Five Common Myths about the MPRE
When considering the road to becoming a practicing attorney, many law students typically think of the bar exam and only the bar exam. The Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE), however, is another requisite component for admission to the bar in most jurisdictions. Despite this, many law students are not even aware of what the MPRE is. To help ensure you know what to expect, below we provide a brief overview of the MPRE and then debunk 5 common myths about the MPRE!
Five Common Myths about the MPRE
Overview of the MPRE
The MPRE tests information contained in model ethical rules that lawyers are required to abide by. These rules are more formally known as the American Bar Association’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct and are commonly referred to as simply the “Model Rules.” The MPRE also tests the ethical rules that judges must abide by under the Model Code of Judicial Conduct, also known as the “Model Code.” In addition to the rules themselves and comments thereto, the MPRE also tests caselaw, rules, and legal opinions that reflect majority law. Because the Model Rules are not specific to any jurisdiction, almost all states require that students take and pass the MPRE before being able to practice law.
Several topics appear on the MPRE. We’re including the list below:
- Regulation of the legal profession
- The client-lawyer relationship
- Client confidentiality
- Conflicts of interest
- Competence, legal malpractice, and other civil liability
- Litigation and other forms of advocacy
- Transactions and communications with persons other than clients
- Different roles of the lawyer
- Safekeeping funds and other property
- Communications about legal services
- Lawyers’ duties to the public and the legal system
- Judicial conduct
Check out this post with the full list of MPRE sub-topics and a frequency chart! Not all topics appear at the same frequency on the MPRE. Some topics are much more likely to appear than others. You should pay special attention to the highly tested topics to maximize your points. For help with this, check out our free MPRE attack outline!
Examinees must complete the MPRE in two hours. The exam consists of 60 multiple-choice questions. Fifty of those 60 questions are scored. The remaining 10 are “experimental questions” and do not account for a portion of an applicant’s score. Because it is impossible to tell which questions are scored and which are experimental, students must answer all 60 questions with equal effort. As of 2020, you can take the MPRE electronically at Pearson VUE testing centers.
Jurisdictions Requiring MPRE
Most jurisdictions require bar applicants to take and pass the MPRE prior to gaining admittance to the state bar. However, some states—including Wisconsin and Puerto Rico—do not require the MPRE. Additionally, a couple of jurisdictions—such as Connecticut and New Jersey—do not require a passing MPRE score if the bar applicant successfully completed and received a requisite grade in a Professional Responsibility course during law school. Because states’ requirements may change or differ, it is important to always check your jurisdiction’s specific rules for the most up-to-date and accurate information!
To learn more about the MPRE, check out our series of Frequently Asked Questions about the MPRE here!
5 Common Myths about the MPRE
Now that you know some background on what the MPRE is, let’s debunk the most common myths about the MPRE!
Myth # 1: Students don’t have to study for the MPRE.
Many students are under the impression that the MPRE is so easy that they do not need to study for it. This is one of the most common myths about the MPRE. The MPRE is not impossible, but it is a hard exam. So, you absolutely need to study for the MPRE!
We understand that many students believe ethics questions seem like they’d have common-sense answers. After all, we’ve learned the difference between right and wrong our entire lives! However, the MPRE questions will hone in on nuances. In order to pass the MPRE, you must strike a balance between common sense and an understanding of the Model Rules of Professional Conduct and the Model Code of Judicial Conduct (read this post on how to analyze an MPRE question in 5 steps!). A simple difference in the language of the rule (i.e., “shall” versus “may”) can be the difference between correct and incorrect answers.
Myth #2: Students need to take a professional responsibilities course in law school prior to taking the MPRE.
Another one of the top myths about the MPRE is that students must take a professional responsibilities course in law school prior to taking the MPRE. This is false.
Many law schools will suggest, but not require, that students take a professional responsibilities course. That being said, a professional responsibilities course is not a prerequisite to taking the MPRE.
Taking a professional responsibility course before taking the MPRE can be helpful. You will gain exposure to many of the common highly-tested rules and the theory behind the rules. However, even if you take a professional responsibilities course, you cannot fully rely on what you learned in class and should still study for the MPRE using commercial course materials. This is because some professional responsibility courses teach state-specific rules, whereas the MPRE tests the Model Rules. Some of the state-specific rules may be similar to the Model Rules, but you still must study the Model Rules to be sure you learn the exact rules that will be tested on the MPRE.
So, if you take a professional responsibilities course prior to the MPRE, that is great. But if not, do not worry! You can study for (and pass!) the MPRE without taking a professional responsibilities course prior to taking the exam.
Myth #3: Students have to take the MPRE close in time to the bar exam.
Another one of the most common myths about the MPRE is that students must take the MPRE close in time to the bar exam. This is not true!
You can take the MPRE three times a year: March, August, and November. Each month offers two test dates, so you have six opportunities to sign up for the MPRE each year. Students can sit for the MPRE as early as their 2L year of law school. There is no best time to take the MPRE. However, we recommend taking the exam sooner rather than later for a couple of reasons:
- First, passing the bar exam or character and fitness first is not a requirement to taking the MPRE. In fact, some jurisdictions do not allow you to take the bar exam (or only allow you to take the bar exam once or twice) if you do not have a passing MPRE score. Be sure to check your state bar’s exact requirements.
- Second, studying for and taking the MPRE during law school will give you the opportunity to take it again if you fail the first time. Additionally, you won’t have to worry about studying for the MPRE and bar exam too close together in time. Studying for the bar exam is challenging enough without adding in another exam to the list!
- Third, if you take the MPRE after the bar exam (if your state allows it), and you fail the MPRE, it will unnecessarily delay your admission to the bar if you’ve passed the bar exam. After all that hard work, you will want to gain admission as quickly as possible. So, don’t let a failed MPRE delay you by waiting until the last minute to take it!
Although you may want to take the MPRE as soon as possible after you are eligible, be sure that you are adequately prepared. It will not be helpful to take the MPRE early if you are not prepared!
There are a couple of key ways to prepare. As noted above, students do not need to take a professional responsibilities course prior to taking the MPRE, but it may be useful to do so. Additionally, you should sign up for a commercial course. Many bar prep companies, including JD Advising, offer free MPRE courses. Check out JD Advising’s highly regarded free MPRE course here!
Myth #4: Students don’t think that they have to take the MPRE seriously.
The next of the most common myths about the MPRE may seem identical to the first myth. Although similar, it is worth reiterating that students do need to take MPRE seriously.
As noted above, the MPRE is a hard exam that is necessary to practice law in most jurisdictions. You should take it seriously because:
- Students who do not take it seriously tend to fail the MPRE multiple times before passing. That is a waste of time and money!
- Some states only allow you to take the bar exam once without a passing MPRE score. So, if you fail the bar exam and have yet to take the MPRE, you may be held up from taking the bar exam during the next administration. This will delay your admission to the bar.
- You cannot be licensed as an attorney in most jurisdictions if you do not have a passing score. Passing the MPRE means that you are one step closer to becoming a licensed attorney!
We cannot stress enough how important it is to take the MPRE seriously. Brushing it off as easy can lead to disastrous results. But if you take it seriously, you can absolutely pass the MPRE on your first try!
Myth #5: The passing score determines the percentage you need to answer correctly.
MPRE scoring can be a bit confusing. Many students think that a passing score of “86” means that you need to get 86% of questions correct on the exam. That is not true.
The MPRE score scale runs from 50 to 150. The National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) converts each score from a raw score using a formula they do not disclose. The confusion with scoring is mostly due to the fact that the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) does not release exact data on how many questions a student needs to answer correctly in order to pass the MPRE. Also, the exact numbers change with each administration.
However, we do have information at our disposal that reveals a lot about how the MPRE is graded, including the following approximations:
- A score of 100 = 34 correct out of 50 or 41/60 (approximately 68% correct)
- A score of 85 = 30 correct out of 50 or 36/60 (approximately 60% correct)
- A score of 80 = 29 correct out of 50 or 35/60(approximately 58% correct)
- A score of 75 = 28 correct out of 50 or 34/60 (approximately 56% correct)
If you are scoring between 30 and 35 on most practice exams, you are likely within the passing range. Based on the above, in most states, getting between 56% to 60% correct is passing. That difference in range typically comes town to a question or to. For example, one or two questions can make the difference between scoring a 75 or an 85. So, the difference between scoring a 75 and an 85 is not that bad!
That brings us to jurisdictional passing ranges. The passing score by jurisdiction varies slightly. They range from a score of 75 to a score of 86. Check out this post with the score necessary to pass the MPRE in each jurisdiction!
As a final reminder, the MPRE is now online at Pearson Vue testing centers and offered during weekdays. Register early to secure a spot on your chosen test date. And don’t forget to review the list of items that you are permitted to bring with you to the exam!
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