The Multistate Performance Test (MPT) is a component of the bar exam in 38 U.S. states plus the District of Columbia. In addition, California and Pennsylvania administer their own performance tests, which are similar to the MPT in format and objective. You’re extremely likely to face a performance test when you sit for the bar.
The MPT is produced by the National Conference of Bar Examiners, the same people who bring us the MBE, MEE, MPRE and UBE (which consists of MBE + MEE + 2 MPTs). Two new MPTs are released each February and July; some jurisdictions administer one, some both. Each MPT jurisdiction chooses how to weight it in combination with the MBE and essays, if any. In many jurisdictions, including those using the UBE, the MPT is weighted at 20%.
Unlike the MBE or bar exam essays, the MPT tests actual lawyering skills and requires you to produce a document. It’s like a mini legal writing assignment! That means you already know how to do it. But you need to prepare and practice because you’ll have only 90 minutes.
The MPT tests the following skills: (1) factual analysis, including distinguishing relevant from irrelevant facts; (2) analysis of legal sources, such as statutes, cases, and administrative materials, including identification of legal rules; (3) application of law to facts to resolve a client’s problem; (4) identification and resolution of ethical issues, if present; (5) effective written communication; and (6) completing all of the above within time constraints.
The vehicle for testing these skills is a lawyering task that will result in a document. Most often, this will be a memorandum to a supervising attorney or the argument section of a brief. Other possibilities include – but are not limited to — an opinion letter to a client, a contract provision, a closing argument, or a will.
Each MPT has the same components: generic instructions (applicable to all MPTs), a File and a Library. The first document in the File is an assignment memo that briefly describes the facts and specifies the task you are to complete and the document you are to produce. The File often includes specific guidelines for the requested document. The remainder of the File consists of factual sources, such as deposition transcripts, interview notes, correspondence, and contracts. You will have to sort the relevant facts from the irrelevant.
The Library contains legal sources, such as statutes, cases, and regulations. These materials exist in a self-contained universe; while you can rely on your general legal knowledge, you are not expected to be familiar with any specific area of the law, and you don’t have to be. The Library gives you everything you need to complete the task.
How do you prepare for the MPT?
Familiarize yourself with the MPT instructions. These are the same for every exam. Get to know them so you can save time when you get to the exam room.
Practice. The most difficult aspect of the MPT may well be completing it within 90 minutes. As with any type of exam, you can improve your speed by practicing. NCBE releases past exams, as do the California and Pennsylvania bar examiners. Take advantage of these.
Practice MPTs that request different tasks. Don’t limit your practice to MPT memos and briefs. You can’t afford to panic if you’re asked to draft a “leave-behind” or an “EDR statement.” Practice these “wild card” exams so you can focus on keeping your cool and following directions.
Practice MPTs based on different areas of the law. Although you are not expected to be familiar with the subject matter of the MPT, you may be more comfortable with a contracts question and less so with an immigration law issue. You need to practice MPTs based on unfamiliar subjects so you learn how to handle the unexpected.
Use this Attack Plan:
- Skim the instructions.
- Read the assignment memo carefully; highlight the task. The assignment memo provides a brief overview of the facts and identifies the document you need to produce. This provides context for the File and Library.
- Skim the File. Note the number and types of documents, but don’t get bogged down in details.
- Read the Library. First, skim the Library, noting the number and types of sources. If there are cases, note whether they are mandatory or persuasive. Then read through the Library carefully. Outline the legal rules.
- Read the File. With the law in mind, return to the File and read it carefully, extracting the relevant facts and relating them to your outline of the law.
- Review the assignment memo. Focus on the task, paying close attention to the type of document expected and any format requirements.
- Write the answer . . . and pass the bar!
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Did you find this post helpful? Check out some other great articles:
- When and Where I Studied for the Bar Exam
- Tackling Bar Exam Materials Like a Pro
- What You Can Do Now to Prepare for the Bar Exam
- Can Studying Early Help You Pass the Bar Exam?
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