Passing the bar is more than knowing multiple-choice questions. There are other exam sections, like the Multistate Essay Examination (MEE) and Multistate Performance Test (MPT). The MPT is one of the most challenging areas because it puts you in real-world situations lawyers deal with daily, so it’s important to take it seriously.
The exam is broken up into two 90-minute parts. In states that administer the MPT, it’s 20% of a student’s overall grade on the exam. For this reason, doing well on the MPT can boost your score and help you pass the bar.
On the other hand, bombing the MPT can put your passing grade in jeopardy. While the exam is intimidating, it doesn’t have to be. We’re going to take you through five tips to help you succeed on the MPT.
1. Learn the MPT Formats
The MPT is a complicated exam. You’re put in a timed situation and have to compile data and evidence. Furthermore, you have to write memos and create drafts of ideas you have.
Learning the MPT formats can prepare you for the exam and prevent you from getting caught off guard. If you know how to structure your MPT answers before the exam, it will decrease your anxiety and boost your confidence.
Your formatting can also be the difference between passing and failing. If you don’t know how to format the MPT properly, your graders will know, and you’ll lose points. Not only will formatting save you time, but it will help you score higher on the MPT.
We’re going to take you through a summary of each MPT memo, so you know what to expect.
The objective memo is one of the most common MPT tasks. It appears on most MPT exams, so it’s worth spending a lot of time preparing for. The purpose of an objective memo is to argue the strengths and weaknesses of both sides. The formatting is as follows:
- Caption (to/from/date/topic)
- Discussion (Separate every issue with a heading)
- Summary or conclusion
If you follow this structure, you’ll answer the prompt correctly and save yourself time.
The persuasive brief is another common MPT prompt. The persuasive brief is the opposite of an objective memo. As the name suggests, you’ll be arguing in favor of one side. This makes the formating simpler, because you don’t need to argue for both examples. The formatting is as follows:
- Legal argument (use headings to separate each argument
On the persuasive brief, you want to sound convincing. Use language that shows the reader your perspective and encourages them to follow your argument.
The demand letter is less common than persuasive and objective memos, but it does appear on the exam frequently. During this memo, you’ll be tasked with making a demand. You want to be persuasive but not rude, and make sure your conclusion ties everything together nicely. The format looks like this:
- Details: Date, time, to/from, subject
- Body (with subheadings)
While a demand letter sounds pushy, you don’t want readers to feel pressured or forced to agree with you. Rather, you’re laying out a legal argument for your client’s demand.
The opinion letter doesn’t appear often on the MPT, but it’s worth spending time on. During this prompt, you’ll be forming an opinion about a case. The formatting is similar to a demand letter and looks like this:
- Details: Date, time, to/from, subject
- Body (Include headings)
The opinion letter is based on legal opinions, but must be based in fact and law. Your answer should be a balance of fact and opinion, making this one of the hardest memos that appear on the exam. Luckily, it’s one of the least common memos, and there is a good chance you won’t see it on the MPT.
Unsual MPT Task Formats
Sometimes, you’ll come across an unusual MPT task. These are rare but have appeared on past exams. If you don’t want to be caught off guard, you can spend some time looking over formats for bench memos, leave behind legislations, complaints, closing arguments, and dispute resolution statements.
2. Have a Plan
There are many ways to approach the exam. Still, you want to tackle the MPT with a balanced approach that saves time and lets you get your thoughts on the paper quickly.
To begin, give yourself 90 minutes for each MPT question. This will ensure that you don’t waste too much time on any one section.
The task memo is your starting place. We recommend reading through it twice to familiarize yourself with the topic. The memo will tell you everything you need to do for the prompt. Carefully read the situation, characters, and plot of the case.
Once you have the task memo memorized, it’s time to read the library. It has information for the cases, including the law, statutes, and jurisdiction. While you might be tempted to brief the case, we advise against this because you’ll end up wasting time.
Instead, review the information and read it over a few times. Remember, some laws are unique and don’t apply to the outside world. Make notes of things that seem off and only work with the laws provided to you.
After the library, it’s time to review the file. The file has all of the facts about your case. Once you read over the file, you can begin writing your answer. Draw connections between the library and the file to elaborate on your ideas, and don’t be shy about drafting. Even if you have to change a few things, getting your thoughts on paper is the most essential part of the MPT.
3. Review Previous MPTs
The MPT is a unique exam that presents many challenges. If you haven’t looked over questions from previous exams, the test will surprise you. For this reason, reviewing answers from previous MPTs is the best way to feel prepared and confident on exam day.
One of the best ways to review answers is to gather questions and students’ responses from previous years. Some states, like Georgia, even have student responses listed on the website. You can use these questions to learn about formatting and compare your answers to theirs. It’s a great way to see if your composition is accurate.
4. Address Counter Arguments and Ethical Concerns
Many memos ask you to reference information from both sides or present ethical issues. Still, some memos don’t require you to do this. You might be tempted to ignore the other side on a persuasive memo or demand letter, but we recommend against this.
To get the best score, you want to use information from both sides of the case and present ethical concerns. You want your answer to be balanced and leave no room for the other side to make any cases or go over something you missed.
To make this work, you want to involve information from the other side in counter-arguments. By addressing counter arguments, you make your case sound stronger and simultaneously leave out room for opposition.
Ethical issues also need to be addressed in your answer. Every good attorney knows how to present moral dilemmas proactively. For this reason, you should bring up any ethical concerns that might alter someone’s decision making about a case.
5. Work on Your Speed
The MPT is a timed exam, so you need to make the most out of your time. Aside from spending 90 minutes on each question, there are small things you can do to maximize your time on the exam. Plus, they’re simple tricks to implement.
We’ll begin with drafting. During the exam, you’ll be going through information rapidly. Furthermore, you have to get that information down in a cohesive manner to come back to it later.
Unfortunately, this causes many students to feel the need to create perfect drafts, which is something you need to avoid doing. Striving for perfection is an excellent approach to your final copy, but drafting is your time to mess things up and get a little sloppy.
Making drafts quickly will only get you so far. The MPT requires a lot of writing and formatting, which makes it hard to form answers rapidly. Furthermore, you’ll be spending a lot of time making drafts and sifting through information.
To succeed on the test and get through questions at a good pace, you should aim to type at a rate of fifty words per minute. If you can’t do fifty words per minute, we recommend taking typing courses. There are many free typing resources to help you keep track of your speed.
The MPT puts you in a high-stress situation where you have to work like an authentic lawyer. You’ll have to dig through information, compare facts, and create an outline about cases you’re presented with. While it only counts for 20% of your grade, if you do well on the MPT, you can boost your bar score and give yourself a better chance at passing. If you feel overwhelmed, take a breath, and remember these tips.