Iowa Announces Plan to Adopt NextGen Bar Exam
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MADISON, WISCONSIN, November 15, 2023 — Iowa is among the first jurisdictions to announce that it will administer the NextGen bar exam, which will replace the exam currently used to license attorneys across the US. Iowa will join five other jurisdictions that recently announced their intent to adopt the new exam: Connecticut, Maryland, Missouri, Oregon, and Wyoming. Iowa will first administer the NextGen exam in July 2027.
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. The NextGen bar exam will replace the Uniform Bar Examination (UBE) that Iowa currently uses, and, like the UBE, will serve as the basis for score portability between participating jurisdictions.
“Iowa is proud to be one of the first states to adopt the NextGen bar exam,” said Dan Saar, Director of Admissions for the Office of Professional Regulation of the Iowa Supreme Court. “Our office will work to make the transition to the new exam a smooth one, and we will continue to place the same high standards on ourselves to administer the exam in a way that is fair to all of our candidates and gives them the best opportunity to show their preparedness for the practice of law in Iowa.”
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).
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 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.
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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.