Common MPT Mistakes – From A JD Advising Grader
The Multistate Performance Test has acquired the reputation as the “easy part” of the bar exam because the laws and relevant cases are provided to you. However, do not let this fool you! The MPT asks you to do the kind of work that first-year attorneys tend to face regularly. Assuming that it is the “easy part” of the bar exam can lull you into a false state of security that leaves you unprepared to score the maximum points on MPTs.
Keep reading to learn the five common MPT mistakes we see student makes, from the perspective of a JD Advising bar exam essay grader.
Common MPT Mistakes – From A JD Advising Grader
MPT Mistake 1: Not Taking the MPT Seriously and Time Mismanagement
The first and, unfortunately, most common MPT mistake students make is not taking the MPT seriously. As a direct result, students do not practice enough MPTs to learn how to manage their time on the MPT successfully. This is a common mentality among bar exam students. However, having this mindset is dangerous because, in UBE states, the two MPTs can account for 20% of an examinee’s overall total score. Additionally, the MPT requires a robust amount of reading, analysis, and writing. Without proper practice, you won’t be able to fine-tune your MPT time management, which can impact your overall score.
You can avoid this MPT mistake by practicing MPTs with regularity! Given that 20% of an examinee’s overall score can result from the MPT, we recommend that you spend 20% of your time practice and preparing for the MPT. Effectively preparing for the MPT is also important because you need to get a sense of how to best manage your time to read of all the documents and prepare an answer. Without this practice, you will potentially feel unprepared to manage your time effectively.
MPT Mistake 2: Not Following Directions
Another widespread MPT mistake is takers don’t follow the directions laid out in the MPT. Specifically, they often ignore the task memo. The instructions to the MPT generally state, “[t]his performance test will be graded on your responsiveness to the instructions regarding the task you are to complete…” Usually, these instructions can detail important things like what to focus your written analysis on, what to specifically exclude from your analysis, and other crucial information that, although easy to overlook, really molds the format of your answer.
You can avoid missing crucial directions by slowing down and taking your time while reading through the initial MPT instructions and the task memo. This is much easier if you also heed our advice from MPT Mistake 1 and practice MPTs, which will help you have a sense of appropriate timing,
MPT Mistake 3: Not using IRAC
Another MPT mistake students make is forgetting that when making legal arguments in their MPT answer, they should essentially be following a modified form of IRAC. The caveat here is that using an iteration of IRAC most easily applies to the Objective Memo or Persuasive Brief assignment type. Still, there are applications to the less frequent types of MPT assignments. While most bar prep students identify IRAC with MEEs, it’s a structural framework that applies to the MPT, as well as any other lawyerly task you may encounter as an attorney.
Not using a modified form of IRAC can lead to sloppy, haphazard arguments.
The way to avoid this MPT mistake is to make sure to address the main parts in each question or sub-question of your specific MPT assignment. For example, in a July 2019 MPT, the examinee was asked to write an objective memo that discussed two different estate-planning approaches to the client’s goals. The two approaches were a life-estate approach and a contract to write a will approach. You can break those two questions down into two IRACs, and potentially even further. Continuing to use a modified form of IRAC ensures that you are making clear, compelling arguments in your MPT.
MPT Mistake 4: Ignoring Cases
Another all too common MPT mistake we see students make is ignoring relevant cases and authority with which they are presented in the Library. It is understandable, given the fact that MEEs generally do not expect you to cite to law or cases. However, the MPT is unique in that it provides you with the reference material, and bar exam graders expect that you will incorporate the relevant laws and cases and cite appropriately. Remember, not all authority or cases are going to have favorable or “perfect” facts for the legal issue you are being tasked to discuss. That would be far too easy!
How can you avoid this MPT mistake? First, much like a lawyer must admit when there are cases that do not support her arguments, you must weave in a discussion of the relevant facts and cases into your answer, even if unfavorable. Second, as you outline your MPT, you can quickly jot down a list of the source material in the Library. Then, as you make reference to or analyze any of those sources, you can check it off your list, to ensure that you’re incorporating everything.
MPT Mistake 5: Ignoring Authority
Finally, another MPT mistake that students make is ignoring the authority of some of the laws or cases provided in the Library. If, for example, you are representing a Franklin client, but you rely on a case from Olympia without noting that it does not have controlling authority, you have now given Olympia binding, rather than mere persuasive, authority.
There are a few simple ways to avoid this MPT mistake. When you’re reading through the Library, make sure to note the authority of cases or statues with “P” for persuasive or “B” for binding. This will help you differentiate more quickly as you start to have less time remaining. Through some practicing, as discussed in MPT Mistake 1, you can determine how to best incorporate this suggestion into your MPT preparation.
You need to prepare for the MPT. However, it is also not meant to be particularly difficult or tricky. If you feel like your bar exam program is not providing enough MPT practice, or if you would like more MPT practice, JD Advising offers an MPT Seminar, an MPT Guide, and real MPT questions, which can be helpful tools with which to practice and to help boost your overall MPT score. We hope this post on common MPT mistakes also helps!
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