How to Calculate an MBE Score

MBE exam scores are scaled according to test difficulty.
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The Multistate Bar Exam, owned by the National Conference of Bar Examiners, is a 200-question standardized multiple choice exam that measures a candidate’s ability to apply general legal principles and reasoning. Given as part of the multi-day exam for admission to the attorney bar in almost all states, the exam’s weight in a candidate’s overall bar exam score varies depending on the jurisdiction. The MBE yields two scores, a raw score and a scaled score.

1 Raw Score

The MBE raw score is the number of questions a candidate answers correctly. For example, if you answered 140 of the questions right you would have a raw score of 140.

2 Scaled Score

Each MBE contains different questions, so the difficulty level of each test varies depending on when you take it. The NCBE uses a statistical formula to measure the difficulty of the questions in a given administration of the test and then statistically adjusts the raw scores to reflect the difficulty level. By taking the difficulty level of the test into account, the scaled score allows scores to be compared across different test administrations, regardless of difficulty level. For example, if you received a 140 raw score on a relatively easy test, the statistical process might give you a scaled score of 143. If you received a 140 raw score on a relatively difficult test, the statistical process might give you a scaled score of 149. A 140 raw score on an easy test is not as good as a 140 raw score on a hard test. Scaling serves to adjust the results to represent the same level of performance across all tests.

Based in the Washington D.C. Metro area, Roberta Senzel has been a frequent instructor and speaker on legal issues in education over the past 15 years. She also contributes to a blog for the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation titled “Dystonia and Special Education.” Senzel has a Juris Doctor (J.D.), as well as a Master of Laws (LL.M.), from the University Of Virginia School Of Law. She is a member of the Virginia State Bar.