What is the MPT?

Alright, so if you’re reading this you probably already know that the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE) is broken into three different parts – the Multistate Bar Exam (MBE), the Multistate Essay Examination (MEE), and the Multistate Performance Test (MPT).

You may also know that the MBE is worth 50% of your total bar exam score in UBE jurisdictions, the MEE is worth 30%, and the MPT is worth 20%. So, the MPT isn’t really that important compared to the other sections, right?

Yawning kitty says MPT is an important part of the bar exam!

So wrong that I had to use a picture of a yawning cat to drive home the point. In some ways, mastering the MPT test could be your key to passing the bar exam. How so? First, let’s figure out what the heck the MPT bar exam is!

1. Basic Structure of the MPT

The MPT test consists of two 90-minute scenarios or assignments meant to simulate a realistic work situation and is worth 20% of the total bar exam score. The assignments are “closed universe,” meaning that you bring no outside legal knowledge to the table, and use only the material given to answer the question. That is important to remember – the MPT portion of the bar exam does not test knowledge of the law.

Instead, the MPT simulates a realistic work situation.

How? Glad you asked.

Basically, the MPT will pretend you are already a first-year associate at a law firm or a new staff attorney at a government agency. You will receive some kind of letter, e-mail, or communication from your pretend bar exam “boss” giving you an assignment. The assignment varies from MPT to MPT, but many examples include writing memorandums, client letters, contracts, or legal briefs.

The two sets of documents you will receive on the MPT bar exam are called the File and the Library.

The File – Marble, Clay, “Raw Material”

Along with this assignment from your “boss” you will be given a collection of documents in the File. The NCBE states that the File might include “ transcripts of interviews, depositions, hearings or trials, pleadings, correspondence, client documents, contracts, newspaper articles, medical records, police reports, or lawyer’s notes.” It is extremely important to note that the File often intentionally contains relevant and irrelevant information.

Let’s say your answer to the MPT is an artistic sculpture. After all, we both know it’s going to be a masterpiece. Think of the File as the “raw material” of your answer. It will have the facts and substance necessary to craft the perfect answer to your question, but you’ll have to comb through it, analyze it, and carve away the stuff that just doesn’t belong.

Still, we’re missing something. Every artist needs tools, right?

The Library – Chisel, Hammer, “Toolbox”

The other part of the MPT is the Library. Again, the NCBE says that the Library may include “cases, statutes, regulations, or rules.” The Library is where you will extract your rules or legal principles. The Library may also include relevant and irrelevant information, so you will have to sort through it for the right rules.

If your answer to the MPT is a masterful sculpture, the Library is the “toolbox” of your answer. Your toolbox will contain a lot of different principles, rules, regulations, or statutes – different tools – and it will be your task to pick the right tools for the job.

2. What Skills Does the MPT Test?

The NCBE provides six different skills they are trying to make certain you have while taking the MPT:

    • The “ability to sort detailed factual materials and separate relevant from irrelevant facts;”

As previously mentioned, you will be given a bunch of different documents on the MPT, and figuring out which facts and principles to use and which are irrelevant is important.

    • “Analyze statutory, case, and administrative materials for applicable principles of law;”

This part you’ve come to expect. All those years of reading through dense case law, extracting the “rules?” That’s a skill that the MPT tests.

    • “Apply the relevant law to the relevant facts in a manner likely to resolve the client’s problem;”

Ultimately, the MPT is one of the more practical portions of the bar exam. In law practice you will have to solve real-world problems for your clients. That means not going into long-winded prose or academic analysis of every piece of material. The bar examiners want to see you can focus on the client’s needs.

    • “Identify and resolve ethical dilemmas, when present;”

Oh boy, those examiners are tricky. They don’t always include this, but sometimes the MPT will test your ability to stick to ethical principles (which will be provided in the Library – you won’t need to cite your knowledge of professional responsibility). This may involve analyzing courses of action that, while tempting for solving the client’s problem, need to be avoided for ethical reasons.

    • “Communicate effectively in writing;”

Attorneys do a lot of writing. You need to be a competent writer to be an effective attorney, and the bar examiners test this on the MPT. This isn’t just grammatical, but the layout and organization of your answer will be important. That means headings, subheadings, that sort of thing. Not a block of text.

    • And “Complete a lawyering task within time constraints.”

Let’s get real for a moment here. As we’ve discussed, the MPT consists of two 90-minute scenarios. In the real world, any boss that walks into your office and demands an assignment be properly researched, drafted, and submitted in less than two hours is probably a horrible, terrible, mean, no-good boss!

Alas, this is what you will have to do twice for the bar exam. That means reading, organizing, and writing quickly will be essential.

3. Importance / Resources

Near the beginning of this post I said that the MPT bar exam portion could be a key to passing. Why is that? For one simple, wonderful fact:

Knowledge of the law is not required.

For every other part of the bar exam you will need to have studied and crammed a library of legal rules and subjects into your head, but odds are that you won’t remember them all. However, the MPT is largely an exercise in critical thought and analysis. With a little practice writing MPTs of your own, this section could be crucial for making up points lost in other sections.

For that practice, I recommend taking MPTs of your own under the same time constraints as the real test. Previous MPTs are available from the NCBE.

I hope you found this explanation of the MPT test useful. I recommend perusing our other articles for many helpful tips, tricks, explanations, and insights into the examination. Good luck crushing the MPT bar exam!

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