UWorld MBE Review: Study with Visual Learning (vs. AdaptiBar)

There are a lot of resources and supplements for the MBE portion of the bar exam these days.

AdaptiBar vs UWorld

AdaptiBar vs BarMax, Emanuel, PMBR, Real MBE, Barbri, Themis, JD Advising, Critical Pass, Kaplan

You’re bombarded with referral links and ads from all angles on the Internet these days thanks to everyone trying to get a piece of you (and your sneaky iPhone listening to everything you think).

You’re taking the most important exam of your life. The multiple-choice part counts for 50% of your bar exam score based on a series of 200 letters (or 100 if there’s a pandemic).

All you want is just some solid and cost-effective help that makes you actually learn and progress.

What are you supposed to choose?

UWorld MBE QBank is a new contender to the MBE game.

In this comprehensive review of UWorld, I’ll explain what their MBE QBank does and why I immediately reached out when I first heard about it from my readers.

Here are some key takeaways and a table of contents for more details:

  • Key distinction 1 – visual, intuitive explanations: Robust, in-depth answer explanations with illustrations, charts, and other visual aids that help you retain and recall the rules. A picture is worth a thousand words or at least a lot of words, and we have enough words to read as it is.
  • Key distinction 2 – updated question formats: Focus on relevant, newer questions so that your practice is not compromised by outdated question formats. The product team at UWorld also regularly develops new questions that align with current style of testing.
  • Key distinction 3 – experience with exam prep: They’ve been around the block. They’re known for helping students pass difficult exams in other professional fields like medicine, finance, etc.
  • In the works: More features that are based on methodologies to help you remember the material. I’ll update this review when these new features come out…can’t be spilling them beans yet.

Table of contents (click to jump):

  1. UWorld helps you to learn concepts tested on the MBE using clear, visual answer explanations
  2. UWorld has updated the format of their questions to make them look as close as possible to the actual MBE questions
  3. UWorld has been around the block of high-stakes exams (now the MBE)
  4. Recap & future work for UWorld
    • Key features
    • Some ancillary features
    • Some things UWorld could improve on
  5. Verdict for this new contender in the MBE supplements space

UWorld helps you to learn concepts tested on the MBE using clear, visual answer explanations

You ever wonder, “Can someone explain what the hell ‘FOB to Seller’ means like I’m 5 years old?”

And then your eyes glaze over as they stare at the big block of text explaining why choice C is the right answer and why A, B and D are incorrect because they’re not C.

“Oh okay.” You add it to the list of things to skip over, right under the rule against perpetuities.

Those days are OVER, friendo.

If you work on an MBE question with UWorld, you get answer explanations that aim to teach rather than simply lecture.

"the UWorld MBE practice Qs are fantastic and not just to practice doing questions; they actually helped me with substantive law learning also. Such quality explanations, I did all the questions in their pack"
"I love the structure of the answers to the questions. I learn so much from them and they give me a context to remember the black letter law."

Here’s an example of a visual aid that explains the difference between “condition precedent” and “condition subsequent”:

Example of UWorld visual aid

Also note the “Add To Flashcard” button.

You can add this concept to your personal compilation and come back to this concept to refresh your memory if you need to.

Now that you know the concept, you’re ready to dig into the answer explanations. The explanations apply the concept and tell you why the incorrect answers are incorrect. Finally, the takeaway or the “educational objective” is given:

Example of UWorld answer explanation

Here’s another example, from an answer explanation about civil complaints. This is a practical example that shows what a complaint might actually look like in the real world (and not just a list of what you theoretically need in a complaint):

Example of UWorld answer explanation 2

This is useful.


Feedback via review and self-critique is critical to improving on the MBE.

Solving questions is like getting on the scale to measure yourself. Whether the needle moves in the direction you want depends on what you do between the measurements. Just because you get back on the scale doesn’t mean the reading will change.

That means you should seek feedback on your work by reviewing answer explanations, model answers, outlines, etc.

Use this feedback to fill in the gap between your attempt to solve a problem and your understanding of how to solve that problem.

Now, there are answer explanations out there for you to learn from. Emanuel’s Strategies & Tactics for the MBE has excellent explanations. AdaptiBar’s explanations can be good enough (although its users tend to ask for clarification from other students).

The thing with purely text-based explanations is that you can sometimes be left unclear and wondering what the legal principle is and how it was applied to arrive at the answer.

As MBE questions become tougher over time, there’s a need to make testable concepts broken down into crystal clear explanations, especially if you need extra help understanding them.

With UWorld, you get a visual diagram and a key takeaway for each question. A picture is worth a thousand words. Also great for visual learners.

If you want to test drive it first, look for the free “7-day trial” here.

UWorld has updated the format of their questions to make them look as close as possible to the actual MBE questions

As you start to work on past (licensed) questions, you sometimes wonder:

  • “Hey, wait a minute, Is it me or are these real questions way easier than Barbri’s?”
  • “I feel like I’m seeing completely different questions”
  • “The actual MBE was nothing like what I’ve seen”
  • “The actual MBE was just like what I’ve seen”
  • “Some of these questions seem to be really hard or easy compared to others”

What gives?

You’re probably remembering outdated questions—more specifically, older styles of questions.

Even the NCBE used to recommend NOT using questions with outdated formats:

Older/Retired Questions

Retired questions drawn from MBEs administered many years ago are made available on this page, but examinees are advised not to use these questions as substantive preparation for the MBE. Due to changes in the law since the time the questions appeared on an exam, the questions and their keys may no longer be current. The question format may also be outdated. Because these questions are outdated, NCBE does not recommend their use but nevertheless makes them available because the questions may still be in use by commercial bar review courses under a licensing agreement with NCBE.

Source: Preparing for the MBE (June 13, 2015 archive) (emphasis added)

UWorld specifically avoids using outdated question formats.

What’s an “outdated” question?

A question is outdated if it doesn’t follow the current formatting conventions or if it no longer tests good law (one example of this is recent caselaw on 4th Amendment searches).

How the NCBE drafts the questions now:

  • “Common nouns should be used in lieu of proper nouns wherever practicable.”
  • “All of the facts necessary to answer the question should appear in the fact pattern” and not in the choices themselves (avoiding “if…” or “unless…” language in the options)
  • “Language in the options should be parallel.”

Below is an example of an outdated format. In older questions released before 2008, the call of question may not be a complete sentence or question.

See this previously administered Constitutional Law question:

outdated MBE question format
© NCBE (used for educational, critical, and entertainment purposes)

The call basically asks you to fill in the blank.

Now compare with this question:

current MBE question format
© NCBE (used for educational, critical, and entertainment purposes)

This call of the question is actually a question. The answers are directly yes/no. It’s a subtle shift.

Here’s another example:

sample MBE question formatting comparison

So if you’ve ever felt (cautiously) confident walking into the MBE after getting 70-80% questions correct in your practice runs and then wondered why the actual exam questions looked different, this may have been why.

UWorld, however, has done a few things to address this deficiency:

1. Labeled questions with the year they are from so you can tell how old they are:

Each question is labeled with the year it's from

2. Rewrote and updated questions so that they reflect the current formatting. For example, there will always an affirmative question to answer.

You benefit from working with these reformed questions as opposed to outdated questions taken straight from the NCBE. The reworked questions are more aligned to what you’ll see on the actual exam.

That means you’ll get fewer surprises on the exam. You’ll have fewer panic attacks. You’re less likely to blank out because a question looks different or unfamiliar.

You may even end up getting a nice boost in confidence like Al:

"On the exam day during the MBEs, I noticed every question was of the same fabric and format as the ones in UWorld. The entire MBE on the exam day felt like I was at home doing practice exam. I felt very comfortable and confident throughout the exam. Unlike last October when I felt totally defeated after the exam, this time, I feel I’ve already passed the bar and only need to wait for the results. (Is this feeling normal? Did you feel the same way right after the exam?). Regardless of whether I’ll actually pass or not, UWorld was a great help to me not only in terms of building up the substantive knowledge, but also a very nice boost in my confidence level going into the the exam."

3. Provided recent questions that reflect the current style. Not use questions that are too old. Any older questions are being replaced with new questions that reflect the current MBE format.

There are “only” 1,375+ real questions available in the UWorld MBE QBank because the NCBE has retired the older questions. AdaptiBar is in the same situation.

This is not a bad thing. You get a closer simulation of what you might see with more recent questions. Plus you should be redoing questions anyway.

“I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.”—Bruce Lee

Well, you might ask, why not have all the other licensable questions too? The more the better?

It turns out that any licensed MBE questions from 1992 aren’t really representative of the questions you’ll see on the exam. The style is different, and so may the law.

Instead, UWorld decided to draft their own questions to cover any content that isn’t covered by the questions licensed from the NCBE.

Sure, you want to cover enough of the tested issues through your practice and preparation. But obsessing over doing as many questions as possible can be a mistake.

Looking for quantity rather than mastery of the concepts is a major trap that bar takers fall into while preparing for the MBE.

Remember that doing questions is like getting on the scale to measure your current level.

“We don’t rise to the level of our expectations; we fall to the level of our training.”

I’d rather have you master 1,000 questions than do 3,000 and learn nothing. Remember from above that feedback is critical to improvement.

Reviewing your work should take at least as long as answering the question itself
Join the private MTYLT Facebook community where I hang with a bunch of MTYLT readers and graduates

So here’s what you do:

  1. Use the most updated, real questions you can find.
  2. Understand the tested concept by studying each explanation carefully, for every question you get right and wrong.
  3. Repeat questions until you approach a 100% win rate.

You wouldn’t normally expect to completely understand or retain something after just one try, right? If you recognize the pattern on the exam, great! That’s the point.

UWorld’s MBE QBank can help you do all of the above.

Sure, most other MBE supplements can, too. But with UWorld…

You’ll be able to clearly understand the concepts tested on the MBE, and simulate it as close to the real thing as possible with its up-to-date question format, at a reasonable cost.

Need more convincing?

UWorld has been around the block of high-stakes exams (now the MBE)

UWorld’s MBE QBank launched in 2020. It’s the new player on the block.

But UWorld has solid history with high-stakes exam preparation and knows a thing or two about how to effectively learn and retain concepts that get tested on exams.

When you go to the homepage, you’ll see a laundry list of exams for various professional fields, including medical, college, and accounting. In fact, I ran across this text from a med student:

UWorld exam preparation

That’s how established UWorld is in the high-stakes exam prep world.

MBE (under the “legal” tab) is its latest addition. And they take the same approach that made them famous for other types of exams.

Why are they so successful at preparing exam students?

Here’s what I learned about their philosophy from conversations I had with their product manager:

It’s in their DNA to create the best questions and explanations as possible. UWorld started in the medical space and is dominating it now. Any recent med student will know about the USMLE and what they used to study for it.

It’s their extreme focus on the quality of the questions and answer explanations. It takes weeks for a single question to make it into the QBank. They recruit law professors and licensed attorneys, and put MBE questions and explanations through a rigorous test that goes through several levels of review. 

The singular philosophy that percolates through the company is to use learning methodologies that help students pass high-stakes exams. The name of the game is not just to study—but prepare.

Moreover, as of 2020 December, UWorld has launched a spaced repetition feature to help you hack your brain and memorize more effectively.

In a nutshell, you can create a set of flashcards (and even copy over visual charts from the answer explanations and tag them however you like). Then as you test yourself, you can categorize cards into how easy/hard it was to remember the answer. Hard ones will repeat much sooner than easy ones.

Repeated exposure to difficult rules and concepts, spaced out, will keep them in your head longer.

They (and I) believe in encouraging students to practice and engage in the study process instead of passively taking in information. It doesn’t matter how many books or videos students go through. Effective learning is about active learning using the right resources, with quality questions and explanations.

As UWorld says, “We Make Really Hard Stuff Easy to Understand.”

Recap & future work for UWorld

To recap, UWorld is the new player on the MBE block but by no means a stranger to exam preparation.

The QBank is an excellent platform to help you learn and remember the massive amounts of material to understand for the MBE.

Key features:

  • Visual and clear answer explanations… so that you get proper feedback and LEARN
  • Flashcard tool… so that you can come back to the visual aids you’ve bookmarked and retain the concepts
  • The most recent licensed MBE questions. They’ve also got simulated questions in an up-to-date format to give you the closest simulation to the real thing… so that you won’t come out of the bar exam dazed and wondering why the questions looked so unfamiliar

(There are major features and additional teaching tools in the works to help you learn even better. I can’t talk about them just yet!)

Some ancillary features:

  • Bookmark or flag a question to come back to
  • Sort questions by topic and subtopic
  • Select questions based on the subject, chapter, and topic
  • Add notes and search through notes and flashcards
  • Analyze performance by subject and subtopic—useful for surgically treating weak areas
  • Highlight text in the question and explanation
  • Strike out and eliminate answer choices
strike through answer choices
  • Receive quick tips via email. Here’s an example:
UWorld Evidence quick tip

That said, it’s not a perfect tool. Here are some things that it could improve on:

Does UWorld get harder as you go?

No. That’s what AdaptiBar’s patented technology does, adapting to your skill level so that you’re getting practice that’s appropriate to where you are.

Too easy and it’s boring. Too hard and it’s frustrating.

Compiling and organizing answer explanations into an outline

The explanations are once again a shining beacon in the mass of confusion in MBE concepts. It would be great to have a compilation of them:

"Their explanations . . . are EXCELLENT and already classified by subject and sub-subject."

"The visual learning is so good."

One workaround is to use the flashcard feature to save the explanations!

Speaking of flashcards, though…

Having a default option to put the visual aid on the front or the back of flashcards

You can choose to add the visual portion of an answer explanation into a flashcard. You can continue to edit the flashcard with further text, notes, etc.

But the illustration initially gets added into the front side of the card by default:

UWorld flashcards

This can be useful as a bookmark of sorts you can refer back to.

To switch the contents of the front and back, you have to toggle the arrows between the front and back sides, which is a minor inconvenience.

But wouldn’t this be more useful as a flashcard if you could add a question or a prompt (“condition precedent vs. condition subsequent”) on the front side so you could test yourself first?

The above flashcard looks like this in practice:

UWorld flashcards front

The answer is already shown when you open the flashcard! “Show Answer” shows the prompt, which seems backward.

It would be helpful to be able to toggle which side the visual aid gets added to by default, or have an option during the adding process.

But for now, be sure that you’re putting the content you want in the right places.

Verdict for this new contender in the MBE supplements space

If you’re interested in a supplement for your MBE studies, UWorld is a viable resource.

One of the salient benefits is that UWorld offers an online MBE question bank with visual explanations and charts.

The UWorld MBE QBank platform comes with the most recent licensed questions, with hundreds of simulated questions developed by their content team.

While this platform definitely has areas to work on, it still offers a core benefit of providing means of clear feedback to improve your understanding of concepts tested on the MBE. The MBE counts for half of most bar exams, and thus your performance on the exam will correlate.

(More features are coming to help you retain the material even better…)

But it’s not about the tool. Rather, it’s about the wielder. You can do well using any of the resources I’ve reviewed and selected elsewhere (such as AdaptiBar).

If you’re interested in the OG MBE platform, read my review of AdaptiBar here.

If you want a comparison of AdaptiBar and UWorld, check here.

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