UBE) as the basis for score portability between participating jurisdictions. During the transition period between the current UBE and the NextGen bar exam, UBE jurisdictions will accept both the current UBE and NextGen scores for portability purposes, with current UBE scores remaining valid until the time limit set by each participating jurisdiction. Jurisdictions that do not elect to participate in score portability may administer the NextGen bar exam without accepting scores for transfer.
Jurisdictions may elect to adopt the NextGen bar exam starting in July 2026. The transition to the new exam will be complete after the February 2028 bar exam, which will be the last for which the current NCBE-developed bar exam components will be administered. These components are the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE), Multistate Essay Examination (MEE), and Multistate Performance Test (MPT). The Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE), a separate attorney ethics test, will not be affected by this change.
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About the National Conference of Bar Examiners
The National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE), headquartered in Madison, Wisconsin, is a not-for-profit corporation founded in 1931. NCBE promotes fairness, integrity, and best practices in bar admissions for the benefit and protection of the public, in pursuit of its vision of a competent, ethical, and diverse legal profession. Best known for developing bar exam content used by 54 US jurisdictions, NCBE serves admission authorities, courts, the legal education community, and candidates by providing high-quality assessment products, services, and research; character investigations; and informational and educational resources and programs. In 2026, NCBE will launch the next generation of the bar examination, ensuring that the exam continues to test the knowledge, skills, and abilities required for competent entry-level legal practice in a changing profession. For more information, visit the NCBE website at https://www.ncbex.org.
About the Next Generation of the Bar Exam
Set to debut in July 2026, the NextGen bar exam will test a broad range of foundational lawyering skills, utilizing a focused set of clearly identified fundamental legal concepts and principles needed in today’s practice of law. The skills and concepts to be tested were developed through a multi-year, nationwide legal practice analysis, focused on the most important knowledge and skills for newly licensed lawyers. Designed to balance the skills and knowledge needed in litigation and transactional legal practice, the exam will reflect many of the key changes that law schools are making today. NCBE is committed to ensuring a systematic, transparent, and collaborative implementation process, informed by input from and participation by stakeholders, and guided by best practices and the professional standards for high-stakes testing. For more information, visit https://nextgenbarexam.ncbex.org/ or https://www.ncbex.org/exams/nextgen.