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The Different Types of Bar Exams

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Almost every jurisdiction has a bar exam, which must be passed as part of its admission criteria. Wisconsin is a notable exception. Wisconsin provides a "diploma privilege." Graduates of the University of Wisconsin and Marquette University law schools need not take and pass the Wisconsin bar exam. All other graduates are faced with the same requirement imposed by the other jurisdictions, that they take and pass the bar exam if they seek admission to the general practice of law.

The national bar exams

Almost every jurisdiction has a bar exam, which must be passed as part of its admission criteria. Wisconsin is a notable exception. Wisconsin provides a "diploma privilege." Graduates of the University of Wisconsin and Marquette University law schools need not take and pass the Wisconsin bar exam. All other graduates are faced with the same requirement imposed by the other jurisdictions, that they take and pass the bar exam if they seek admission to the general practice of law.

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Before the advent of the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE), bar exams tested only the local laws, rules and practices of a given jurisdiction. Knowledge of federal or majority law was therefore unnecessary. The MBE changed all of that.

The thinking, which gave rise to the MBE, was that a single standardized exam which tested federal or majority principles, would, in the best case, obviate the need for all or parts of the local exams. Thus, by taking one exam, students would facilitate admission to the differing jurisdictions. In addition, such an exam could ensure a national minimal standard of competency.

This impetus to nationalize the bar exam began and continues through the efforts of the National Conference of Bar Examiners or NCBE, the organization which administers the MBE and other "national" exams.

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