The Multistate Bar Exam® (MBE®) is likely the last multiple-choice test you will take before starting your legal career. This bar exam component is crucial because it can account for up to 50% of your total score. But don’t despair—UWorld is in your corner! Here are some strategies you can use to ace multiple-choice questions on the MBE.
It should come as no surprise that the bar exam imposes strict time constraints. For the MBE, you have three hours to complete 100 questions in the morning and again in the afternoon. This time limit gives you less than 1 minute and 50 seconds to answer each question.
How can you analyze legal issues in such a short time? Start by reading the call of the question and possibly the sentence immediately before it. This habit will help you identify the critical issue or concept being tested, so you can spot the relevant details as you read the rest of the question. Circle essential facts so you can quickly refer back to them as you review the answer choices. Practice answering MBE questions with this strategy to make it second nature by exam day.
Spot Issues—Not Conclusions
I have studied hundreds of actual MBE questions over the past few years, but I can’t always predict the correct legal conclusion. I will read a problem and think, “Yes, the court should grant this motion.” But once I read the answer choices, I find that none of them provide a convincing rationale for granting the motion. Why does this occur? If I know the rules, shouldn’t I come to the same conclusion as the bar examiners? Not necessarily. Reasonable minds can disagree about legal conclusions, which is why the Supreme Court often splits 5–4.
As a test-taker, it’s important to withhold judgment as you read the question. Instead of predicting conclusions, identify decisive issues that you must resolve before you can reach a conclusion. Then apply the relevant legal rule to determine the correct rationale of each answer choice. Since the MBE is an objective multiple-choice test, only one answer can be right, and the others must be less right. You only get credit for identifying the one choice that is “most correct, so issue-spotting and applying the correct legal rule are essential.
Use the Process of Elimination
Law students often dread multiple-choice questions, but they shouldn’t because the MBE is the one exam where the correct answer is right in front of you. How can anyone miss it? Clever test writers bury the correct answer among compelling distractors.
But there is an easy way to beat the test writers at their own game—the process of elimination. A correct answer must be correct in every respect, but a wrong answer need only be wrong in one respect. Therefore, it is easier to justify excluding an incorrect answer than to justify choosing the right one. The vast majority of trap answers fall into one of these categories:
- The answer misstates a fact
- The answer states an inaccurate rule of law or one that doesn’t apply to the issue at hand
- The rule or rationale cited doesn’t support the answer’s conclusion
Once you spot a flaw, eliminate the answer choice and move on.
Stay on Time
Do not get bogged down by time traps. Each question is worth one raw point. Easy questions are weighted just as heavily as hard ones, and the question difficulty is random—not progressive. If you fall behind, you may miss easy questions toward the end of each session.
In the month before the exam, start focusing on your timing. Create shorter practice tests and work your way up to 100 questions. This routine will help you build your mental stamina and perfect your pacing before taking the MBE.
If you do fall behind on exam day, consider skipping more extended questions. Circle these questions in your test booklet or write the question number(s) on your scratch paper so you can come back to them if you have time. This habit will keep you from rushing at the end of each session and missing easy points.
The bottom line is that you must take the MBE seriously to pass the bar exam. The scope of the MBE is broad, and there is a ton of information to memorize. Use these exam-taking strategies when you practice MBE questions, so they become a natural part of your test-taking process. By coupling these strategies with your substantive knowledge, you can ace the multiple-choice questions on the MBE.
If you are prepping for the MBE® exam and want to make sure you are thoroughly prepared, click here for our FREE trial. We’ll have you ready to ace the MBE on exam day.
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