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What California Law Students Need to Know About the MPRE

October 17, 2022 | Purdue Global Law School

Passing the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE) is a requirement for becoming a lawyer in California. However, this exam is separate and distinct from the California bar exam. While the bar exam tests your understanding of legal principles, the MPRE is designed to measure your knowledge of legal ethics.

Here’s what law students need to know before taking the MPRE in California.

What Is the MPRE?

The Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam is an ethics exam administered by the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE). Almost all jurisdictions in the United States require prospective lawyers to pass this exam, with Wisconsin and Puerto Rico being the only exceptions.

The MPRE is not meant to evaluate your personal ethical values—instead, it is intended to measure your understanding of laws that govern the professional conduct of lawyers. For example, the MPRE includes questions on the American Bar Association’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct and Model Code of Judicial Conduct.

According to the NCBE’s MPRE Subject Matter Outline, the MPRE typically covers the following topics:

  • Regulation of the legal profession

  • The client-lawyer relationship

  • Client confidentiality

  • Conflicts of interests

  • Competence, legal malpractice, and other civil liability

  • Litigation and other forms of advocacy

  • Transactions and communications with persons other than clients

  • Different roles of the lawyer

  • Safekeeping funds and other property

  • Communications about legal services

  • Lawyers’ duties to the public and the legal system

  • Judicial conduct

Because passing the MPRE is a required step for getting admitted to most bar associations in the U.S., it is often referred to as the ethics portion of the bar exam. However, the MPRE is not technically part of the bar exam. It is administered separately and can be completed any time after your first year of law school.

What Is the Format of the MPRE?

The MPRE is a two-hour exam consisting of 60 multiple-choice questions. 50 of the questions count toward your score, while 10 are unscored questions. The unscored questions are indistinguishable from the scored questions, so be sure to answer all 60 questions within the time limit.

The MPRE is scored on a scale from 50 to 150, with 86 being the minimum passing score for the California MPRE. If you are taking the exam in a different state, check with your local bar association to see what score is required for your jurisdiction. After you complete the exam, you will usually receive your score in about five weeks.

When Do California Law Students Take the MPRE?

The MPRE can be taken any time after completing your first year of law school. However, it is recommended that you wait until after you have completed a class in professional responsibility. For students in Purdue Global Law School’s online Juris Doctor program, this professional responsibility course is usually taken during the third year of law school.

The MPRE is administered three times a year at testing centers across the country. Typically, the exam dates are in March, August, and November, but you must register a few months beforehand. For the most up-to-date information on MPRE dates and registration deadlines, visit the NCBE’s MPRE Registration page. Be aware that when you register, you will need to pay a $150 fee.

Your MPRE scores do not expire, so you can take the exam whenever you feel prepared. After taking the MPRE, you need to request that your scores are transferred to the State Bar of California.

Can You Take the MPRE After the Bar Exam in California?

Most California law students complete the MPRE before they sit for the California bar exam, but you can technically take the MPRE after you have already passed the bar exam. However, this could delay your path to becoming a licensed lawyer. According to the State Bar of California, in order to avoid any delays, you should aim to complete the MPRE at least three months prior to receiving the results of your California bar exam.

In general, it’s a good idea to take and pass the MPRE while you are still in school—preferably as soon as possible after you complete a course in professional responsibility. The longer you wait, the more likely it is that you will forget details from your professional responsibility course. Additionally, taking the MPRE after you graduate may be difficult because your time will be preoccupied with studying for the bar exam.

How Can You Prepare for the MPRE?

The NCBE website has several resources for preparing for the MPRE, including sample test questions and study aids. Third-party test prep resources are also available. If you are enrolled in Purdue Global Law School’s online JD program, you will get free access to Kaplan Test Prep’s MPRE review course.

Since the scope of the MPRE focuses exclusively on ethics, it does not require the same level of extensive studying that the bar exam calls for. Most students begin studying a few weeks before their exam date.

Take the First Step Toward Practicing Law in California

The curriculum of Purdue Global Law School’s online Juris Doctor program prepares you for taking the MPRE and the California bar exam. If you’re looking for a 100% online, California-based JD degree, this program may be a good fit for you.

To learn more, reach out to Purdue Global Law School today.

About The Author

Purdue Global Law School

Established in 1998, Purdue Global Law School (formerly Concord Law School) is Purdue University's fully online law school for working adults.

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