Is The MBE Really That Difficult?
There is nothing like getting ready for a really big test and hearing only horror stories about how difficult the exam might be. Many students, when faced with the bar exam, find themselves asking, “Is the MBE really that difficult?” While there is, of course, no precise answer, this post will help you to think through what the word “difficult” means in the context of the MBE.
Is The MBE Really That Difficult?
1. Intense preparation, high stakes, and ongoing waiting.
Let’s start from the very beginning. The MBE portion of the bar exam includes 200 multiple-choice questions. This is a lot, by any measure. How many exams did you have in law school that included 200 multiple choice questions? (Probably not that many.) In preparation for those 200 questions, students complete hundreds, and in some cases, thousands of multiple-choice questions.
The preparation process itself can be rather grueling. Do the questions. Under timed conditions. Wait for the answers. See the results. Learn what you did not know. Repeat. By the time the actual bar exam rolls around, most students are tired, slightly burned out, and ready for the exam to be over. While this is all normal, it’s also quite a bit to deal with.
Next, while we’re stating the obvious here, the MBE is a high-stakes activity. The entire bar exam process, from pre-diagnostic to the actual test, and from the actual test to the actual results, is nothing but a series of events that requires ongoing patience and seemingly endless mental fortitude. As the bar exam draws near, second-guessing is common, and it often takes a toll. All this is to say, the question is the MBE really that bad, is a question that does not have a universal answer. How much a student has prepared for the MBE and how well a student can adapt to a high-stakes testing atmosphere will impact the answer to that question. Start with that knowledge and plan accordingly—then and only then will you be able to answer the question.
2. Lots of areas of law; lots of material within those areas of law.
When asking if the MBE is really that difficult, it’s important to start with the very big picture. The MBE covers real property, civil procedure, torts, constitutional law, criminal law, evidence, and contracts. Within those areas of law, however, there are numerous specific and discrete rules along with exceptions to those rules that are also tested. What this means is that students must be able to know a lot…about a lot. That in and of itself is enough to make anyone feel that the MBE is difficult!
However, what is often forgotten is that law students have taken the bulk of these classes. In other words, while you may feel unprepared, the MBE material is not entirely new. Depending on the courses a student took as a 2L and 3L, it could be the case that a student will have to learn an area of law during bar prep. We discuss what classes you can take during law school to prepare for the bar exam here.
It’s also important to remember that if you are enrolled in a bar prep class, the class is designed to teach and then to reinforce your learning. Sticking to a bar prep program, potentially supplementing your preparation with other resources (for access to MBE questions, check out JD Advising’s MBE bank here and for MBE help, take a look at JD Advising’s MBE one-sheets here), and closely tracking your time on the practice MBE (another useful resource on how to train your timing can be found here) are all great ways to help you gain perspective on how “difficult” the MBE might be.
You might find that after comprehensive preparation, and a little bit of perspective, your answer to the highly contextualized and student-specific question is that the MBE is really not that bad. For free resources to help you on your MBE journey, visit JD Advising’s MBE-specific page here.
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