Topic 8: 5 Tips to Improve Your Timing on the Multistate Essay Exam
Many students struggle with timing on the Multistate Essay Exam (MEE). So if you are struggling with timing, you are certainly not alone. Many students either fail the bar exam (or go through a lot of unnecessary worry that they will fail the exam!) due to timing issues. Some miss an entire question or more. It is best to make sure you have control of your timing on the Multistate Essay Exam so that this does not happen to you!
Remember that you will have three hours to answer six essays on the Multistate Essay Exam. So, you should plan on allocating about 30 minutes to each MEE question. That way, you will finish the exam on time. Below, we give you five tips to improve your timing on the Multistate Essay Exam.
Five Tips to Improve Your Timing on the Multistate Essay Exam
1. Read the call of the question carefully
The call of the question is that part at the bottom of the paper that tells you the exact questions you are supposed to answer. It is important to start with this so you know exactly which subject is being tested right off the bat. This can help you focus in on key facts when you read through the fact pattern.
By reading the call of the question carefully, you can also make sure that you are directly addressing the issues presented. For example, if you are answering a Contracts question and formation does not seem to be an issue, don’t talk about Contract formation for two paragraphs. (We see students do this a lot!) Instead, it is critical that you answer the exact questions posed. This is especially true if you have issues with timing on the Multistate Essay Exam.
2. Read the facts carefully
Although this doesn’t seem like a tip on timing, it is. Some students run out of time because they analyze all of the wrong facts. Or they act as though a fact is ambiguous (when the fact pattern makes it clear it is not). Then, they spend too long discussing this allegedly ambiguous fact.
This is especially true for students who struggle with timing on the Multistate Essay Exam. Oftentimes, they try to “rush through” the facts so that they have more time to write their answer. This ends up backfiring, as their answer does not directly address the facts in the question. It not only takes more time to write an answer when you don’t identify the facts, but it also means that your answer won’t be as accurate!
So, don’t rush through the facts! Read the fact pattern carefully and read it more than once.
3. Organize your answer around the call of the question
This is the opposite of what you did in law school. In law school, you started from the top of a fact pattern and identified as many issues as possible from top to bottom. Then you provided IRACs for each issue.
Instead, on the MEE you want to start from the bottom—the call of the question—and address those exact issues!! Note that many of the questions on the Multistate Essay Exam have two or three parts to them. So, instead of just having one question, you will have two or three to answer! It is a great idea to structure your entire answer around these questions!
If outlining helps you to get this structure down, then outline. However, if you do not need to outline, don’t outline. Do what works for you. If you are not sure, try both ways.
We often find that some students spend a lot of time outlining their answer and then they don’t actually have time to write the complete answer out. If you find this is an issue for you, try outlining on your computer screen or just jotting out a very brief outline of the issues you want to discuss in a couple minutes rather than writing out a full outline of what you want to discuss.
4. Omit the background information
Students who run out of time are sometimes guilty of writing, for example, a whole background on what a Limited Liability Partnership (LLP) is and how it is formed, instead of answering the question asked (e.g., “Is the LLP liable to the bank on the loan?”). Background information is not bad. And, in fact, it can make you look lawyerly and show your knowledge of the subject. However, if it means you never get to the question asked, then you have to get in the habit of providing less of it!
If you follow the tip above (and structure your answer around the issues asked), you will naturally omit background information.
If you struggle with omitting background information, a tip that works well for some students is to omit any background information when they start writing. Instead, they focus directly on the call of the question. Then, if they have time later, they can add in some of the background information. (And, if they don’t end up having time, they probably won’t miss out on many points anyway!)
This tip cannot be overstated. Practice timed Multistate Essay Exams ahead of time. If you really struggle with timing on the Multistate Essay Exam, it is a good idea to start early. Set aside a day every week to work on timing. For example, every Friday plan on doing some timed questions.
- Start with two timed questions and complete them in an hour.
- Then do four questions the next week in two hours.
- Then do six the week after.
Some students find it helpful to give themselves less time to answer questions when they practice—e.g., instead of answering a question in 30 minutes, they only leave themselves 25 minutes. This forces them to be concise.
Bonus tip: learn the highly tested areas of law
If you struggle with timing on the Multistate Essay Exam, it may be because you do not know the law well enough. If you memorize the highly tested areas of law, this may help you improve your timing as you will be able to recognize issues faster and restate the law in a more complete way. (This will also allow you to analyze and conclude accurately!) Please review the highly tested MEE topics here!
Go to the next topic, Topic 9: MEE Stylistic Tips to Boost Your Score.
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