Bar Exam: MBE Explained

I’m writing this blog assuming that you know the basics about the MBE. If you don’t please see “What Is the MBE?”. Here, I want to address some realities of this exam that should be known before exam day.

Multiple Choice MBE

The MBE is a multiple choice exam, so it can be daunting if you are not naturally good at multiple choice tests. Your LSAT score should reflect how good you are at this particular skill, but it’s not always an accurate predictor.

So the first thing to know is that since the MBE is a multiple choice test, if you’re not good at multiple choice, you need to learn this skill to the best of your ability during your Bar Prep.

Those Tricky Tricksters

Bar Exam MBE - magoosh

The second thing to note about the MBE is that it is designed to trip you up. The test creators know that you are in law school and you must be pretty bright to be there in the first place. They also know they need to fail some folks. So how do you fail people, when they are all pretty bright?

Answer: You intentionally make the questions tricky.

For every question on the MBE, there are two answers that are arguably correct. This is maddening. You must find the best of the two correct answers. This is particularly difficult when you consider my next point.

The Law Is Fluid By Nature

Third thing to note. In law school, we are taught that there is not always one correct, definitive answer. Aren’t we taught to debate which argument is the most valid? Can’t reasonable minds differ as to which argument is best? Isn’t that why, in the real world, one judge will find in favor of a motion while a different judge would rule against that very same motion!? Isn’t that why we have appellate courts!?

It’s crazy. Law is not like science or math where there really is only one correct answer. But when we are tested for our license to practice, we must act as if there is a definitive answer for legal questions. 200 of them in fact. Half of our exam.

So much for the bad news.

Good News!

The good news is, many people pass the Bar on their first try despite the NCBE’s attempts to trip us up. Face it, you’re a pretty smart cookie or you wouldn’t have made it through law school. You can do this. But it takes training, and lots of practice.

bar exam mbe, trick questions, explosion - magooshThrough practice you can learn to spot the tricks. There are patterns they use repeatedly to trip you up. You can train yourself to sidestep their landmines by simply recognizing that certain answers are landmines.

Also, through practice you can learn to be a great test-taker. Or at least a good one! The MBE tests your test-taking skills as much or more than it tests your substantive law knowledge. So find your perfect prep course, and learn this skill!

Final Word: Be Mentally Ready for the MBE

Because most of us have been in school for a majority of our lives, we tend to think that 65% or lower is a failing grade. That is pretty strongly etched in our minds.

So when people take the MBE, they inevitably FEEL like they failed. I’ve heard of people who didn’t even return for the afternoon portion of the exam because they were so certain they’d failed after the first half in the morning. If you hear people talking during the breaks, you’ll likely hear almost everyone lamenting that they surely failed. Bar Exam MBE, 70% equals A - magoosh

This is because a “good” score on the MBE is 60-70% correct!

Think about that for a moment.

If you get 70% on the MBE, you’ve done quite well!

So those of us who have spent our lives taking exams and walking out confident that we did well are in for a SHOCK.

I don’t think I’m too far off base in stating that almost no one walks out of the MBE thinking that they aced it. That is because we are not accustomed to getting 30 – 40% of the questions WRONG and still doing well!

So try to let that fact sink into your brain before the MBE. It will help to quell the magnitude of your fears before, during, and after the exam.

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