Published on June 3, 2024

NCBE Publishes Results of NextGen Pilot Test Research

Press Release

Media contact: NCBE: 

MADISON, WISCONSIN, June 3, 2024—The National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) has published its first analysis of NextGen bar exam performance data, focused on the pilot testing phase, one of three stages of implementation research being conducted in preparation for the launch of the NextGen bar exam. Insights gained through pilot testing have already been used to inform the development of the new exam, which will be administered for the first time in July 2026. 

Over 2,500 law students and recently licensed lawyers participated in the pilot test, which was conducted in four separate administrations between August 2022 and April 2023. Pilot test participants answered drafts of new types of questions being developed for the NextGen exam and then provided feedback on the questions and on their overall experience taking the pilot test.

The results of the pilot test have helped solidify several key details about the new exam. For example, one of the questions NCBE researchers sought to answer was how much time examinees need to answer the new exam questions—important information because the bar exam is intended to test knowledge and skills, not speed. Exam developers will use this data and additional information gathered during subsequent research phases to ensure that sufficiently prepared examinees can complete the exam within the time given.

Researchers were also interested in learning whether examinees would benefit from access to legal resources such as the Federal Rules of Evidence (FRE) during the exam. During the pilot test, some participants were given access to the FRE and others were not. Researchers compared the performance of these groups and determined that participants who used the FRE took longer to answer the relevant questions compared to those who did not, without increasing their scores. As a result of these findings, it was determined that extensive legal reference material such as the FRE will not be provided on the NextGen exam. Relevant, targeted resources will still be provided for some question types, such as performance tasks, and questions on certain topics within the foundational concepts and principles (see the NextGen content scope for more information).

One important area of NextGen research is whether the new question types being developed for the exam might help reduce performance differences between groups of examinees (for example, men and women). The pilot test yielded some promising results on this front, which NCBE psychometric experts will continue to study during subsequent research phases. 

The next stages of research for the NextGen exam have already begun. Field testing was conducted in January 2024 at law schools across the US, and a full-length prototype exam will be administered nationwide in October of this year. In the months ahead, NCBE will issue additional research briefs to share the results of this testing.

To date, 19 jurisdictions have announced plans to adopt the NextGen bar exam. 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 current Uniform Bar Examination (UBE) and, like the UBE, will serve as the basis for score portability between participating jurisdictions. 

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 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

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 or