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Iowa Supreme Court to Adopt NextGen Bar Exam in 2027

November 15, 2023

Beginning in July 2027, aspiring attorneys will begin taking a new Iowa bar examination. Both the current and the new exams were developed by the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE). The July 2027 start date will allow law schools to prepare students entering their programs starting next fall for the exam.  It will also give those students an opportunity to plan their law school education in a manner they feel will best set them up for success. 

The NextGen bar exam will replace the current Uniform Bar Examination (UBE), which has been administered in Iowa since 2016. Both exams allow attorneys to transfer their exam scores between participating jurisdictions. The current UBE will no longer be offered in any jurisdiction after July 2028.

“Iowa has used National Conference of Bar Examiners bar exam products to test the legal knowledge and skills of bar applicants for many years,” Iowa Supreme Court Justice Christopher McDonald said.  “The NextGen bar exam ensures a high level of consistent quality from exam to exam and the ability to transfer scores will benefit law students, prospective rural practitioners, law firms, and former Iowa attorneys seeking to return to Iowa.”  

The current UBE is a three-part bar exam administered under similar conditions in 41 jurisdictions. The UBE consists of the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE), a 200-question multiple choice exam; the Multistate Essay Examination (MEE), six essay questions; and the Multistate Performance Test (MPT).

Iowa is the fifth state to adopt the NexGen bar exam. The new exam will have multiple-choice questions, including some similar to those used on the MBE. It will also include integrated question sets, which will feature a mixture of short-answer and multiple-choice questions in response to a common fact scenario, and performance tasks similar to those encountered in the MPT section of the current bar exam.

Questions for the NextGen bar exam are written by teams of law professors and deans, practicing attorneys, and judges drawn from jurisdictions throughout the United States. Like the current Iowa bar exam, the NextGen exam will be administered by the Office of Professional Regulation of the Iowa Supreme Court, and the written portions graded by Iowa attorneys.
The NCBE currently develops bar exam content for 54 of 56 jurisdictions in the United States. The Iowa Supreme Court has authority over the admission of attorneys to practice in Iowa courts, aided by the Office of Professional Regulation.  

The Iowa bar examination is offered twice a year in Polk County.

For More Information:

Steve Davis
Communications Director
Iowa Judicial Branch
[email protected]

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