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What You Need to Know about the Changing MBE
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Summary: Starting in February, the MBE will be different. How will this effect test takers?

The National Council of Bar Examiners (NCBE) announced that it will be making changes to the bar exam starting February 2017. According to Kaplan Test Prep, “the MBE will shift from 10 experimental questions to 25 experimental questions beginning with the February 2017 administration of the exam. The number of total questions remains 200 reducing the number of scored questions from 190 to 175.”


These experimental questions, which are often referred to as “pretest” questions, are used by the test makers to determine the questions’ usefulness. Media sites reported that the NCBE increased pretest questions in response to the embarrassing low bar passage rates of recent years. Schools have blamed the test’s difficulty for students’ failures while others believe schools’ decreased admission standards is at fault. Because of decreased student enrollment, many law schools have dropped their admission standards and let in students with low LSAT scores, which are supposed to indicate a students’ success rate in school and on the bar. According to the NCBE, they have changed the MBE in order to find out what is the root of the problem.

“We want to eliminate taking up space with a test question that may not do as good a job with those who know the material versus those who don’t,” Erica Moeser of the NCBE told the ABA Journal.

For bar exam test takers, this pretest change  does not affect the test’s content. Instead, it will affect the weight of each question. Because you won’t know what questions are experimental versus real, you want to get as many right as possible to get the best odds.

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To increase your success on the test remember:

  • Answer each question. You will not be penalized for wrong answers, and since there are less real questions, you want to help your odds of getting points.
  • Treat each question as if it were real. The pretest ones are supposed to blend so there’s no point in trying to guess which one is which.
  • Since the content is the same, you do not have to make any changes in your test preparation.

In addition to announcing the experimental questions change, the NCBE announced that the national average score of the MBE rose 0.4 points. This increase from 139.9 to 140.3 was the first in three years.


What do you think of the MBE change? Let us know in the comments below.


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