The Multistate Bar Examination (MBE) is a tough exam. Covering seven substantive areas of law including Torts, Contracts, Evidence, Civil Procedure, Real Property and Crimes, the MBE requires bar exam applicants to recall, analyze, interpret and above all, pick the right answer choice. Bar exam applicants have only about 1.8 minutes to pick an answer, so implementing the appropriate strategy for the MBE is key. Starting with the basics, you must know the rules of law. There is no substitute for studying the rules.
Do this first. Substance before strategy. Knowing the substantive rules of law will keep you from attracting wrong choices. The MBE is not designed to have bar applicants pass. It is designed to lure exam applicants to making wrong choices. Remember last weekend when you went out on Saturday night instead of memorizing the exceptions to the hearsay rule? Bad choice. Especially when the California Bar Exam is less than 30 days away. Have plans for this weekend? Skip them. The MBE is more important. You need a break from studying? If you take it, you might find yourself revisiting this exam in July. California Attorney applicants taking the MBE, pay close attention. Engage a bar review course for practicing attorneys. It has been a while since you have taken a multiple-choice exam, and you will need the assistance in incorporating the MBE into your busy day. If you are taking the one-day attorneys exam, then stay tuned for specific preparation methods for the one-day exam. Scare tactics still will not help you improve your score. Strategy will. So, let’s take this step by step. And again, just to be clear, first know the rules of law.
STEP ONE: Skim the MBE question for no more than two-three seconds to figure out what subject is being tested. This will be very easy to do. A Civil Procedure MBE question will use phrases such as “Subject Matter Jurisdiction”, “Summary Judgment”, “Collateral Estoppel” ‘Summons and Complaint”. As stated above, you already know the rules so these phrases will be rather obvious to you.
STEP TWO: Cover up all four answer choices when you are reading the fact pattern. MBE questions are short essays. Nothing more. California Bar Exam applicants are used to reading hundreds of essays prior to the Bar Exam. All MBE questions tell a story. They present actors (in the form of plaintiffs and defendants). They have themes, they are full of suspense and they present puzzling issues. Engage with them. You need to answer an MBE question as if it was a California Bar Exam essay. SO, stay far far away from the answer choices. At this point they are not your friend, and they are designed for you to make a bad choice. Like that extra glass of wine you had last night.
STEP THREE: Figure out who wins. You read the story as instructed in step two, so now pick a winner. MBE questions MUST contain a correct answer choice. Answers then cannot be ambiguous. There is only one right answer. One winner. One actor who prevails. You should be able to narrow down your choices down to two possibilities.
STEP FOUR: A correct statement of law is always a better answer choice than a correct statement of fact. Often when left with two remaining choices they both tend to look good. One thought is that longer explanations are better answer choices. This is not always the case. Another theory suggests that if an answer contains words you have never heard of then by default this must be the best choice. Also, not the case. What we do know is that a correct statement of law is always the correct answer. So, for example, in a Civil Procedure question which asks, “Is the court likely to dismiss the action for improper service of process?” you already have narrowed your choice down to “Yes” based on the above. Now, we are looking for a correct statement of law relating to service of process. On of the answer choices states that an individual defendant may not be served by delivering process to a third party found at the defendant’s place of employment. That is exactly what Federal Rule 49e)(2) tells us! Do not question it. Pick it. It is the right answer choice.
STEP FIVE: Fact matching. Do the words in the answer choice repeat themselves in the question? If so, pick it. Often a correct MBE answer will contain a phrase that exactly matches one from the fact pattern. If you already narrowed your choices down to two, and both answers do NOT contain an accurate statement of the law, then match your facts.STEP SIX: Practice makes perfect. These steps are tools designed to improve overall scores for bar applicants. California Bar Review courses like Executive Bar Review can help to maximize your chances at scoring well on the MBE. Practice these steps with all the MBE subjects.