Ten Property Subjects Commonly Tested in Bar Exams - dummies

Ten Property Subjects Commonly Tested in Bar Exams

By Alan R. Romero

You may wonder what property law you need to know in order to pass the bar exam. If only the bar examiners would tell you the questions beforehand, you’d be sure to find the right answers and know what they want you to know, right? If only.

The coverage of state bar exams varies, but all include some property law subjects. You can find many online descriptions of state bar coverage, although often without enough detail to tell which specific property law subjects are likely to be tested. Almost all the states have adopted the Multistate Bar Exam, however, and many states have also adopted the Multistate Essay Exam.

The website of the National Conference of Bar Examiners, which administers these multistate exams, includes outlines of the subject matter covered by the exams. The Multistate Bar Exam, a multiple-choice exam, has 33 property law questions out of the total 200 questions on the exam.

Purchase agreements

Real estate purchase agreements are generally one of the most heavily tested property subjects on bar exams. The National Conference of Bar Examiners says that 20 percent of the Multistate Bar Exam property questions are about real property contracts.

The Property Law course in the first year of law school usually includes some coverage of real estate contracts, but you often need upper-level courses in real estate transactions to really know the subject.


Mortgages are another commonly tested topic. In fact, mortgages account for another 20 percent of the Multistate Bar Exam questions.

The details of mortgage law are often left for upper-level law school courses on real estate finance.


Property transactions — the kinds of things that real estate lawyers deal with — seem to dominate the property law coverage in bar exams. And titles, which include deeds, make up (you guessed it) 20 percent of the Multistate Bar Exam questions.

For more-detailed information, consider a real estate transactions course.

Recording acts

Recording acts are also commonly tested on bar exams. State recording acts vary, so knowing the recording act of the state in which you’re taking the bar exam is especially important. But the Multistate Bar Exam also may include questions about all three types of recording acts as part of the property law questions dealing with titles.

A course in real estate transactions may cover recording and title searching beyond the coverage in the first-year property law course.

Landlord-tenant law

Landlord-tenant law is commonly tested on bar exams. On the Multistate Bar Exam, landlord-tenant questions are included in a category called “ownership,” which includes another 20 percent of the questions. Landlord-tenant law also seems to be a common subject for essay questions.

Some law schools have upper-level courses in landlord-tenant law.


Estates are generally well covered in bar exams. The Multistate Bar Exam includes questions on estates along with landlord-tenant law and concurrent ownership under the “ownership” heading.

Remainders and the rule against perpetuities may be worth special attention. Don’t overlook restraints on alienation either, which may be both an estate issue and a covenant issue. Courses on wills, trusts, and estates offer more study of estates.

Concurrent ownership

Concurrent ownership is commonly tested along with present and future estates. Many states don’t recognize tenancy by the entirety anymore, so in those states, you only need to study tenancy in common and joint tenancy. Wills, trusts, and estates courses may also study more about concurrent ownership.


Covenants seems to be a hard subject for students, and it’s often tested. The last 20 percent of the property questions on the Multistate Bar Exam deal with “rights in land,” including covenants, easements, fixtures, and zoning.

You may focus on the requirements to apply covenants to successors at law and in equity, but don’t neglect the rest of the issues about covenants, including interpretation and termination. The first-year property course is usually the primary direct coverage of this subject in the law school curriculum.


Easements are commonly tested along with covenants. The study of easements often focuses on the creation of easements, but you may see questions on scope and termination as well.

As with covenants, the law school curriculum doesn’t usually include advanced study of easements, although some upper-level subjects may deal with particular kinds of easements.

Adverse possession

Adverse possession is a pretty likely subject for bar exam testing. The Multistate Bar Exam includes adverse possession in the “titles” category of questions, along with recording acts and deeds.

You may run into adverse possession in some other law school course, but the first-year property course is where it’s taught.