MPRE: Prepare to Pass

The August 2017 MPRE is this Saturday and you should be preparing for it now.  I compare the MPRE to the written test to get your driver’s license- it’s easy IF you know the material. However, if you don’t read the little booklet with the rules of the road, you won’t know how many seconds it takes for a car going 65 MPH to come to a full stop (approximately 316 feet). The MPRE works the same way- you only need to get a little more than 50% of the questions correct but in order to do this, you have to learn the material and how it is tested.

The MPRE covers a lot more material than the driver’s license test so plan to spend 12-15 hours preparing. Not all topics are tested equally so it’s not a great idea to try to learn all the material. Instead, start with the MPRE subject matter outline to see what is tested. For example, there will be at least 7 questions on conflicts of interest but only 1-2 on safekeeping funds. Also take a look at the MPRE Key Words and Phrases which is exactly what it sounds like: key words and phrases the MPRE questions will include. Once you know what is tested, you want to see how it is tested. Use the MPRE Sample Test Questions written by the NCBE. These questions are illustrative of what will appear on the actual MPRE.

Now that you have a sense of the what and how, it’s time to practice. Commercial bar prep companies have free MPRE prep classes that provide detailed outlines and plenty of practice questions. Do them and review them. You can read previous posts here and here on how to get the most out of practice questions.

You want to pass the MPRE so take the test seriously. Put in the time and effort and don’t make excuses. Pass it and move on.


MBE: Practice the Process

People either love or hate multiple choice questions, there is no in between. Unfortunately for all the haters, if you want to pass the bar exam you better learn to at least like multiple choice questions. Focus on quality, not quantity. Doing thousands of practice questions is not an efficient or effective way to prepare because it puts the emphasis on the product instead of the process. If you miss questions you need to figure out why. And in order to change the outcome, you have to change the input. This means taking time to review- not your answers but your process.multiple-choice

Reading answer explanations is not the best way to review. Instead, identify the correct answer choice and then figure out why it is correct and why your choice is incorrect. This is not fun because it requires effort and forces you to do the work. However, if you can identify the mistake in the process, you can address it.

Most people make mistakes because you read the hypo and then go straight to the answer choices for help. Don’t. The answer choices are not there to help you. They are not your friends. Three of those choices are there to distract you from the best one. They look attractive with shiny words and pretty facts. Don’t get seduced. Get back to the fact pattern because that’s where the central issue is waiting. It’s your rock so find it and hold on to it. Once you’ve got a solid grip on the central issue, put wax in your ears and sail past those sirens.

Rely on your good friend IRAC to help you work through without getting distracted or seduced by those answer choices.

  • I: read the call of the question to get a sense of the general issue, then read the hypo and identify the central issue triggered by the facts.
    • When practicing, it’s a good idea to write this down. It will serve as an anchor when those answer choices try to seduce you away.
  • R: once you know what the central issue is, recall the relevant rule.
  • A: apply this rule to the answer choices and eliminate any that aren’t both factually and legally correct.
    • Factually correct: addresses the central issue.
    • Legally correct: applies the relevant rule.
  • C: stay in control and don’t be distracted or seduced.
    • You need to control the question, not the other way around.

Keep practicing but focus on the process instead of the product.


Changes to the MBE: Substance

A few months ago I wrote about changes to the MBE in the number of scored questions. Instead of 190 scored questions, there are now 175. In addition to this, the NCBE has changed how it tests Evidence and and what it tests in Real Property.

Evidence: There are five categories in Evidence: I. Presentation of Evidence (including impeachment); II, Relevancy (including character evidence and expert testimony); III. Privileges; IV. Writings, Recordings, and Photographs; and V. Hearsay. Up through 2016, the question breakdown was:

  • 33%- 8.3 questions- Presentation (including impeachment)
  • 33%- 8.3 questions- Hearsay
  • 33% – 8.3 questions-Relevancy, Privileges, Writings, Recordings, and Photographs

What has changed? The substance of each category has not changed but the number of questions per category has. Now the new subject breakdown is:

  • 25%-6.25 questions- Presentation, including impeachment
  • 33%-8.3 questions- Relevancy, including character evidence and expert testimony
  • 25%-6.25 questions- Hearsay
  • 17%-4.25 questions- Privileges and Writings, Recordings, and Photographs

Why should I care? There used to be two “big rocks,” Presentation and Hearsay, but now there are three: Presentation, Hearsay, and Relevancy. In addition to knowing Presentation and Hearsay really well, you also need to have a good understanding of basic relevancy and how character evidence and expert testimony work within the general relevancy rule(s). Relevancy used to be a “pebble” with 2-3 questions so you didn’t have to spend a ton of time on it. Now you cannot afford to skim. So, without sacrificing Presentation and Hearsay you have to figure out how to devote more time to Relevancy.

Real Property: There are five categories in Real Property: I. Ownership; II. Rights in Real Property; III. Real Estate Contracts; IV. Mortgages/Security Devices; and V. Titles.

What has changed? The weight given to each category is the same (20%, 5 questions) but the content has increased. The following six topics have been added to Real Property:

  1. Ownership: Conflicts of law related to disputes involving real property
  2. Rights in Real Property: Property owners’ associations and common interest ownership communities; Transfer of easements, profits, and licenses
  3. Titles: Requirements for transfer by deed; Drafting, review and negotiation of closing documents; Persons authorized to execute documents

Why should I care? You might be thinking, “No big deal. So there might be a question on property owners’ associations, I can do that.” Multiply that by 6. There are 6 topics so there is the very real possibility of getting at least one question from each. This is almost 25% of all the Real Property questions. You might be thinking, “No big deal. They won’t test all 6 new topics.” You could be right but do you know which topics won’t be tested? You might be comfortable taking a chance because, it’s only one topic. So where do you draw the line? 1? 2? 3? What about the other MBE subjects? Is it ok to blow off 1 topic from each? Now you are at 7. It’s a slippery slope and you have to be careful where you draw the line.

The purpose of this post is not to scare you. The purpose is to inform you of what to expect so you can plan and prepare.


Preparing for the MPRE

Less than two weeks until the March 2017 MPRE which means you need to start studying now. In a previous post I talked about the MPRE in general so today I’ll focus more on how to make the most out of practice questions.

Doing practice questions should be a key part of your MPRE study plan. You need to see what material is tested and how it is tested. You want to know what questions you get right and what questions you miss. However, you have to do more than look at the results. Knowing that you got 55% or 75% correct isn’t enough. A number is not feedback.

  • You have to know how you got that score: Did you know it or did you guess? Did you answer questions immediately after reviewing material?
  • You have to know why you got questions wrong: Did you not understand the topic? Did you miss the issue? Did you miss important facts? Did you misread the question?
  • You have to know why you missed some questions but got others correct: Did you miss tough questions and get easier ones right? Did you consistently miss/get correct questions on a particular topic? Did you miss more at the beginning? End?


In order to change the outcome, you must change the input. You must analyze the process- what you did and why you did it- to determine how you achieved the outcome. The good news is that this doesn’t require doing hundreds of practice questions. It does require focused effort and a little patience. The best part about doing self-assessment is that it’s really good practice for the MBE. More on that in a future post…



Preparing for the MBE: Do & Review

The Multistate Bar Exam. AKA: the MBE. 200 multiple choice questions on seven subjects. Almost every jurisdiction requires it so you can’t avoid it. And with more and more jurisdictions adopting the UBE, which weights the MBE 50% of your total bar exam score, you better learn to love it.


Everyone has advice about the “best” way to prepare for and do well on the MBE. However, be wary of  strategies that involve gaming the system or require little effort. The best way to do well on the MBE is the same way to do well on an essay exam: Know the material, practice the process, assess your performance. Assessing your performance does not mean looking at your score. It means figuring out HOW you got that score and WHY you missed particular questions.

This is not fun and it takes time. But it works. That is because time reviewing should equal time doing. What is the point of doing 17, 34, or 100 MBE questions if you don’t take the time to review? Reviewing means more than reading answer explanations. This is important but it only addresses one aspect of the test, the substance. You also need to review your process: the analysis you engaged in that lead you to choose a particular answer choice.

One way to review your analysis is to keep a log as you answer MBE questions. Write down your thought process as you eliminate and choose different answers. Again, this is not fun and it takes time. But it works. You’ll notice patterns in how you approach different questions and different topics. Are you missing Property questions because you don’t understand Property or because you don’t like reading the long hypo and get lost in the all of those facts?  Figure this out and you’ll be able to correct yourself adjust your process.

Want more on how to do well on the MBE? Check out this post  on how to use IRAc and this one for general strategies.