Five Tips For Handwriting The MPT
Many bar exam takers debate between typing and handwriting the bar exam. There are certainly advantages and disadvantages to each approach. If you choose to handwrite, make sure you consider how it will affect not only the essay portion but the MPT portion as well. The differences between typing and handwriting the MPT are perhaps more pronounced than for just a regular essay. In this post, we give you five tips you need to know if you are going to be handwriting the MPT!
Five Tips For Handwriting The MPT
1. Take care to write legibly.
One thing that those who are handwriting the MPT need to be aware of is the legibility of their handwriting. If the grader can’t read what you write, then they won’t be able to give you points! You can have the greatest arguments in the world, but you have to be able to convey them clearly. Although you will certainly need to write efficiently on the bar exam, make sure that this doesn’t translate into a messy product.
If you are going to be handwriting the MPT, try giving some of your practice ones to friends and family to be sure they can read it and follow your arguments. Crossing out words is ok, but do so clearly and take care not to scribble over words you do want the grader to read. Utilize headings and paragraphs so that the grader isn’t looking at a solid full page of writing. That makes it far too tempting for the grader to skim. Take the time during your practice to evaluate your handwriting, and make sure the document you produce is completely legible!
2. Use blank pages or margins as scratch paper.
Our advised approach to the MPT is to take half the allotted time to read and outline your response and then half to write your finished document. Those who type have the advantage of being able to take notes right in their document as it is easy to add or delete text, cut and paste lines into the proper place, and shift gears as your argument evolves.
If you’re handwriting the MPT, you do not want to be taking notes and making rough outlines that only you understand on the paper that will ultimately be submitted for grading. Your grader will never be able to follow a cohesive argument if you have random notes all over it. Thus, you should use any blank pages or margins in the question booklet as scratch paper. If you find a blank page, rip it out and create your outline there. Make notes of important facts and rules in the margins of the file and library. Keep your final product free from any clutter that could confuse the grader.
Note that it is also a good idea to having a system to highlight the facts/holdings of cases and making notes about them as you go along. This is more effective than re-writing them all (which will take up too much time!)
3. Thoroughly plan out your answer.
As was mentioned above, a drawback to handwriting the MPT vs. typing is less freedom in how you can edit your response. If you start writing your response without knowing where you are going, you might come across something later in the file or library that changes your direction without being able to smoothly edit what you have already written. You’re going to want to make sure you know the entire flow of your argument through to your conclusion before you start to write out the actual words on the final page.
You certainly don’t have to have every sentence planned, that will come as you write. But know what sections you plan on including, what legal arguments need to be made in what order, and what conclusion you are arguing toward. If you don’t know for sure where you’re going to end up and you change your mind halfway through, correcting what you’ve already written is going to be messy. A few scratches here and there is fine, but we want to avoid a document that is covered in scribbles and re-directing arrows. The grader is going to struggle to follow that, and it might cost you points that you deserve.
Note that you should also memorize the MPT formats in our MPT one-sheet ahead of time, too.
4. Always make sure you conclude.
Those who have experience with handwriting the MPT often say that timing is a significant factor. You can finish, but you might be rushed at the end or not have time to review what you wrote. If you are handwriting the MPT and find yourself pressed for time at the end, make sure you get your conclusion down on the final paper. Of the many skills the MPT tests, some emphasize your ability to problem solve and approach a task in a timely and efficient manner.
If you don’t finish your task by reaching a conclusion, you will not have adequately demonstrated your skills in these areas. You will be missing out on opportunities to earn significant points by at least completing the task assigned to you in an efficient manner. So if time is running low, you absolutely have to get your conclusion in. Even if this means cutting off a piece of your analysis, you have to answer the question posed.
5. Practice, practice, practice!
If you are going to be handwriting the MPT, the best thing you can do is to practice repeatedly. You should be practicing if you are typing too, but developing a strategy that works for you is even more important when you are handwriting. Make sure you understand what handwriting the MPT entails. Practice making your handwriting legible. Practice writing for three hours in a row (you may need to work up to this!!)
Work on handling situations where your freedom to edit is limited. Practice being able to complete the task in the allotted time using less efficient means. As long as you frequently practice approaching the MPT the same way you will on exam day, you will develop the experience and confidence you need to handle this task!
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