What is the MPRE?
The Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE) is a separate test that is required for admission to the bar in almost every state except: Maryland, Wisconsin, and Puerto Rico. Despite the common misconception, it does not test an individual’s moral and ethical values. Instead, its purpose is to test examinees’ understanding of the ethical standards regarding the professional conduct of practicing attorneys.
The exam lasts for two hours and is administered three times throughout the year, usually in March, August, and November (always consult their website for further confirmation since calendar dates and registration fees may vary). It consists of 60 multiple-choice questions, however, only 50 of them count towards your actual score. The remaining ten will be blindly scattered and unmarked, so you must answer every question. Scores may range on a scale from 50 to 150, but each jurisdiction typically establishes its own passing standard and adjusts the percentage based on a statistical curve similar to other standardized tests.
Scores are generally released five weeks after you take the exam. Unlike the bar exam, you are permitted to take the MPRE an unlimited amount of times in most jurisdictions. Again, make sure to review your own state’s rules because some slight discrepancies exist between jurisdictions. While this fact may relieve some of the pressure, as with most exams, it is in your best interest to pass the first time.
Advice for Scheduling the MPRE
The majority of law schools require law students to take some type of professional responsibility class to graduate. It is strongly recommended that you take the MPRE prior to taking the bar exam for two main reasons: first, some jurisdiction do not allow you to take the bar exam before passing the MPRE and second, it is one less test you have to prepare for leading up to the actual bar exam. Additionally, if you do not pass the first time, then taking it early will provide you with more opportunities to pass it before having to juggle both the bar exam and MPRE simultaneously.
Since it is only administered three times per year, this leaves law students the option of taking a professional responsibility class in either their 2L year or the fall semester of their 3L year. While you may still register during your 3L spring semester, you will not be able to take the MPRE until after both graduation and the bar. So, plan accordingly. Also, if you do decide to take it while enrolled in law school, then be diligent about registering early because spots fill-up quickly.
Due to the MPRE testing schedule, you will have roughly three months after your law school professional responsibility class ends to then study on your own for it, hire a tutor, or register for an external MPRE prep course. Even if you feel that you have a good handle on the material, continue to consistently study by using tools, such as weekly practice tests and sample questions. Finally, aim to take it as close as possible to when your law school class finishes. The material will be fresher, and you will not have to re-study concepts as meticulously as you will if you take it too far removed from the course. The ideal scenario is to enroll in a professional responsibility class during your 2L or 3L fall semester and register for the MPRE that is distributed in March.
Some Basic Tips for Acing the MPRE
Tackle MPRE questions in the same manner as the LSAT: begin with the question stem; next read the stimuli; formulate an answer prior to scanning the choices; review the provided answers; eliminate any choices that are blatantly incorrect or irrelevant; and then choose the response that best represents a solution to the question being asked. Alternatively, if you are already comfortable with a particular method that you have perfected for multiple-choice exams, use the strategy that works for you.
It is also helpful to focus on the specific subject matter that the MPRE covers. As you take more practice exams, you will start to recognize certain phrases and subjects that repeatedly arise, creating a formulaic pattern. If you feel you have a strong grasp on attorney-client relationship questions, but are struggling in areas related to judicial conduct, shift your studying to the weaker subject to maximize your potential to bolster your test score.
If you find yourself stuck during the exam, take a second to think about what the question is asking. Some of the problems are based on common sense reasoning, so, when all else fails, answer logically. Do not, however, fall into the trap of answering a question in an ethical mindset. Remember, the MPRE is testing your knowledge on how to act as a professional attorney in accordance with the law, not moral standards.
Most importantly, be mindful of the time. The MPRE is shorter than the average law school final in terms of time, but has an extensive amount of questions. With only two-hours to answer 60 multiple-choice problems, the MPRE will be over before you can even blink. To combat this intimidating time hurdle, the best weapons in your arsenal are practice exams. Take them continuously under timed testing conditions up until the week of the MPRE and passing on your first attempt will become that much easier.
Good luck with the exam!