Fifteen Helpful Quick Tips For The MPT
The Multistate Performance Test or MPT makes up 20% of your total UBE score and is the first task you will likely encounter when taking the exam (the MPT is administered during the morning of the first day of the bar exam). As such, success on the MPT is very important to success on the bar exam! In this post, we discuss 15 quick tips for the MPT that can help you succeed.
Fifteen Helpful Quick Tips For The MPT
The number one mistake that we see students make is that they do not practice for the MPT ahead of the exam. Students sometimes believe that because they have written memos either in law school or as law clerks, that they don’t need to practice. Even if you have written memos in other settings, chances are you have not been required to complete a task under the extreme timed conditions you will face during the bar exam. For this reason, practicing under timed conditions is crucial to develop a good strategy to tackle the MPT!
2. Stay within the time limit.
The second of our quick tips for the MPT is to pay attention to timing. Because timing is such an important and difficult part of the MPT, it is imperative that you time yourself while doing practice MPTs. On the exam, you will have three hours to complete two MPT tasks, or 90 minutes per MPT. While you are practicing, be sure to stop right at the 90-minute mark so you understand how much work you are able to accomplish in 90 minutes! It will be an uphill battle if you allow unlimited time to complete the MPT and then have to figure out how to pare down your time if you are continually going well over the time limit!
3. Memorize the common formats.
The most commonly tested tasks on the MPT are objective memos and persuasive briefs. Because these tasks are highly tested and therefore fairly predictable, the instructions in the MPT task memo do not often give a lot of guidance as to how to structure your memo or brief. (Instead, graders expect you to know how to set up these tasks!) Therefore, you should have the general format of these tasks memorized prior to the exam so that you do not spend time trying to figure out the proper formatting! Check out JD Advising’s Attack Outlines for Each Type of MPT to see an overview of the common tasks and how to format them!
4. Use the appropriate tone in your writing.
If you are instructed to write a persuasive task, the tone of your writing should be persuasive. Your goal is to convince the reader of your position, so you should use things like action verbs to get your point across. On the other hand, if you are given an objective task, you need to weigh all sides of an argument. For an objective assignment, your conclusions should not be as forceful, and can include words such as “likely” or “probably” (e.g., “it is likely that the plaintiff will succeed . . .”).
5. Know your audience.
If you are writing to a supervising attorney (e.g., an objective memo), or to the court (e.g., a persuasive brief), the audience is a judge or attorney. As such, you can use “legal-ese” in your writing without further explanation. However, if your audience is, for instance, a client who is not an attorney (e.g., an opinion letter to a client), you should limit the amount of “legal-ese” and attempt to explain things in layman’s terms.
6. Save time to proofread at the end.
The grader’s first impression of your MPT can make a big difference with your score. As such, things like spacing, formatting, and typos should be cleaned up at the very end. This way, the grader’s first glance at your MPT will reveal a clean, professional, and complete product. Spending the final five minutes proofreading could yield far more additional points than spending that last five minutes cramming some extra information into your answer!
7. Read the library first, then the facts.
When tackling the MPT file, you will save time by reading the library before you read the facts. If you read the facts first, you aren’t going to know which facts are important because you won’t know what the applicable rules are. Instead, you should read the library first to find the applicable rules and analogous cases, and then go through the facts looking for those that fit into your rule statements.
8. If the library has statutes and cases, read the cases first.
You should skim the statutes and see what statutes are provided. Rather than reading and spending time trying to figure out the statutes, see if there is a case in the library that explains the statutes and identifies the pertinent pieces of the most relevant statutes. This could save you some time by identifying the portions of the statutes that you will need to focus on!
9. Take notes in the answer document rather than on scrap paper.
A great way to save time is to work as you go. As soon as you read the task memo and see that your task is to write an objective memo, set up the memo in your answer. Then, as you are going through the library and find pertinent rule statements, you can type them right into the relevant portion of your memo. This will likely be quicker than spending time to highlight, take notes on, and then re-type those rule statements later.
10. When reading cases, look quickly for rule statements.
If the task memo doesn’t provide much guidance as to the issues you need to discuss, you should look for rule statements in the library as quickly as possible. The rules may have sub-parts that will serve as the various issues in your assignment. This will allow you to quickly organize your task and as you take notes, you can put the notes under the applicable issues and sub-issues in your document.
11. Do not use law that you know.
Remember that the MPT takes place in a fictional universe. Don’t assume that the law you know is the same as the law in the library. For instance, if you are given a Constitutional issue, such as a Fourth Amendment search and seizure issue, take the rule statements from the library rather than from what you know. The graders may have thrown some extra language into the rule statements in the library to make sure that you are paying attention and using the library!
12. Use the IRAC structure, even for wildcard tasks!
If you are unsure of how to structure your task, you should utilize IRAC (issue, rule, analysis, conclusion), even if the task is a wildcard task. If you can find a rule statement in the library, you can plug it right into the appropriate spot in the assignment, and then use the information in the rule statement to develop your analysis. Using IRAC is also a good way to double-check that you included everything you need to complete your answer!
13. Don’t plagiarize.
Although you do not need to re-word every single rule statement that you include in your MPT, you should include a citation for anything that you quote. The citations do not need to be in Bluebook format; they can be as simple as the name of the case (or even just the first named party!) either underlined or italicized. For example, if you are citing the Smith v. Jones case, your citation could be Smith.
14. Double-check the task memo.
As you write your answer, refer back to the task memo to make sure you are following all directions and including everything in the instructions. For example, sometimes the task memo will ask examinees to anticipate counter-arguments and provide a brief response to those anticipated counter-arguments. Failing to address potential counte-arguments in such an assignment could result in the loss of valuable points! One of the things the MPT tests is the ability to follow directions, so make sure you read all the directions carefully!
15. Be willing to change your approach!
The last of our quick tips for the MPT is to be flexible. If you find yourself unable to finish the tasks in 90 minutes, you may need to change your strategy or approach. For example, if your approach to reading the library is to read every case extremely carefully and pull out every nuance so that you don’t have to read any case twice, but you also find that it takes you well over an hour to read the library in this manner, you may need to adjust your approach and focus less on the details. Practice MPTs are a great opportunity to try different approaches and hone a great strategy for the exam!