15 Top MPT Tips by an MPT Expert
If you find yourself struggling with the MPT (multistate performance test), you are not alone! The MPT is deceptively tricky. Here are 15 top MPT tips to pay close attention to if you want to maximize your MPT score.
These tips come from years of experience working with MPT takers. These MPT tips will help you avoid the most common mistakes that we see examinees make. Unfortunately, sometimes these mistakes cost examinees a passing bar exam score.
Note: several of these MPT tips were taken from past MPT posts so may look familiar if you are familiar with our site!
1. Be familiar with the basics.
The MPT is a lawyerly task. You will be expected to complete, for example, a memorandum to a supervising attorney, a letter to a client, a persuasive memorandum or brief, a demand letter to opposing counsel, a closing argument, or a bench memorandum. If you are taking the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE), you will have two (2) MPT tasks to complete.
The MPT has two parts: (1) a file, and (2) a library.
File = Facts
Library = Law
The file contains a task memo that tells you what you are supposed to do. Pay close attention to this task memo! It also contains factual documents (transcripts of depositions or interviews, court pleadings, etc.).
The library contains the law — oftentimes there are a combination of cases and statutes found in the library.
2. The most important part of the MPT (and the part you should read first) is the task memo.
The MPT measures, to a large degree, how well you can follow directions. It does not measure how well of a writer you are or how great of a lawyer you are. (Nobody expects a newly graduated law student to write an epic essay in response to an MPT). It also does not test your knowledge of the law — it gives you the law you need to know!
Rather, it tests whether you can follow directions by applying the law to the facts in the manner it tells you to do so.
So read the MPT carefully and closely follow directions.
3. Pay attention to tone and audience.
The task memo may instruct you to be objective (e.g., if you are writing an objective memo) or persuasive (e.g., if you are writing a brief to persuade the court). Pay attention to your tone. If you are writing objectively, analyze the issues evenhandedly. If you are writing persuasively, make arguments (but don’t hide, conceal, or exaggerate facts).
The task memo may tell you that you are writing to your client, opposing counsel, your boss, the judge, or someone else. Pay attention to your language. If you are writing to a client, do not use excessive legalese. If you are writing to a judge, you will want to write more formally.
4. Approach the MPT in this way.
Here is the approach that works best for most students:
- (1) Look over the table of contents. The table of contents will tell you whether the library is composed of cases and statutes and will also give you an idea of how long the MPT is.
- (2) Read the task memo so you know exactly what you are supposed to do.
- (3) Next, we generally recommend that you read the library. (However, some examinees find it easier to read the file first — try it both ways to see what is easiest.)
- (4) Read the file. Get in the habit of reading and working at the same time. (If you are not writing as you read, you should spend no more than 45 minutes reading the file and library. Ideally, you should be formatting your answer and actively writing it as you read. Sometimes it will take closer to an hour in that case.) Note: Make sure you know the proper MPT formats so that you can start organizing your answer in the proper format.
- (5) Refer back to the task memo to make sure you are following the directions.
- (6) If you have not already been writing your answer while reading, start writing your answer, while referring to the file and library.
5. Time yourself!
One of the most difficult things about the MPTs is timing. Most examinees could do a great job if they had all day — the trick is doing a great job in the 90 minutes you have to complete the task. So practice timing yourself right from the beginning of your MPT practice. This is one of our most important MPT tips. If you run out of time on the MPT portion, your score will suffer.
6. Be aware of the common MPTs.
The most commonly tested MPTs are objective memos and persuasive briefs. Next, letters are frequently tested. Make sure you do not ignore the most common types of MPTs tested. Instead, give them the attention they deserve by practicing a lot of them.
See our MPT chart here. It lists the MPT task by year so you can see for yourself the most common tasks as well as when they were tested.
7. Get your MPT plan of attack!
Please review our MPT templates here. These MPT templates tell you formats to use for each type of MPT that you will encounter on the bar exam.
Memorize these templates so that you are writing in the proper format. It will be immediately obvious to the grader if you are not using the proper format.
8. Start early!
Don’t put off MPTs until the last minute. The MPT portion is important and you will be at an advantage if you start early. You should also start early:
- if you have trouble with timed exams,
- if you speak English as a second language,
- or if you have no experience working in a law firm or other practical legal experience.
9. Keep in mind these tips if your library has cases or statutes.
If your library has cases–and most do–then keep in mind these tips:
- It is vital that you figure out which facts are important in a case and which facts are irrelevant.
- Focus on those facts that the court highlights in its analysis (often, but not always, these are found toward the end of the case). For example, if the court gives you a three-factor test, you will find some analysis after each factor—include this in your answer!
If you struggle with this, look at a sample MPT, read the case, and practice writing short case statements (3–6 sentences, focus on the holding and the facts that pertain to the court’s reasoning). The main difference between a case statement and a case brief is that, in a case statement, you will not include things like “procedural history,” nor will you spend time regurgitating irrelevant facts or the parties’ arguments, among other things. Instead, you will zero in only on the facts that pertain to your client’s case and quickly summarize the facts and the court’s analysis of those facts.
If your library has only statutes then start with the file. Usually, you will find some document in the file (generally a memo) that provides a summary of the statute and highlights some of the important sections of the statute. In this case, it is better to read the entire file and familiarize yourself with the facts before you try to parse through the statute. Rarely will you need to discuss each subsection of the statute so do not waste your time typing it all out. An example of an MPT that contained only statutes in the library is the July 2020 MPT, In re Alice Lindgren.
10. Stop writing after 90 minutes!
Remember that you only have 90 minutes to complete an MPT. So, when you are formulating your MPT attack plan, be sure to stop writing after 90 minutes. We recommend that when you have 10 minutes left, you write your conclusion and wrap up your response to make it look as complete as possible. You can get a perfect score without addressing every single possible issue!
11. Use student answers the right way.
Many examinees use high-scoring student answers (or “sample answers”) as resources when they study for the MPT. You can find student answers here.
It is helpful to pay attention to format, length, and the focus of the student answer.
However, do not use student answers as a substitute for an official MPT point sheet. And don’t be too hard on yourself if the student answer does not look exactly like yours!
12. Outline as you go along.
Create your MPT outline as soon as possible. We suggest you read the library, then begin to outline your answer as you read the file.
Not only will this help you organize your answer, it will help you with time management. For example, if you find that you have eight (8) issues that you need to discuss and you write out each issue as you go along (e.g., does the present sense hearsay exception apply to X’s statement?), you are less likely to spend too much time on the first few issues and hurry through your analysis for the remainder of the issues. You will also set the framework so you can “actively work” while you review!
13. Boost your score!
A few things that will help you conquer the MPT and stand out on the exam are the following:
- In the library, if cases are cited within cases (as they often are) make sure to address the cited cases. Try to address each of the cases cited, even if only briefly.
- When the library includes cases, the best way to get points is to compare the facts of your given case to the facts in the cases in the library.
- If you see footnotes in the library, make note of them! This shows close attention to detail.
- If your library has excerpts of statutes in it, many times the statutory provisions will list elements that you should discuss in detail in your task. More often than not, the cases in your library will illustrate the elements found in the statute.
- If a case is merely persuasive authority (e., from a different jurisdiction) or binding (i.e., from the same jurisdiction) make note of this. It shows the grader your lawyerly ability to distinguish between binding and persuasive authority.
- Remember to commonly refer to the task memo in the MPT. It is the most important document in your MPT as it will tell you exactly what to do. Examinees who lose sight of the task assigned end up missing out on a lot of points!
14. Remember you do not have to write a perfect answer.
You are an examinee who is taking a test in 90 minutes. The bar exam graders know this. So don’t worry if you have some misspelled words, if your answer is not perfectly organized, if you miss some issues, etc. You can still get a high score with an imperfect answer.
15. 20% of score = 20% of study time.
The biggest mistake we see bar exam takers make is ignoring the MPT. So this is one of our top MPT tips. Examinees have a false sense of confidence about it and worry excessively about the MBE. Remember, in a Uniform Bar Exam jurisdiction, the MPT is worth 20% of your score. So, as a starting point, it should deserve 20% of your study time. If you study five days a week, by default, the MPT should get one of those days by itself! If you particularly struggle with the MPT, you may need more time. If you find you excel, you may allocate less time. However, 20% should be your starting point.
Stay tuned for more MPT tips, and good luck on the bar exam!
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