Exactly How Long Should An MPT Be?
The MPT is often given short shrift. Students reason that because the law is provided, there’s no reason to practice before exam day. This view is short sighed on a number of fronts. First, students don’t know what their task is going to be, and students also don’t know how big the library of materials for that task is going to be. Students can easily get overwhelmed with the number of documents involved and quickly lose track of precious time. Determining how long an MPT answer should be first requires us to look at the various assignments a student may confront.
Exactly How Long Should An MPT Be?
MPT Types of Assignments
Students may be asked to write a memo, draft a will, create a settlement proposal, write a letter to a client, or prepare a contract, brief, or closing argument. Each of these tasks is quite different in substance and in form. For example, preparing a contract demands that a student synthesize information as a means to develop a transactional agreement between two parties whereas a letter to a client evinces a different tone—making the legal language clear and accessible to a (likely) nonlegal audience.
Practice and Assess
Given the variability across the MPT, the best way to prepare is to expose yourself to as many different types of sample MPT tasks as possible. If time permits, do the MPT under exam-like conditions so you can get a real gauge of your performance. Be sure to self-assess at the end. What did I do well? Where did I struggle? What was surprising? What can I do better next time? Take notes and then practice addressing what you learned. Implementing those lessons is a sure-fire way to save yourself time and anxiety on exam day.
With 90 minutes allotted for each MPT, time management is critical. Some suggest spending 45 minutes organizing and planning your answer and 45 minutes writing your answer, while others suggest that once you have an outline, you are good to start writing—as long as your outline doesn’t take more than 45 minutes. It is crucial to know upfront how long the file and library are so that you can adequately plan for getting through the material. Spending too much or too little time on any part of the MPT can seriously compromise your ability to finish. Pro-tip: save yourself 5-7 minutes at the end to review what you wrote. This will help you to identify any glaring typos or missed punctuation. It will also give you the last-minute opportunity to add an extra citation or two.
How long should an MPT be? Surprise! As long as it takes to answer the question. I know, I know. This is not something you want to hear, but in the end, this really is the answer. Model MPTs are just that—models. While you may never reach the level of the model, you can provide a pretty solid answer by asking yourself these three questions:
What is my assignment?
It is very easy to forget what exactly you are supposed to be doing on the MPT. Once you read through the initial assignment, be sure to immediately write down what that assignment is. As you go through the file, be sure that you are viewing the file through that lens and not one you may have used throughout law school or in your recent clerkship. Think smart.
Am I doing the assignment?
If you are told to prepare a legal memo that does not include a statement of facts, do not write a statement of facts. This may seem obvious and simple, but when testing under pressure and within time limits, these types of errors can—and do—occur. By staying focused on what the assignment is, you can better discern what is and is not relevant to your task.
Is my answer complete?
This is an incredibly important question. Putting together an MPT that simply restates statements, is not answering the question. By applying all of the law and incorporating the documents into your assignment, you will demonstrate that you not only understood the question but that you developed a thoughtful and complete answer.
Study Smart, Study Strong
While the MPT is often seen as the place to “save time” when studying, the reality is that the MPT offers its own set of challenges that differ from the MBE and MEE. Ensuring that you have given proper time and attention to the MPT will not only help you do well on the day of the exam but will also help you to feel more confident. Study smart, study strong.
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