What to do if you get an unusual MPT task on your exam
The MPT (that is, the Multistate Performance Test) is a lawyerly exercise that requires you to complete a task that is outlined in a memo.
As you can see by this MPT frequency chart, persuasive briefs and objective memorandums are the most common MPT tasks. Recently, opinion letters and demand letters have made a comeback as well. But, sometimes the task will be something that is less common (e.g. a bench memo, a complaint, contract provisions, a leave-behind, an early dispute resolution statement, or a closing argument, etc.). Or, it may ask you to complete a task that has never been tested.
Below are five tips to help you develop an approach to the less common MPT tasks you may encounter on exam day!
Five Tips if you get an Unusual MPT Task
Take a deep breath!
Do not panic if you are required to complete a task that you have not practiced. Take a few extra minutes to do some deep breathing exercises to clear your mind and get into the right headspace. Having confidence that you will complete the assignment is critical to your success. If you are unsure and second guessing yourself, you are likely to make more mistakes.
One way to prevent second-guessing ahead of time is to practice an unusual MPT task. Practicing answering one or two of the “unusual” tasks so you have at least seen one before. You will be less likely to panic! And more likely to remain confident!
Read the task memo carefully.
As with any MPT, begin with reading the task memo. Do not skim or gloss over any information in the memo. It is OK if it takes you a few extra minutes to review the task memo. Underline any key terms, basic facts about the client’s case, as well as any guidance on how to format your memo. The more uncommon the task, the more information will be provided about the assignment. For example, Logan v. Rios on the February 2010 exam, asked examinees to write a section of an early dispute resolution (EDR) statement. The task memo stated: “Item 6 of the EDR statement requires us to candidly ‘discuss . . . the strengths and weaknesses of’ our case in the statement. As directed in Item 6, use the jury instructions to organize your discussion of the claim and affirmative defense.”
Check the file to see if additional instructions are provided.
When examinees are asked to complete an uncommon task, the task memo will generally be at least a page longer than usual or an additional document in the file will provide formatting and substantive guidelines. For example, Logan v. Rios on the February 2010 exam included half a page discussing the purpose and process of an early dispute resolution conference. The latter half of the page detailed the seven sections of an EDR statement. With respect to Item 6, the instructions reiterated: “Parties are advised to use the jury instructions to identify each element of the claims, counterclaims, and/or defenses and affirmative defenses stated.” The instructions elaborated upon the task, noting “for each element that must be proven, parties should discuss the specific strengths and weaknesses of the evidence gathered to date relating to that element in light of the jury instructions and any commentary thereto.”
Do not forget to follow IRAC!
Sometimes examinees panic because the task is new to them and forget to follow IRAC (Issue, Rule, Analysis, Conclusion). They haphazardly draft their responses. This leads to a sloppy and unorganized answer. Regardless of the task at hand, always use IRAC! Remember that this is a legal assignment. The goal of any MPT is to be as organized and clear and concise as possible.
So do not abandon IRAC if you see an unusual task. It is more important to follow it now than ever1
Double check to make sure you followed the instructions.
When encountering an unusual MPT task, it is imperative that you take some time to reread the instructions as you tackle the assignment. If you find yourself losing track of what you are doing and regurgitating lengthy passages or quotations from cases, take a minute to reread the task memo and any additional guidelines. Do not wait until the last five to ten minutes to see whether you followed the instructions. At that point it will be too late to make any significant changes to your answer!
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