What are the Different Types of Bar Exam Questions?

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  • Written By: Jessica Ellis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 13 November 2019
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The bar exam is a test given to people trying to gain the legal right to practice law. A grueling test, the bar exam varies from region to region, meaning that no two tests are ever exactly alike. In most cases, there are several different types of bar exam questions that test knowledge of laws as well as law interpretation. Understanding some of the basic types of bar exam questions can help an aspiring legal professional begin to plan a study guide for this rigorous test.

There are two major forms that bar exam questions take: essays and multiple-choice questions. The test is usually split over several sessions that may be days or weeks apart, with sessions divided by these two types of questions. Multiple choice questions may cover a wide variety of legal topics, and may deal with multi-region or region-specific laws. In some bar examinations, the multiple choice section of the test may comprise hundreds of questions and take several hours to complete.

Essay questions may be based on a variety of systems to test knowledge. General essay questions are common on nearly every form of bar exam, and test the taker's general knowledge of the principles of the law. Like multiple choice sections, these may cover laws specific to the region or state of the test, or may incorporate national or multi-regional questions.


Some regions require additional written bar exam questions known as performance essays. These are meant to see how well the candidate prepares a legal argument based on given circumstances. Test-takers are generally asked to read a set of specific guidelines that may include invented laws, case histories, and other pertinent information. After absorbing these guidelines, the test-taker must create a legal solution to the problem presented by the essay.

In some areas, bar exam questions may also include a section on ethics. This may be administered along with the rest of the bar exam or may be taken at a later date. Ethics tests are a relatively rare part of the bar and only used in a few regions.

Studying for bar exam questions is usually a lengthy process that involves considerable research, practice tests, and rote memorization. Notoriously rigorous, the exam may be difficult even for students that have completed law school with flying colors. Adequate preparation for the bar may require months of study, with careful examination of each type of question required.


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