4 Best Strategies and Tactics for the MBE

What are the best strategies and tactics for the MBE? Are there any systematic processes that will help? Below, I discuss some tried and true methods for getting that score up to where you need it on this critical part of your Bar Exam.

Start with Straight Studying – Learning the Material

strategies and tactics for the mbe, outlinesI recommend spending the first week or so reading through the outline of each MBE subject. About one per day if you can make it through that much. While reading through the outlines you will begin to recall what you learned when you took that class a year or two ago. Some information will be clear, because you mastered it when you took the class. Some information will be hazy, or you won’t remember or understand it much at all.

Know When You Need to Pause, and Go Deeper

When you hit on information that you really don’t understand well, it’s time to turn to thestrategies and tactics for the mbe, draw in-depth information in your full outlines. Read through this well. Teach yourself the strategies and tactics for the mbe, highlightmaterial. Make notes. Add mnemonics. Draw pictures – whatever it takes to help the concepts make sense to you. Then transfer the notes that you feel will trigger your memory onto your shorter outline.

NOTE: Eventually, later in the process, you will further condense your short outlines into very short and lean outlines. But for now, stick with the outline you’ve been given (or made) and add whatever notes you need to help the information stick.

The video below has note-taking tips to get you started:

Next: Follow Study Sessions with MBE Practice Question Sessions

Do not wait until you have the entire Contracts outline fully memorized to begin doing Contracts MBE question sessions. Take a week or so to run through all your subjects as suggested above. But after that week, it’s time to begin spreading out your time. Using Contracts as our example subject, each day you should do three things:

  • Review your Contracts (or other subject) outline again.
  • Answer MBE Contracts questions.
    • Do about an hour of working through questions.
    • This does NOT have to be timed at this stage in your study period.
  • GO BACK and STUDY ALL THE ANSWERS.
    • I know, I have harped on this repeatedly. But it is just that important. For each question you did that day, whether you got it right or wrong, go back and read the question quickly again to remind yourself of it.
    • Then read the answers. All of them. Figure out what made the right answer right, and what made the wrong answers wrong.
      • If you got the question wrong, figure out WHY. Did you misread the call of the question? Did you know the law, but focus on something irrelevant? Did you not know the law?
      • Figuring out the WHY of how you did it at the heart of learning how to ace the MBE. Learn how to answer the questions correctly. Learn to spot the tricks. This helps immensely! Don’t short circuit this process.

Follow the Process. Trust the Process

This is the process you should follow for about a month so that you start improving your MBE test-taking skills. Fortunately, the process described above not only makes you far better at spotting the tricks the examiners will use to mess you up, it also helps greatly in learning the law, and the application of the law!

strategies and tactics for the mbe
Seeing any law or rule analyzed from four different vantage points as you read over and absorb the answer explanations will go very far in cementing the rule and its application into your mind.

One last word on this process. Track your results. Some Bar Prep courses will do this for you, but if not, do it for yourself. Within each MBE subject, you will begin to see patterns emerge. You’ll see that you always tend to get certain topics right, and others wrong. As the study period progresses, you would be wise to spend some allocated time building up on your weak areas. This should happen during the beginning and middle phases of your study period, not the end.

Streamline Study

After you’ve been studying the whole of each subject for a month or so you should be in a good “groove.”

Study outline, answer questions, review explanations in detail.

You’re learning the law, the application of the law, the tricks of the examiners, and how to get the questions right!

Question Frequency

You are becoming aware of your weaknesses in each area of law. Now it’s time to briefly turn your attention to the frequency with which each topic is tested. You can get that information from the National Conference of Bar Examiners MBE Subject Matter Outline. On that outline, just under the name of each subject, is a breakdown of the frequency with which each topic within that subject is tested.

For instance, under Criminal Law and Procedure, the outline tells you some valuable information. It tells you that approximately half of the Criminal Law and Procedure questions on each bar exam will come from category V, which is the Constitutional Protection for an Accused Person. The rest are spread evenly among the remaining categories.

OK, so let’s break this down. We know that each subject on the MBE will have about 25 questions on the exam. So half of those – about 12 or 13 – will all be on the constitutional protections that an accused person has once arrested.

Personal Analysis of Strengths and Weaknesses

strategies and tactics for the mbe, strengthsNow look at your personal analysis of how you’ve been doing on Criminal Law questions. If you are consistently getting constitutional protection questions wrong, it isstrategies and tactics for the mbe, weaknesses now time to focus on that! Since it constitutes 50% of the questions, if that is your weak area – you must build it up now!

If, on the other hand, you are strong on constitutional rights of the accused, you’re in pretty good shape. If you are feeling the need to streamline, you can do it now. Spend some time studying the other four areas of Criminal Law and Procedure, but you don’t have to get stuck in the mud there for too long. Budget your time according to the more heavily tested areas.

Final Step in Process: Exam-like Conditions

After you have spent about two months studying as suggested for the MBE, it’s time to ratchet it up a notch. Now it’s time to drill these questions. It’s the final countdown. You will be also studying for the MEE and MPT at this point, but don’t forget to hammer the MBE.

You should be well studied at this point. I’m not saying that you don’t have more to learn and memorize, but by this time you have really committed some law and application of that law to memory. So use some mornings to go through 3 hour, timed MBE sections. Do it under as close to exam-like conditions as possible. The library is an example of a good place to do this because there will be extraneous noises that you must block out while working on your timing and accuracy.

Treat it Like the Real Thing

To get the most out of these sessions, you must treat them as if they were the real thing. The closer you mimic the real exam the more comfortable you will be with the reality come test day. Don’t take extra long breaks. If you don’t plan on taking a ten minute break during the exam – then don’t do it now – even if your best friend walks into the library and wants to chat.

Now you can pay a bit more attention to the scores you are getting. While it is not a good idea to get too hung up on those scores, if you’re doing well that will go a long way towards increasing your confidence and lowering your blood pressure.

Don’t Panic. Use the Information Well

If you are not doing so well, don’t panic! There is still time. Continue to drill the MBE questions like a military sergeant, and you should see some improvement. And don’t forget that it’s not too late to employ the services of a tutor if you are consistently not performing up to par.
strategies and tactics for the mbe, don't panic
But again – don’t freak out. That doesn’t do anybody any good. There are people who score low on practice tests and still seems to pull it off on game day! Just keep practicing, and review that condensed outline as often as possible.

You’ve got this!

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