This is the second of a three-part series regarding success on the bar exam. In this part we will be looking at strategies for passing the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE). Previously we covered essays.
The MBE is a 200 question multiple choice exam. Of the 200 questions, 190 will be scored. The other 10 are trial questions that may be in need of refinement for future exams.
You will answer 100 questions in the morning session and the remaining 100 questions in the afternoon. Each exam session is three hours. This means you have approximately one minute and 48 seconds to complete each question.
The purpose of the test is to ensure a minimal competency in the areas of law tested. You will receive a scaled score that is based on the overall performance of the examinees on the test you are taking.
The topics covered are civil procedure, constitutional law, contracts, criminal law and procedure, evidence, real property, and torts. The questions are somewhat evenly divided between the subjects. The National Conference of Bar Examiners provides a list of topics within each subject tested on the MBE at its website.
The best method for mastering the material is to make sure you know the black letter law for the subjects found in the list of topics. Thankfully, some of the subject matter tested on the MBE will also show up in your essays.
Your time will be much better spent if you make sure you are familiar with the law before you start answering hundreds of practice questions. This will avoid you earning the dubious distinction of a student who answered thousands of practice questions yet still failed to get an adequate score on the MBE.
Once you feel confident that you know the subject matter’s law then you can start MBE practice questions. First you should answer approximately 30 from a specific subject area. As you answer the questions you will probably notice a pattern to the questions. After all, there are only so many ways an area of law can be tested in a multiple choice format.
After you have completed the subject specific reviews and answered the 30 or so questions from each subject you can start answering sets of mixed questions. This will get you use to the format and the way questions are thrown at you in the exam.
Make sure you review both the answers you got correct and those you got wrong. You never know when your guess was the correct answer. In that case, you just got lucky. And while luck is good to have on your side you should try to minimize your reliance on it.
Since the MBE is given in both the morning and afternoon sessions, you should practice question in the same manner. Therefore, don’t just complete MBE questions in the evening. Our brains work differently at different times of the day, you might as well get used to answering practice questions during the same time periods you will be taking the exam.
Two to three weeks before the actual exam you should give yourself a practice exam. Answer 200 questions in the allotted time as though you were taking the real exam. Do nothing else that day. The next day review your practice exam.
If you begin by ensuring you understand the basic laws being tested, you should have no problem getting a sufficient score on the MBE. At the end of the day, it is not how many practice problems you completed, but how well you know the law. I am sure you will all take the time necessary at the beginning of your studies to ensure success on both the bar exam and in the practice of law.