Published on March 26, 2020

NCBE COVID-19 Update


We are all facing an unprecedented set of challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. At NCBE, we understand the concerns candidates have about the July bar exam, and we have been working diligently with jurisdiction bar admission offices to devise solutions that will protect the health and safety of examinees and jurisdiction staff, as well as the integrity of the licensure process.

Each jurisdiction will make its own decision about whether it is able to administer the July bar exam, based on factors including ongoing office closures, state and local restrictions on gatherings, and test venue availability. NCBE stands ready to support jurisdictions in their decisions. Specifically, as a result of consultation with jurisdictions, NCBE is offering the following options to US jurisdictions that administer the MBE, the MEE, and the MPT, including all UBE jurisdictions.

NCBE’s Decision-Making Timeline

NCBE will make its decision about whether to deploy the MBE, the MEE, and the MPT for a July administration on or about Tuesday, May 5. NCBE’s decision will be based on whether there would be a sufficient number of jurisdictions and examinees to support equating of scores and all the scoring support and grader training associated with the exam.

By that time—roughly six weeks from now—each jurisdiction should be in a better position to determine whether administering a July exam is possible. While this is not the immediate answer some are seeking, it does provide a definite timeline for NCBE’s decision about whether to make our tests available for July. Our decision will depend on jurisdiction decisions about administration as well as the status on May 5 of federal, state, and local health orders for isolation/distancing.

Jurisdictions are at varying points on a decision about a July administration. Some have felt the impact of COVID-19 more severely than others. The goal is that by May 5 we will all know more and can have more confidence in our decision about whether there will be a July exam anywhere.

Fall Exam

Given the uncertainty about whether a July exam can take place, it is prudent to plan now for an additional administration of the exam before the February 2021 exam.

NCBE will offer another set of bar exam materials—MBE, MEE, and MPT—for an administration in the fall. If there is in fact a July exam, the fall exam materials will be a different set of questions. Scores earned in UBE jurisdictions in the fall administration would constitute UBE scores. We are currently working closely with jurisdictions all across the country to find a fall date that works for the most examinees and jurisdictions.

Jurisdictions that cannot administer in July, or cannot administer at normal seating capacity, will have the fall administration date as an alternative or additional option. It would delay admission, but only by about two months, which examinees should find preferable to waiting until February 2021.

We will monitor the COVID-19 crisis in the weeks and months ahead and develop additional solutions if the situation changes.

We recognize that this is a very stressful time for law school graduates who want the opportunity to take the bar exam. To those graduates, we offer our support and the assurance that we are working hard to find solutions that permit them to sit for a bar exam and become licensed.

There are no simple answers and no great solutions in this situation. We are trying to provide some certainty in truly uncertain times, while maintaining the integrity of the bar admissions process for the benefit and protection of the public.