The Smart Guide to the MEE

A Guide to Mastering the Multistate Essay Exam (MEE)

Chapter
08

MEE Grading & Scoring

What You’ll Learn:

  • How the MEE is Graded & Scored
  • MEE Grading Standards… with MEE Grading Key
  • How an MEE Score is Determined – Raw Scores and Scaled Scores
  • The Total Percentage Weight of an MEE Score (in each jurisdiction)

What You REALLY Need to Know About MEE Grading and Scoring

Each jurisdiction grades MEE essay answers using their own set of grading standards.  Each essay is graded on a numbered scale based on the quality of the answer.  The grading scale varies per jurisdiction (e.g. 0-6, 1-10).

All written scores are combined, and then scaled using a complex formula.  For UBE jurisdictions, the written portions of the exam (MEE + MPT) are combined and scaled to a number between 1-200.

Other than that, you shouldn’t really worry about the specifics of grading and scoring.  Your main focus should be on studying the law, essay practice so you write an excellent essay answer, and comparing your practice essays to the MEE Analyses released by the NCBE.

We have included more grading specifics below if you’re really interested, but feel free to skip the rest of this chapter, especially if you’re short on time.

Disclaimer

The specifics on grading and scoring (reviewed below) get very detailed.  Feel free to skip the rest of this chapter if you’re not interested or short on time.

How an MEE Score is Determined (Raw Scores → Scaled Scores)

Outlined below is the entire process of how an examinee’s MEE score is calculated:

  • Step # 1: Each essay answer is graded and given a “raw score” using relative grading.  The score given is based on the quality of the answer, and the grading scale varies per jurisdiction (e.g. 0-6, 1-5).  “Relative grading” means scoring and ranking the essay answer “relative” to other examinee answers in that jurisdiction.
    • Graders use a process called Calibration to ensure fairness when grading and rank-ordering papers.  Calibration is achieved by test-grading “calibration packets” of 30 student papers to see what the range of answers is, and then resolving any differences in grading among those graders and/or papers.  This process ensures graders are using the same criteria so grading judgments are consistent for rank-ordering.³
  • Step # 2: The written raw scores are combined, and then scaled to the MBEThis is the examinee’s “scaled score”.  Specifically, the combined “raw score” is scaled to the mean and standard deviation of the Scaled MBE Scores for that examination.  Scaling adjusts for possible differences in average question difficulty and grader performance across different administrations of the examination.
    • For UBE Jurisdictions, an examinee’s scores for the MEE and MPT are combined, which comprises the examinee’s combined written “raw score” for the exam. This combined written “raw score” is then scaled putting the written raw score on a 200-point scale.  Specifically, the combined “raw score” is scaled to the mean and standard deviation of the Scaled MBE Scores for all examinees of the examinee’s respective jurisdiction (the state in which you take the bar exam).  This means that an examinee’s written portion is scaled “relative” to the other examinee answers in that jurisdiction.
  • Step # 3: The total written “scaled score” is weighted accordingly, depending on how much the written component is worth for that jurisdiction’s bar exam.  For UBE jurisdictions, the total written “scaled score” is 50% of the total exam score (30% for the MEE + 20% for the MPT).

*Note:  Kentucky, South Dakota, and Palau do not scale the written component to the MBE. Instead, each jurisdiction requires a separate minimum passing score for each component.

Total Weight of MEE Score

The MEE is worth 30% of your total exam score in most states – including all UBE jurisdictions, such as New York and New Jersey.

In other jurisdictions, the MEE/essays is normally worth between 30% and 45%.  Some jurisdictions have additional state essays and/or have a minimum passing score for the MEE/essay portion.

Below is a chart showing how much the MEE is worth in each jurisdiction.

JurisdictionMEE / Essay %Notes
Alabama30%
Alaska30%
Arizona30%
Arkansas30%
Colorado30%
Connecticut30%
D.C. – District of Colombia30%
Hawaiisee noteThe 6 MEE questions, 2 MPT tasks, and 15 Hawaii ethics multiple choice questions are equally weighted 50% of the exam score.
Idaho30%
Illinois30%
Iowa30%
Kansas30%
Kentuckysee noteAvg. score of 75 required for written component. Includes 3 Kentucky essays, 1 MPT, and 6 MEE essays.
Maine30%
Maryland30%
Massachusetts30%
Minnesota30%
Mississippi45%Includes 6 MEE essays + 6 Mississippi Essay Questions.
Missouri30%
Montana30%
Nebraska30%
New Hampshire30%
New Jersey30%
New Mexico30%
New York30%
North Carolina30%
North Dakota30%
Ohio30%
Oregon30%
Rhode Island30%
South Carolina30%
South Dakotasee noteAvg. score of 75% required for written component.
Tennessee30%
Utah30%
Vermont30%
Washington30%
West Virginia30%
Wisconsinsee noteAdministers varying combinations of MEE, MPT, and local essays.  The weight of each component varies per exam.
Wyoming30%
Guam38.9%Includes 6 MEE essays + 1 Essay Question based on local law.
Northern Mariana Islands30%Includes 6 MEE essays + 2 Local Essay Questions.
Palausee noteMust score 65 or higher on each component.  Includes 6 MEE essays + Palau Essay Exam (consisting of 4 to 5 questions).
Virgin Islands30%

MEE Grading Standards

All MEE jurisdictions use “relative grading”, which means scoring and ranking the essay answer “relative” to other examinee answers in that jurisdiction.  Under relative grading, each essay question is graded on a numbered scale based on the quality of the answer.  The grading scale varies per jurisdiction (e.g. 0-6, 1-10).

Many jurisdictions do not release their grading standards or grading scale, but a few states do.

Here are the grading standards and scale for Washington State.

ScoreMEE Grading Key / Scale
6A 6 answer is a very good answer. A 6 answer usually indicates that the applicant has a thorough understanding of the facts, a recognition of the issues presented and the applicable principles of law, and the ability to reason to a conclusion in a well-written paper.
5A 5 answer is an above average answer. A 5 answer usually indicates that the applicant has a fairly complete understanding of the facts, recognizes most of the issues and the applicable principles of law, and has the ability to reason fairly well to a conclusion in a relatively well-written paper.
4A 4 answer demonstrates an average answer. A 4 answer usually indicates that the applicant understands the facts fairly well, recognizes most of the issues and the applicable principles of law, and has the ability to reason to a conclusion in a satisfactorily written paper.
3A 3 answer demonstrates a somewhat below average answer. A 3 answer usually indicates that it is, on balance, inadequate. It shows that the applicant has only a limited understanding of the facts and issues and the applicable principles of law, and a limited ability to reason to a conclusion in a below average written paper.
2A 2 answer demonstrates a below average answer. A 2 answer usually indicates that it is, on balance, significantly flawed. It shows that the applicant has only a rudimentary understanding of the facts and/or law, very limited ability to reason to a conclusion, and poor writing ability.
1A 1 answer is among the worst answers. A 1 answer usually indicates a failure to understand the facts and the law. A 1 answer shows virtually no ability to identify issues, reason, or write in a cogent manner.
0A 0 answer indicates that there is no response to the question or that it is completely unresponsive to the question.

 

For other MEE jurisdictions, we have confirmed the following raw essay grading scales (see chart below).  The NCBE recommends a six-point (0 to 6) raw grading scale,4 but jurisdictions can use another scale.  If you know a grading scale that isn’t listed, we would appreciate that you contact us so we may include it.

 

JurisdictionEssay Grading Scale (Raw Scale Per Essay)
ArizonaEach written answer is awarded a numerical grade

from 0 (lowest) to 6 (highest).

ArkansasScale ranging from 65 to 85
Colorado1 to 6 point scale
Illinois0 to 6 point scale
Massachusetts0 to 7 point scale
Missouri10-point scale
New Jersey0 to 6 point scale
New York0 to 10 point scale
Vermont0 to 6 point scale
Washington State0 to 6 point scale
Even if you are taking the bar exam in another jurisdiction that uses a slightly different raw grading scale, you can still use the Washington State example above as a guidepost for what is considered a high scoring essay answer.  The above grading standards can also be used to self-grade your practice essay answers.

Additional Resources on MEE Grading & Scaling

If you’re interested in more details on MEE grading and scaling, please see the following articles:

Want To Save This Guide For Later?

No problem! Just click below to get the PDF version of this guide for free.

Want To Save This Guide For Later?

No problem! Just click below to get the PDF version of this guide for free.

³See, 13 Best Practices for Grading Essays and Performance Tests by Sonja Olson, The Bar Examiner, Winter 2019-2020 (Vol. 88, No. 4), at Item 5.

4See Id., at Item 3.