NCBE Publishes Content Scope for NextGen Bar Exam:
The National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE), which develops bar exam content for 54 US jurisdictions, has published the content scope for the NextGen bar exam, which is set to launch in 2026. The content scope document outlines the breadth of material to be covered on the new exam in eight areas of legal knowledge and seven categories of practical skills and abilities.
The publication of the content scope marks the latest milestone in the development of the new bar exam, which will be focused on testing a wider array of foundational lawyering skills in the context of substantive legal knowledge currently tested on the bar exam. In addition to traditional multiple-choice questions and longer written analyses, the exam is expected to include new integrated sets of questions—combinations of short-answer and multiple-choice questions in scenarios involving complex legal issues, drawn from multiple subject areas, that require applicants to demonstrate both in-depth knowledge of the law and skill in a range of essential attorney functions. …
“The content scope outlines are essential tools for law schools as they matriculate the students who will take the new bar exam,” said Hon. Cynthia L. Martin, who sits on the Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District, and chairs the committee charged with overseeing development of the new exam. “Many of the eight areas of law that make up the Foundational Concepts and Principles are taught in the first two years of law school, and faculty can use these outlines to inform their curriculum starting this fall.”
On the basis of recommendations set forth by a 21-member content scope committee following NCBE’s three-year study of the bar exam, examinees will be required to have in-depth knowledge of certain topics within each subject tested on the exam. For some topics within each subject, examinees will be expected to have a more general familiarity that requires them to be able to recognize that the topic is at issue and to work with any legal resources that may be provided. For example, within the area of constitutional law, examinees will be expected to have in-depth knowledge of First Amendment freedoms such as regulation of protected and unprotected expression, but a more general understanding of prior restraint, vagueness, and overbreadth.
The eight subjects to be tested on the new exam are:
- Business associations and relationships (including agency)
- Civil procedure
- Constitutional law (including proceedings before administrative agencies)
- Contracts (including Article 2 of the Uniform Commercial Code)
- Criminal law and constitutional protections of accused persons
- Real property
The new exam will no longer require examinees to have a base of knowledge in the areas of conflict of laws, family law, trusts and estates, or secured transactions, but these topics may still be included in certain legal scenarios for which examinees are provided relevant reference materials, as in the current Multistate Performance Test.
A significant change for the new exam will be the expansion of skills testing. The current bar exam already tests important lawyering skills in legal writing, issue spotting, and legal analysis. The skills to be assessed on the new bar exam have been expanded to include legal research, investigation and evaluation, client counseling and advising, negotiation and dispute resolution, and client relationship and management.
In considering the breadth of topics to be covered within each concept and skill area, the content scope committee primarily considered the following three factors:
- Frequency: How often is a newly licensed lawyer likely to encounter the topic in general entry-level practice (loosely defined as solo practice or working at a full-service law firm)?
- Universality: How likely is a newly licensed lawyer to encounter the topic in more specialized types of entry-level practice?
- Risk: How likely is it that there will be serious consequences if a newly licensed lawyer does not have any knowledge of the topic when it arises?
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