MBE Study Guide
Everything You Need to Improve Your Score and Pass the Exam
Most jurisdictions assign a 50% weight to the Multistate Bar Exam (MBE®). For many, a solid or poor MBE score will make the difference between passing or failing the bar entirely. The following MBE study guide provides a blueprint that has helped many hopeful examinees meet or exceed their goals. We will discuss how to study for the MBE and cover the best study materials and aids available.
Understand the MBE Format & Subjects
The MBE contains 200 multiple-choice questions and is administered over two 3-hour sessions. Examinees only receive credit for answered questions. Since points are not deducted for incorrect answers, you should answer as many questions as possible, even if you're guessing.
The National Conference of Board Examiners (NCBE®) only scores 175 questions. The remaining 25 are pre-test questions for future exams.
These questions cover the following 7 subjects (25 questions each):
Each subject contains subtopics that are assigned various weights. See below for a detailed breakdown.
How to Study and Prepare for the MBE
Achieving a high score on the MBE requires dedicated effort and a smart study plan. At the root of all the MBE tests is the blackletter law. These well-established and undisputed legal rules form the foundation of legal structures, and memorizing them will give you a serious advantage come exam day. Below are additional tips on how to prepare for the MBE.
Make a Study Schedule/Plan
Studying for the MBE may appear unattainable when viewed as a singular, one-step goal. It's critical to estimate the number of hours you'll need to study the most heavily tested subjects and be realistic and consistent as you block the requisite time into your schedule. You'll be less stressed and better prepared by breaking your overarching goal of "passing the MBE" into manageable and realizable mini-goals.
Master legal rules easier with effective answer explanations and visuals.
Concentrate on Heavily Tested Subjects/Topics
Developing a holistic and balanced understanding of the law should be a guiding principle of any legal professional. However, when it comes to passing the MBE, you should concentrate the bulk of your time studying the most heavily tested subjects and topics.
Each subject consists of 25 questions, but the weightage of subtopics varies. For example, "Constitutional Protection of Accused Persons," a subtopic of "Criminal Law and Procedure," comprises 50% of the subject's weightage. Meanwhile “Writings, Recordings, and Photographs” is weighted at 8.3% of Torts or a mere two questions.
See the following table for a detailed breakdown of MBE subject/topic weights.
|Jurisdiction & Venue||22%|
|Law Applied by Federal Courts||8.3%|
|Verdicts & Judgement||8.3%|
|Appealability & Review||8.3%|
|The Nature of Judicial Review||16.7%|
|The Separation of Powers||16.7%|
|The Relation of Nation & States in a Federal System||16.7%|
|Formation of Contracts||25%|
|Performance, Breach and Discharge||25%|
|Defenses to Enforceability||12.5%|
|Contract Content and Meaning||12.5%|
|Constitutional Protection of Accused Persons||50%|
|Inchoate Crimes, Parties||12.5%|
|Relevancy and Reasons for excluding relevant evidence||33.3%|
|Hearsay and Circumstances of its Admissibility||25%|
|Presentation of Evidence||25%|
|Privileges and Other Policy Exclusions||8.3%|
|Writings, Recordings, and Photographs||8.3%|
|Ownership of Real Property||20%|
|Rights in Real Property||20%|
|Real Estate Contracts||20%|
|Strict Liability and Products Liability||16.7%|
Take this advice with a grain of salt. If you thoroughly understand a heavily tested subject and consistently do well in practice, calibrate your study plan to focus on less understood subjects.
Learn the law by memorizing the rules
Many students dip their toes into the shallows before diving into blackletter law. It may be tempting to front-load your study with palatable and substantive video lectures, but the glaring truth is that the MBE requires a great deal of memorization. The sooner you begin memorizing the blackletter law, the easier the study process will be, and the more time your basis of knowledge will have to take root.
Practice a lot - Perform as many MBE practice questions as possible
Practice a lot—this may seem obvious, but there is a world of difference between intentional and diverse practice and passive and superficial practice. Legal concepts require consistent focus and routine reflection to understand. If it were easy, there would be more qualified lawyers.
Don't become complacent—practice in both Tutor mode and Timed mode. Work under timed conditions without reviewing each answer immediately, then switch. Practice questions that meet or exceed MBE difficulty are essential elements of your study regimen. It's simple, by designing your practice to parody the exam so precisely, the actual exam will feel like practice.
The UWorld MBE QBank offers access to thousands of NCBE-licensed questions and additional practice questions that have been curated by a dedicated team of legal professionals to meet exam MBE-level difficulty.
Built-in performance analytics allow you to concentrate your review on challenging concepts, turning your weaknesses into strengths, and mitigating the time you waste reviewing what you already know. Every question is fitted with thorough answer explanations for every answer choice that help you understand the "why" and increase retention. All of the above is included in the Themis + UWorld Bar Review Bundle course at no additional cost.
Pass the MBE Your First Time.
Make use of flashcards and mnemonics
Flashcards and mnemonics are among the most universal and well-established study techniques for a simple reason—they are effective. Students can sharpen the edge of these tools by taking an active-learning approach and creating their own.
"Mnemonic" comes from the Greek word "mnemon" (to remember). This technique has been used since ancient times to memorize lengthy speeches and critical knowledge, and it has also been scientifically proven to aid retention.
One study compared three groups that had to memorize 72 new words. One group used mnemonic training, while the active and passive control groups did not. The group that used mnemonic training could recall far more words 20 minutes and 24 hours after the exercise.
However, the most dramatic difference came when recall was tested four months later. The passive and active control groups couldn't recall nearly any words. In fact, the mnemonic training group could recall more words in the 4-month follow-up than the other groups could after 20 minutes.
Flashcards may not be as ancient a technique as mnemonic training, but they have been scientifically proven to be effective, especially when paired with spaced-repetition software. Spaced repetition accounts for flashcards that you've graded as too easy, very difficult, or average. Particular flashcards are then shown to you at calculated intervals and frequencies relative to their difficulty.
A 2006 study found that students who employed spaced practice performed significantly better than those who used mass practice (cramming) after one week.
The best bar prep is adaptable. No one better understands the way you think better than you. In addition to Themis’s pre-loaded flashcards, UWorld allows you to generate limitless custom MBE flashcards so that you can learn your way. Create your own mnemonics, easily transfer illustrations, charts, and important content to either side of your flashcards. Our spaced repetition technology ensures that you'll see what you need to see when you need to see it.
Track your progress
Studies have shown that tracking progress improves behavioral performance and increases the chances of achieving one's goals. A meta-analysis of 138 studies involving 19,951 participants found that participants who were prompted to monitor their progress toward a goal (i.e., smoking cessation, weight loss, dietary changes, etc.) were more likely to succeed.
Monitoring and tracking your performance keep you focused on your goal. Tracking your progress allows you to see how far you've come and calibrate the subordinate goals that lead you to achieve your primary goal. Most importantly, these tools allow you to hone in on your weaknesses and transform them into strengths.
For example, say you have been performing poorly on questions involving Real Property, but your confidence in Constitutional Law is solid. You can review your Con Law approach, analyze what's working, and apply it to Real Property. Alternatively, try relating difficult Real Property laws and concepts to those you firmly grasp.
Understand the logic behind the correct answers
The difference between answering an MBE question correctly or incorrectly may hinge on a single word or phrase in the fact pattern, leading examinees to feel confident in selecting an incorrect answer. Avoid this pitfall by routinely reviewing the answer explanations provided in your UWorld MBE QBank and meticulously noting legal nuances between answer options. This practice will acclimate you to the subtleties of the law.
UWorld Study Methodology can Help You Raise your MBE Score
Empirical data has made it clear that active learning is superior to passive learning in improving learning outcomes. The Neuroscience of Active Learning has found active learning methods activate multiple neural pathways simultaneously, enabling them to make more connections and learn more efficiently. The more active the approach, the better information is retained (see graphic below).
The UWorld methodology is based on the active learning model. Our QBanks contain thousands of questions that match or exceed exam-level difficulty and allow you to generate unlimited customized tests (practice by doing).
Furthermore, our QBanks are fitted with vivid, professionally produced images, illustrations, charts, graphics, diagrams, and other high-quality visuals. One study found that subjects retained 45-55% more information when the input was visual rather than written or spoken.
Other characteristics of active learning that UWorld employs are focused learning and active learning.
- Focused Learning — Students atrophy when constantly deliberating what to study and using various unrelated study materials and prep courses. UWorld QBanks provide everything you need to pass the MBE in one integrated system.
- Simplified Learning — The Bar Exam is sophisticated and rigorous. Examinees study a number of complex legal rules and concepts for hundreds of hours. Legal experts design our visual content and in-depth legal answer explanations to simplify the complex rules of law.
Students studying full-time typically need about 8-10 weeks, or about 2-3 months, to prepare for the bar exam. Let's say you need 400 hours of study time. That's 40-50 hours a week, a full-time job.
The MBE has 7 subjects. Following the schedule above, you could make a thorough study of one subject per week and continue to review with flashcards and practice tests as you move closer to the exam.
For example, you study Civil Procedure week 1 and Real Property week 2. However, you leave review time at the beginning or end of each day of week two to review subjects from previous weeks with flashcards and practice quizzes.
After you've completed seven weeks, you should have a solid understanding of where your weaknesses lie. The following 1-3 weeks should be spent taking what you've learned from measuring your progress to transform your weaknesses into strengths.
Studying with a full-time job
Many examinees must balance a career, family, or other commitments with studying for the bar exam. The same general advice applies whether you are studying full-time or part-time, but with the caveat that part-timers should begin studying 4-6 months ahead of their exam date. Below are estimated weekly time commitments:
- 4 Months — 25 hours per week
- 5 Months — 20 hours per week
- 6 Months — 16 hours per week
The numbers above are based on 400 hours of total study. Rather than study one MBE subject per week, those studying part-time should allot a set number of hours of intense study to each subject.
Tips for the Exam Day
Choose the best-fit answer
You will almost certainly come across questions with two answer options that appear to be correct. Remember, your goal is to select the best fit within the context of all the facts and laws related to that question.
Attempt all questions
On the MBE, your score begins at 0 and increases with every correct answer. In other words, you do not lose points for incorrect answers, so answer every question, even if you have to make an educated guess.
On average, you should aim to complete 34-68 MBE questions daily.
On the bar exam, you have 3 hours to answer 100 MBE questions. You will test for 3 hours in the morning, and 3 hours in the afternoon, for a total of 200 MBE questions. This averages out to 1 minute and 48 seconds per question.
Yes, every Themis Bar Review Course includes access to a free UWorld MBE QBank.