Topic 8: Become Familiar with the Key Words and Phrases on the MPRE
Some students answer several MPRE questions incorrectly simply because they are not familiar with how the question is asked. Learning exactly what a question is asking is a critical first step if you want to maximize your MPRE score. Here, we tell you the key words and phrases you should be familiar with on the MPRE. We also tell you how to become familiar with them.
MPRE tip #1: review the keywords and
phrases that are found on the MPRE
Some keywords and phrases on the MPRE that we see students struggle with are as follows:
Subject to discipline
Asking “Is a lawyer subject to discipline?” basically is the same as asking: “Did the lawyer violate a rule under the ABA Model Rules?” (If it applies to a judge, it is asking if the judge violated a rule under the ABA Code of Judicial Conduct.)
Some students mistakenly follow whatever they learned in their professional responsibility class in law school. This can be a mistake because a lot of law schools teach state-specific material. That is, they will teach you what your jurisdiction’s rules are. These rules may not be the same as the rules you need to know for the MPRE.
Keep in mind that the ABA Model Rules are tested on the MPRE.
Subject to civil liability vs. subject to discipline
These are two very different things! If a question asks, “Is the lawyer subject to civil liability?” you generally have to look for malpractice (the most common), misrepresentation, or breach of a fiduciary duty.
In malpractice contexts, you have to look for the elements of negligence:
- a duty,
- a breach of duty,
- causation, and
A lot of times, the element that is missing in a negligence case against the lawyer is harm. If the lawyer did something horrible, like for example, got really drunk during trial, but it didn’t cause any harm to the client because, for example, the client would have been found guilty of committing the crime anyway—the lawyer is not subject to civil liability for malpractice! However, the lawyer would be subject to discipline. Just paying attention to this key language can be the difference between answering a question correctly or answering it incorrectly!
Other keywords and phrases
The National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) has released other keywords and phrases to be aware of. These are summarized in the document, published by the NCBE, below.
MPRE tip #2: get good at quickly
spotting keywords and phrases!
How to get good at spotting MPRE keywords and phrases
Being aware of these key words and phrases can help you tremendously.
When we go over MPRE multiple-choice questions with students, we notice that some students will get several questions wrong simply because they do not pay attention to these keywords! If you find yourself in that boat, it is helpful to highlight the keywords or phrases in a question as soon as you see them when you practice answering questions. Doing this for several questions will get you in the mindset of paying attention to them. When you do this, don’t worry about timing in the beginning. Just focus on dissecting the question so you know what it is asking.
Go to the next topic, Topic 9: How to Answer an MPRE Question.
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