Top 5 tips for scoring high on the MBE

By Ashley Heidemann

Looking to score high on the multiple choice portion of the bar exam? Here are five tips to help you improve your multiple choice score.

1. Answer one question at a time.

When you begin answering multiple choice questions, focus on one question at a time (rather than 18 or 36 questions at a time). It is important to go through each question slowly and methodically rather than breezing through it. Pay attention to details, such as dates, times, and prices. This will train you to become better at recognizing key details. 

2. Keep track of your incorrect answers.  

Every time you answer a question incorrectly (or answer it correctly but for the wrong reason) write down the reason for your answer choice on a legal pad.  Did you not know the law? Write down the law you did not know. Did you not read the fact pattern carefully? Make a note of that. Did you misread the call of the question? Or misread the answer choices? Write it down on the legal pad.

Constantly review this legal pad. Doing so will help you review any laws that you do not know. Also, you may eventually see patterns in your incorrect answers. Maybe you will find that you frequently read the fact pattern too quickly or you need to learn certain areas of law better. After identifying these weaknesses, you can tackle them head on.

3. Remember basic multiple choice principles.

A few principles to remember are as follows:

1. If two answers seem equally right, they may both be both wrong. If you find yourself debating over which answer to choose, go back to the fact pattern and see if you missed any key fact that reveals you are on the wrong path altogether.   

2. If an answer choice contradicts the facts or assumes a fact that is not in the fact pattern, it is wrong. Further, be wary of questions that ask you to make a call that you are not qualified to make (i.e. Does a shipping charge of $100 on a box of “widgets” materially alter the contract? Who knows! Any answer choice that assumes the answer is likely wrong).

3. Words like “always” or “never” are too broad and usually wrong. There are generally exceptions in the law so these answer choices can usually be eliminated.

Remembering these basic principles can make the difference between answering a question correctly or incorrectly when it is a close call.  

4. Perfect your timing.

For multiple choice questions, many students aim to answer 33 questions per hour. However, a lot of students find it difficult to track time this way because after the first hour, they find themselves already behind and begin to panic.  Instead, it may be helpful to divide your practice into even smaller increments.  That is, instead of trying to answer 33 questions every hour, try to answer 9 questions every 15 minutes. If you do this, you will also have a few minutes (about 13) to  spare at the end of the exam to go back and revisit difficult problems.

5.  Practice! Get physically and mentally ready for the MBE.

Take half-day and full-day simulated exams ahead of time to get physically and mentally ready for the bar exam. You will have an advantage over those who are not prepared for the fatigue that comes with taking a six-hour test.  Taking timed tests may help you to speed up and pay attention to key facts.

Another important side effect of practicing under timed conditions is that by the time you get to the bar exam, you will know you can do it. You will know you have gone through several exams and that you have worked on timing. You are less likely to panic. You will be better able to keep your mind clear and focused.

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Ms. Ashley Heidemann is a bar exam and law school tutor. She graduated as the Number 1 student in her class of over 200 students at Wayne State University Law School in the class of 2011 and received a score of over 180 on the Michigan Bar Exam. Her website can be found at www.excellenceinlawschool.com.

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