How Long Should An MPT Be On The Bar Exam?
One question we often get is “how long should an MPT be?” This is a great question. In this post, we dive into answering that question and other tips you should be aware of when answering an MPT on the bar exam!
How Long Should An MPT Be On The Bar Exam?
Before we dive into the answer, let’s take a brief look at the bigger picture.
First, the Multistate Performance Test consists of two 90-minute tasks. Each task includes a “file” and a “library.” The file provides you with various documents that chart out the facts of the cases and importantly, a memorandum from a supervising attorney explaining to you what your assignment is. The file can contain anything from deposition transcripts and pleadings to contracts and legal correspondence. The facts are often not straightforward and can be read in a variety of ways (hint: this is intentional). In some cases, the facts may even be conflicting (hint number two: this is meant to mirror real life). As to the substance of the assignment, you might be asked to write a contract, draft a persuasive brief, draft a letter to a client, or write a will.
The library portion of the MPT includes all the relevant law that you need to do your assignment. The library may include statutes, cases, policies, and regulations. However, it’s not only important what is included within the file, but it’s important what’s included within the documents that are in the file. Often helpful information can be found in a case footnote.
Similarly, the answer may be in the case to which the case cites. Ultimately, the MPT is testing whether a student can get through a dense amount of material in a relatively short amount of time, and then craft a legal framework based on that material. Ultimately the MPT tests your ability to reason and argue in a way that is like the MEE only here the tasks might be a bit more creative than a straightforward essay. For additional information on the MPT check out this post, How to Pass the MPT in Three Steps.
Answering the MPT
Now we dive into the heart of the question: how long should an MPT be?
Like all things law, there is no one hard and fast answer, and of course, there are many different factors to consider. Writing a will might be quite different than drafting a legal memorandum of law. However, rather than thinking about how long the MPT should be, consider thinking about the following points instead. Working through these questions will help you to determine if you have an appropriate length for an answer. In other words, these questions address critical considerations when answering your MPT. For guidance on how to structure your MPT, Multistate Performance Test One-Sheet: A Cheat Sheet for MPT formats is a great resource.
Did I answer the question?
Yes, really. Taking an exam under time-pressured conditions is not for the faint of heart and even the most prepared students fall prey to not answering the question. Sometimes the question is straight forward but sometimes it isn’t—and this is where students may struggle. Did you answer a question not asked? Did you read a word or two into the question that really isn’t there? Sometimes the obvious question is not asked but students assume it was. So—first things first. Check to see that you answer the question asked. (A word to the wise: this tip also applies to the other parts of the bar exam as well).
Did I use all the documents in the library?
Upon opening the library, this might seem a bit overwhelming. But remember this—the examiners tend to not include irrelevant documents. If there are cases, the cases are intended to provide you with an answer or perhaps a counter answer. If there are statutes, then you can rest assured that there is a statutory issue at play. By using all the documents, you are crafting a strong argument, and you are demonstrating that you can cull through a large amount of information, an invaluable skill for all lawyers.
Did I use all the documents in the file?
Often when students are hurrying through the file and the library, they skim over the file. Thinking that the law will require more attention, the documents in the file can be overlooked or misread. Like the library, there are rarely, if ever, any inconsequential documents in the file. If there are client notes, the information in those notes provides you with critical direction for your legal analysis. If there is a transcript, you can bet that someone said something that legally matters. Failure to address a document may leave you vulnerable to arguments you failed to address.
OK, But How Long Should an MPT be?
While we recognize that the above questions may not provide the same sense of satisfaction that a concrete answer might, we can tell you that this is the better route to go. And a quick note about the model answers that are given for the MPT: those model answers are exactly that—model. Much like the model answers for the essays, the samples are intended to show you all the possible answers, defenses, exceptions, and alternative arguments. In other words, the answer is comprehensive, and a failure to hit all the points that the answer lists does not mean you’re going to fail. Read the file and library closely. Manage your time and answer the three questions above, and you’ll be well on your way to a passing MPT score.
Another great resource for determining exactly how long your MPT should be is to look to actual MPT student answers that scored well on the exam. Check out this article on MPT Bar Exam Sample Answers – Where to find them and how to use them! It will help guide you into determining how long a “good” answer should be. You should also review student MPT answers to see how they answered the question since length alone will not be sufficient.
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