10 Expert MBE Tips and Tricks: In this post, I discuss the top 10 Multistate Bar Exam or MBE tips and tricks that will help you improve your MBE score. These MBE tips and tricks are not only what I used to score a 180 on the MBE in February 2011, but they are many of the same techniques we teach hundreds of bar exam students each administration. They are timed tested ways to improve your score!
Top 10 Best MBE Tips and Tricks
By a Bar Expert who Scored A 180 On The MBE
1. Memorize the law!
The first of our MBE tips and tricks is simple: memorize the law! We have students come into our office all the time complaining that they need “more strategies, more strategies, more strategies.” So what I usually do is quiz them on the law. 99 percent of the time, they first need to learn the law better.
It would be great if the MBE tested the “general principles” of the tenancies, and hearsay, and crimes. But it doesn’t. It tests the nitty gritty details!!
So ask yourself: What are the four ways to sever a joint tenancy? What are the four elements of a dying declaration? What is the definition of larceny? How, exactly, does larceny by trick differ from false pretenses? If you cannot answer these questions, it is a sign you need to learn the law better!
A mistake that a lot of first time bar exam takers make is they go right from lecture to trying to answer questions. They never take the time to learn the nuances of the law in between! If you struggle with memorization, here are some tricks for how to memorize your bar exam outlines. This is the first and most important step that you can take to improve your score. It also requires a lot of work!
2. Focus on the highly tested topics.
We have some students spend an entire day on present and future interests and RAP. And that is great…but not the wisest use of time if you are trying to improve your MBE score. Time is your most valuable asset in bar prep. It is not to be wasted! So spend the most time where it will help you rack up the most points – that is negligence, relevancy, hearsay…. See a chart with the most highly tested MBE topics here.
If you can learn the most highly tested topics extremely well, you are maximizing the number of points you will pick up on the MBE! (Further, many of these topics are tested highly on state essay exams, including the MEE.)
3. Answer questions one by one when you are trying to improve your MBE score.
While there is a time and place for timed questions (…see our next tip), if you are trying to improve your score, take time to dissect the question you are working on.
So, slow down. Make sure you understand the facts. Draw out the fact pattern if necessary. Ask yourself what the legal issue is and what the legal rule is. Try to answer the question before looking at the answer choices. It might take you an hour to answer 6 questions. And that is okay! For a detailed guide on how to do this, see this post on how to improve your MBE score. This is one of our favorite MBE tips and tricks because it has helped so many students improve their score.
4. Practice answering MBE questions in a timed setting.
If you don’t have time to answer all of the questions on exam day, it does not matter how much you know! You do not want to fail the bar exam for timing reasons!! Make it a point to answer 33 MBE questions in an hour or 9 questions every 15 minutes. If you do the latter, you will finish the exam with ten minutes to spare! (Further, it is often easier to keep track of your time in 15 minute increments rather than trying to answer each question in 1 minute and 48 seconds. Or trying to aim for 33 questions in an hour.)
If you struggle with timing, you do not have to go from answering 0 questions timed to sitting down to take a full day practice MBE. Instead, start by timing yourself for an hour and answer 33 questions. Then answer 66 questions in two hours. Then 100 in three hours. For more MBE tips and tricks on improving your timing, see this post.
5. Use released bar exam questions.
To be honest, when I was studying for the bar exam in 2011, I had no idea released multistate bar exam questions were available! However, they are. And they are better than the ones made up by Barbri or Kaplan or Themis. They are the best because they will prepare you for the format and level of difficulty of bar exam questions that you will see on the MBE!
When you studied for the LSAT you used “actual official LSAT” questions. And you should do the same for the MBE!
Note: Most commercial courses do not offer students released bar exam questions (but check with your course to verify!). So you may very well have to go outside of your course for these questions!
6. When you answer a question incorrectly, write down the law you don’t know!
When you go to a lecture do you magically know the law? No. You need to go back, review your outline again and again and again. (See tip one!) And it is the same when you answer an MBE question. If you say “when I answer an MBE question incorrectly, I read the explanation.” I would tell you, great, you are halfway there. The truth is, if you saw the exact same question three days later, you would probably get it wrong again. That is because you are learning a lot during bar prep.
So if you answer an MBE question incorrectly, we recommend you write down why you answer it incorrectly on a legal pad. I call this the “legal pad” method. Do this for every question you answer wrong — write down the law you didn’t know on a legal pad. This way you can constantly review the law you do not know over and over again. And you can find “patterns” in areas of law you don’t know.
If you answered a question incorrectly because you forgot the elements of the business records exception, and if you write down those elements on that legal pad — I promise you if you keep reviewing that legal pad, you will remember them! And if you notice you keep getting hearsay questions wrong, maybe it is time to find a new approach to hearsay.
7. If you answer a question incorrectly for a “dumb” reason, write that down on your legal pad too.
I used to answer questions wrong because I would race through the fact pattern, misread the facts, and then answer a question that wasn’t even being asked. So I used to write on my legal pad, “read fact pattern too quickly, got answer wrong.”
Once I saw this show up more than once on my legal pad, I made myself slow down when I found myself racing through the fact patterns!
However, you may have a different reason you answer questions incorrectly – maybe you don’t read all the answer choices. Maybe you were in between two answer choices and keep picking the wrong one. Maybe you circle the wrong bubble sometimes. Maybe you misread the facts after you have been answering questions for a while due to fatigue. Whatever it is, write that down on the legal pad too.
If you review this legal pad constantly, you will turn areas of law you don’t know into strengths and you will be able to identify other reasons you are answering questions incorrectly.
8. Address your weaknesses.
After you’ve identified your areas of weakness (using the “legal pad” method above), make sure you tackle them. It is not enough to say “wow, I struggle with hearsay.” Instead, spend extra time on the areas you struggle with – particularly if they are highly tested. Review the law with a friend. Re-watch the lecture if you found it helpful. Consult other outlines or resources. Or get private tutoring.
If your weakness is timing, then have a good system in place to make sure that by the time the bar exam rolls around, your timing will be on point!
If your weakness is anxiety, see if you can talk to a therapist, get on medication, or use visualization to control anxiety.
Don’t just identify your weaknesses. Address them! Do something to address your weaknesses and turn them into strengths.
9. Don’t try to answer 100 questions a day.
Quantity is not the same as quality. Yes, you want to answer several MBE questions so that you can get exposed to the different areas of law and how it is tested. However, doing a lot of questions does not necessarily translate into a higher MBE score.
We talk to people all the time who fail the bar exam after answering 5,000 questions. This is a common MBE “trap” we see. While it is not unreasonable to set a goal to answer a certain number of questions each day, answering 100 or 75 a day will not leave you enough time to internalize and understand the law. It is better to focus on doing questions well and incorporating some timed exams into your study schedule.
10. If you struggle with the MBE, do not ignore the written portion of the exam!
Remember that in most states, there is no minimum passing score on the MBE. (For example, if you are in New York, you can get that 266 by getting a 120 on the MBE and a 146 on the written portion! You do not need a 133 on both portions.) The only exception to this is Kentucky where you need a 132.
In most states, the MBE is worth 50% of your score – and in states where it is not worth 50%, it is worth less! See this post if you are curious about that.
What that means is that the written portion is ALSO worth 50% of your score. Many students get so “bogged down” worrying about the MBE that they neglect the written portion where they could pick up substantially more points.
We just talked to someone in New York who failed by one point on the last bar exam. He is an extremely smart person and an excellent writer. However, prior to taking the New York bar exam for the first time, he had not written one single MPT. Why? Because he was so focused on his MBE score! So his MPTs were awful! If he would have taken just a few more hours to practice MPTs, he would not have to sit for the New York bar exam again!
We also have students who do the same thing with MEE’s – or the essay portion of their state bar exam. They are overly confident with their writing and they procrastinate practicing MEE’s. If writing is your strength, this is the exact opposite of what you should be doing! You should be capitalizing upon this strength and writing extra MEEs to take some of the pressure off of the MBE day.
It is not only possible but it is extremely common to get a high written score and make up for a low MBE score. (We recently had a student who was a great writer and needed a lot of help on the MBE — we focused on her strength, writing, and her written score ended up being a 165! This means she could have gotten a scaled score of 105 on the MBE– in the bottom 1st percentile — and still passed the bar exam!)
If you are in an UBE or MEE jurisdiction, we recommend you purchase our MEE one-sheets or Multistate Essay Exam seminar or signing up for our MEE course if you are looking for a very efficient approach to the MEE. Or if you are not interested in spending money, we at least recommend you practice writing MEEs and MPT’s each day and check out our myriad free blogs!! It is a worthy investment of time – especially if it means not having to retake the bar!!
Looking for additional MBE help? If you are looking for MBE help, read our 10 expert MBE tips here. Check out our step-by-step guide to improving your MBE score, please review this post for an overview of tips. This is a great free MBE resource. If you would like to receive our MBE tip of the day emailed to you, please fill out the form below.
Looking for more MBE resources?
- Check out our MBE guide here. It comes with a 7-point MBE increase guarantee or your money back! You can purchase it online or in a hard copy. (See a sample of it by clicking on the picture to the left!)
- Purchase our MBE one-sheets here! We give you an overview of each MBE subject in one convenient page, front and back. They serve as a great tool for review.
- Looking for a private MBE tutor? Read more about our MBE tutoring services here. If you are wondering if it is worth it to hire an MBE tutor, please check out this post.
- We have an MBE seminar for students looking to learn strategies to improve their MBE scores. Sign up for our MBE seminar here!
- Wondering what skill you need to work on most to improve your MBE score – comprehension, application, or memorization? Check out our MBE diagnostic here.
- Want some free tips? Sign up for our MBE strategies series here! It is free and we remove you from the email list once the bar exam is over!
Ashley Heidemann is the owner and founder of JD Advising. Ms. Heidemann scored over a 180 on the Michigan Bar Exam in February of 2011 after graduating as the #1 student in her law school class of over 200 students in 2011. She, as well as a team of others, offer bar exam courses, seminars, and private tutoring for bar exam students nationwide. This includes services for the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE) and Michigan bar exam. Please click here to contact her company, with any questions.