As you probably know, the MBE is an important part of the UBE. In fact, the MBE accounts for half of the points on the UBE. As a friendly reminder, the MBE is divided into two, three-hour sections where you’ll be asked to complete 100 multiple choice questions. Of the 200 questions, only 175 are scored; the other 25 questions are considered “pretest” questions. MBE subjects tested range from Civ Pro to Con Law.
Since doing well is vital to your passing the UBE, let’s walk through at a high-level overview all of the MBE topics and how the questions are distributed among these subjects.
There are seven MBE topics tested—they are based on Common Law and Article 2 of the Uniform Commercial Code. Unlike other standardized tests where there are separate sections for each topic tested, the MBE subjects are distributed evenly throughout the 200 multiple choice questions. For a helpful overview of the MBE topics tested and the distribution of questions, be sure to check out the NCBE Subject Matter Outline. I’d recommend printing out a copy of this NCBE outline and keeping it with you while you study for the bar exam.
Let’s walk through each MBE subject and look at what topics within each subject are the most frequently tested.
If you loved Civ Pro during your 1L year, then you are in luck! Civil Procedure was added to the MBE in 2015. A couple of things to keep in mind as you prepare to study for Civil Procedure questions: the NCBE states that you should assume that Federal Rules of Civil Procedure are in effect, so—at least for now—forget all those fun Civ Pro rules you’ve learned for your state and focus on the federal rules you learned during your 1L year. Also, NCBE states that the sections of Title 28 of the U.S. Code relating to transfer, trial, and appellate jurisdiction and venue all apply.
Now that you have a sense of the framework for the questions on Civil Procedure, let’s look at what topics the Civ Pro questions focus on. The most heavily tested Civil Procedure topics are:
- Jurisdiction & Venue
- Pretrial Procedures
In fact, about two-thirds of the Civ Pro questions will be on these topics, so you’ll definitely want to spend a good deal of your MBE prep time for Civ Pro in these areas. The other third of questions will be on laws applied by federal courts, jury trials, verdicts and judgments, and appealability and review. To familiarize yourself with the structure of MBE questions and Civil Procedure questions in particular, check out these MBE Civil Procedure Sample Questions.
I’m sure we all fond memories of those “Is it a living document?” discussions from first year. Or maybe not. Either way, constitutional law has found its way back into your life, and probably not for the last time. On the MBE, all references to the constitution are to the federal Constitution unless otherwise noted. So, as in Civil Procedure, ignore everything you’ve learned that’s particular to your state for this part of the bar exam, or, if you’re taking the UBE, for the full bar exam.
Where can you find most of the points on this section? Individual Rights, which makes up half of the questions you’ll see on Constitutional Law, so you’ll want to be sure to spend more time preparing for this area of Con Law. This encompasses some favorite topics like Equal Protection and those handy First Amendment Freedoms like freedom of the press and freedom of expression.
Let’s get the NCBE assumptions out of the way. For all Contracts questions, assume that Article 2 and Article 29 Revised Article 1 of the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) have been adopted and apply them when it’s appropriate to do so. (If it’s been awhile since you studied contracts, here’s a little refresher on the UCC).
With those assumptions in place, let’s take a look at the main topics tested by the Contracts MBE questions. Half of the questions are on formation of contracts and performance, breach, and discharge. (If you’re looking for a study break that also will refresh your mind on the basics of contracts, check out the classic movie Paper Chase). The remaining questions will be based on the following: defenses of enforceability, parol evidence and interpretation, remedies and third-party rights. You can learn more about these topics in our Contracts Overview post, which is coming soon!
Criminal Law and Procedure
Two law school subjects for the price of one? Yes, you ARE that lucky—both Criminal Law and Procedure are tested on the MBE. And if you loved Crim Pro, then you’re really in luck—half of the questions on the Criminal Section are on constitutional protection of accused persons. The remaining questions relate to homicide and other crimes, inchoate offenses and parties to a crime, and general criminal law principles like acts and omissions, causation and defenses.
As is the case for the Constitutional Law and Civil Procedure questions, the MBE questions on Evidence are based on the Federal Rules of Evidence, so you’ll want to make sure you don’t apply any rules of evidence that are particular to your state. One way to remember not to apply any local rules of evidence is to shout, “I object!” every time you find yourself applying a local rule.
Here’s a quick breakdown of where the questions are for Evidence so you can prepare accordingly:
- One-third of the questions are on Relevancy and Reasons for Excluding Evidence
- One-fourth of the questions are Presentation of Evidence (e.g. objections, impeachment)
- One-fourth of the questions are on Hearsay and Circumstances of Admissibility
- The remaining questions are on Privilege, and the introduction of writings, recordings, photographs into evidence.
We’re on our second to last MBE topic—hang in there!
Real Property, like your other favorite first year subjects, is back, and with it all of your preferred subtopics, like the life estates. And like every other topic on the bar exam, just remember you’ll have to study a lot.
Let’s look at the different subcategories that are tested related to Real Property. Unlike the other sections of the MBE that we’ve looked at, the questions on Real Property are evenly divided among five categories:
- Ownership of real property: this includes present and future estates, one we’re all familiar with Landlord-Tenant law and a true favorite, the rule against perpetuities
- Rights in Real Property: covenants, easements, zoning
- Real Estate contracts
- Mortgage / Security Devices
- Titles: adverse possession, transfer by deed, and chain of title
Last but not least—well, maybe least depending on whom you ask—is Torts.
What assumptions does the NCBE ask you to make? First, there’s no applicable statute unless otherwise noted (but assume survival actions and claims for wrongful death are available where applicable). Second, always assume joint and several liability where pure comparative negligence is the rule unless the question states otherwise.
The MBE Torts questions are broken down as follows:
- Half of the questions are on negligence
- Half of the questions are on intentional torts, strict liability and products liability, and other torts, like claims based on nuisance, or defamation.
While there are seven—eight counting the double whammy of Crim Law and Crim Pro— areas of law tested on the MBE, the NCBE has provided a helpful outline to aid you in your preparation. Focus on the areas that are most heavily tested, but don’t forget to review the other areas as well. The MBE is a very difficult exam—200 multiple choice questions!—but with a lot of preparation, the majority of students pass the MBE every year. Plan to prepare thoroughly. To get a sense of what MBE subjects will be tested and what the MBE questions will look like, try out some sample MBE questions.
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