Five MPT Writing Tips To Help You Excel
Unlike the other portions of the bar exam, the MPT (Multistate Performance Test) does not test your knowledge of substantive law. Rather, it tests other skills, such as your ability to write and communicate effectively. In this post, we give five tips to improve your writing on the MPT!
Five MPT Writing Tips To Help You Excel
1. Use headings to structure your answer.
Headings identifying the separate arguments or issues you raise in your response to the MPT can help make it easier for the grader to read. A grader can quickly skim the headings and see how you set up your answer. Headings also serve to effectively transition between issues, so you can be sure that the grader knows you are moving on to the next issue.
Headings can also serve double-duty as issue statements. Take hints from the type of task as to whether your heading should be in the form of a conclusion or an issue statement. For an objective memo, you likely want to use issue statements (e.g., “Whether the writing satisfies the Statute of Frauds.”). On the other hand, persuasive briefs should have conclusory headings (e.g., “The handwritten note satisfies the Statute of Frauds because it contains the essential elements of the agreement and is signed by the party to be charged.”)
2. Stick to the IRAC format!
Following the heading or issue statement, you should always follow the rule, analysis, conclusion (IRAC) format. State the applicable rule (and remember to pull the rule from the library as accurately as possible, rather than stating the rule as you might have learned it), then analyze the situation, using as many facts as possible from the file. It is nearly impossible to incorporate every single fact from the file into the answer within the time constraints, but you should try to use as many as possible!
You may have multiple sub-arguments within each section. For instance, if the issue is whether the Statute of Frauds is satisfied, you might have an issue as to whether the writing contains all the terms of the agreement and a second argument as to whether the signor’s mark constitutes a signature. You would have two separate IRACs for these sub-issues, even though they fall under the same main issue. You can use sub-headings to divide these sub-issues!
3. Use the correct tone.
When you are reading the task memo, the first thing you should do is figure out if your task is objective or persuasive (or whether it falls into a “wildcard” category that is neither objective nor persuasive).
An objective task requires you to weigh the various arguments and positions and postulate as to which is likely the best. There is not always a single best answer to an objective task. Therefore, it is important that you weigh the pros and cons of each argument and take a softer tone that does not presuppose a single outcome.
A persuasive task, on the other hand, requires you to advocate for a particular position. Your tone should assume that the arguments you are making are correct and the best arguments.
4. Cite to the library, but don’t get too technical.
You do not need to memorize the Bluebook rules and spend an unjustified amount of time perfecting your citations to achieve a passing score on the MPT. However, try to put together some semblance of a citation whenever you quote something or refer to something from the library. For instance, if you quote a rule from a case, at least put the name of the case in italics at the end of the sentence. You don’t necessarily need a full citation to the volume, reporter, and page number for every single citation.
5. Proofread your answer.
You should try to save about five minutes at the end of each MPT to read through and polish your answer. Try not to let this slow you down as you are writing, though. For instance, instead of spending five minutes crafting a perfectly-worded and polished issue statement, put down something that you can think of easily. Then, at the end, if you have time, you can come back and re-work the sentence.
You generally will not be docked a significant number of points for typos if your answer is otherwise complete and well-written. However, if you have so many typos that it becomes distracting and makes your answer difficult to read, then it can begin to affect your score. Spending five minutes at the end of the session to change any glaring mistakes could earn you some additional credit!
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