NCBE Announces NextGen Exam Structure, Sunset of Current Bar Exam
MADISON, WISCONSIN, August 28, 2023 — The National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) announced today the planned duration and structure of the NextGen bar exam and the date by which the current bar exam will officially sunset. The NextGen exam is currently under development and will launch in July 2026.
The NextGen bar exam will be divided into three sessions of three hours each, with each session containing two integrated question sets, one performance task, and approximately 40 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. NCBE recently released samples of the integrated question sets and multiple-choice questions, which can be viewed on the NextGen website. The current bar exam is typically administered in 12 hours over two full days.
"With this new, more efficient bar exam design, NCBE is able to reduce the total exam time from 12 hours to 9 hours. By including a mixture of question types within each exam session, making use of new question types that allow us to measure knowledge and skills more precisely, and using questions specifically targeted at differentiating examinees who meet each jurisdiction’s standards from those who do not, we are able to make the exam experience significantly more streamlined for both test takers and jurisdictions without sacrificing quality or integrity,” said NCBE Managing Director of Assessment Programs Andreas Oranje, PhD.
Jurisdictions may elect to adopt the NextGen bar exam starting in July 2026. The July 2027 bar exam 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.
The subjects and skills to be tested on the NextGen bar exam 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). Questions for the NextGen bar 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 examinees.
Designed to reflect the work performed by newly licensed attorneys, the NextGen bar exam will test eight areas of legal doctrine (civil procedure, contract law, evidence, torts, business associations, constitutional law, criminal law, real property) 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). 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, and legal writing and analysis programs.
# # #
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
In 2018, the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) appointed a Testing Task Force charged with undertaking a three-year study to ensure that the bar examination continues to test the knowledge, skills, and abilities required for competent entry-level legal practice in a changing profession. In January 2021, NCBE’s Board of Trustees approved the Testing Task Force’s recommendations and began development of the next generation bar exam, with a timeline of five years for implementation. The new exam, which will launch in July 2026, will place greater emphasis on assessment of lawyering skills to better reflect real-world practice and the types of activities newly licensed lawyers perform. 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/.