A Winning Strategy for the Bar Exam: Mastering the MBE


In this three-part series, we explore effective strategies to excel in the bar exam. In this article, we focus on the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE), a crucial component of the test. While the previous article covered essays, we now turn our attention to the MBE.

Understanding the MBE

The MBE is a multiple-choice exam consisting of 200 questions. Out of these, 190 questions are scored, while the remaining 10 are trial questions that may be refined for future exams. The exam is divided into a morning session of 100 questions and an afternoon session of 100 questions. Each session allows three hours for completion, providing approximately one minute and 48 seconds per question.

The goal of the MBE is to ensure minimal competency in various areas of law. Your scaled score is determined based on the overall performance of examinees taking the same test. The exam covers civil procedure, constitutional law, contracts, criminal law and procedure, evidence, real property, and torts. The National Conference of Bar Examiners offers a detailed list of topics within each subject tested on the MBE on their website.

Preparing for Success

To master the material, it is vital to have a thorough understanding of the black letter law for the subjects listed. Fortunately, some of the topics covered on the MBE will also appear in your essay section, providing an opportunity to reinforce your knowledge.

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Strategic Practice

Rather than diving straight into answering hundreds of practice questions, it is more effective to ensure a solid foundation in the law first. This approach helps you avoid the common pitfall of answering numerous practice questions without achieving a satisfactory score on the MBE.

Once you feel confident in your understanding of a subject’s law, you can start practicing with MBE questions. Begin with approximately 30 questions from a specific subject area. As you tackle these questions, you will likely identify patterns in their format. After all, there are only so many ways to test a particular area of law in a multiple-choice format.

After completing subject-specific reviews and answering the initial 30 questions for each subject, shift to answering sets of mixed questions. This will familiarize you with the exam’s format and the way questions are presented.

Remember to review both the questions you answered correctly and the ones you got wrong. Sometimes, a lucky guess may have led you to the correct answer. While luck can be helpful, it is important to minimize reliance on it.

Since the MBE is administered in both morning and afternoon sessions, it is beneficial to practice answering questions during the same time periods. Our cognitive abilities vary throughout the day, so acclimating to the exam’s timing is advantageous.

Simulating the Real Exam

Two to three weeks before the actual exam, it is advisable to give yourself a practice exam. Attempt 200 questions within the allocated time, as if you were taking the real test. Dedicate the entire day solely to this practice exam. The following day, thoroughly review your performance.

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Mastering the Law: The Key to Success

Ultimately, success on the MBE is not merely measured by the number of practice problems you complete. True achievement lies in developing a comprehensive understanding of the law being tested. It is crucial to invest the necessary time and effort at the start of your studies to ensure triumph both in the bar exam and in your future legal practice.

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By employing a strategic approach to studying and practicing for the MBE, you can maximize your chances of success. Remember, it’s not just about practicing countless questions but about mastering the law itself. Best of luck in your bar exam preparation, and may you excel in your legal journey.