One of the most dreaded parts of the bar exam is the Multistate Bar Exam, or MBE. Everyone who takes the bar exam takes the MBE on the Wednesday of their exam period, except bar takers in Puerto Rico and Louisiana. By this point in your bar exam preparations, you know that the MBE consists of 200 multiple choice questions, and 190 of those questions are actually scored.
Many law students and bar takers find multiple choice questions more intimidating than essay questions. Here are five suggestions for make the most out of your MBE studies:
First, it is impossible to do well on the MBE if you do not know the underlying law. Although it is important to practice taking MBE questions, if you do not know the law upon which the questions are based you will have limited success. You need to study your bar prep materials for each subject, review your outlines, and memorize the black letter law (maybe by creating flashcards, as I’ve discussed previously). Only after you feel like you have a good basic grasp of the material should you start doing practice MBE questions on that topic.
Second, you need to think about your approach to each question. MBE questions are like many of the multiple choice questions you were exposed to during law school. The questions instruct you to choose the best answer—which means that there technically might be more than one correct answer. As I’ve discussed before, there are specific techniques you can use to help you narrow down the best answer to multiple choice questions. Develop a strategy for how you will tackle the MBE.
Third, numbers matter—it is important to practice MBE questions over and over. The more questions you do over time, the more you will understand how the bar examiners have constructed the questions. You will become more proficient at reading questions because of that understanding. You also will be able to gauge your progress in your studies based upon your degree of success on each set of practice questions.
Fourth, it is important to simulate the actual conditions for the exam. You don’t have to do this every time you take practice questions, but it is a very different thing to take a 20-question practice exam versus spending an entire day taking 200 multiple choice questions. Part of what makes the bar exam challenging is the physical side of taking it—you will be sitting hunched at a table all day filling in bubble sheets with a pencil, and that can be physically taxing. You should also keep in mind the amount of time you will have per question. You will have about 1.8 minutes per multiple choice question on the bar exam—try to apply that standard to your practice questions so that you train yourself to manage your time on the MBE.
Finally, you need to remember that answering the practice MBE questions is only half of the process. To get the most out of your practice sessions, you should review carefully the answers and explanations that go along with those questions. I recommend allowing at least the same amount of time to review the answers and explanations as you devote to taking the practice exam in the first place. As you review your results, take note of why you missed each question. If it is a matter of not knowing the law well enough, then make studying that legal issue a priority in your studies. If you chose a correct answer but not the best answer, then determine what made the other answer better. If you missed key facts in the question, that may be a sign that you are reading the question too quickly and need to slow down. The key is to learn from wrong answers so that you do not make the same mistakes again in the future.
Ultimately, one of the keys to success on the MBE is practice, practice, practice. Set aside the time to do it right, and you will reap the results of your efforts.