Practice exams are a crucial component of successful bar prep. While a bar review course may provide feedback on a limited number of practice essays and performance tests, you should do more and assess your own work. We’ve previously discussed how to do this using MEE Analyses. Here, we’ll explore how to use MPT Point Sheets and sample answers.
The key is to distinguish form from substance. A Point Sheet will not be in the form required for your answer, but it will contain the required substance. A sample answer should be in the required form, but it may not be complete in terms of substance. Let’s take a closer look.
A Point Sheet Is Not A Model Answer
To succeed on the MPT, you must follow directions. This includes drafting the requested document in the requested format. The most commonly requested document is the memo, followed by the brief, with letters to various recipients ranked third. Some MPTs request an unusual document, such as a closing argument or a bench memo. Some recent MPTs have involved hybrid tasks, such as revising a contract and writing an explanatory memo. You should practice a variety of MPTs so you can be ready for anything. Despite this variation, the Point Sheets follow the same format: a Point Sheet for a memo looks the same as a Point Sheet for a brief. No Point Sheet follows the format of the requested document. To make matters worse, the format of the Point Sheets has evolved over the years. A Point Sheet from 2015 does not have the same components as one from 2010, for example. But none of this matters if you focus on substance.
Preliminaries: The Point Sheet typically begins with a summary of the facts, task, and contents of the File and Library. This section, which may or may not have a title, may refresh your memory if you’re reviewing an MPT some time after writing it.
Recent Point Sheets note that they include “all the points the drafters intended to raise in the problem.” Older Point Sheets followed this statement with the reassurance that “[a]pplicants need not cover them all to receive passing or even excellent grades. Grading is left entirely to the discretion of the user jurisdictions.” Despite the current omission of this language, it remains true that you can score well without a detailed analysis of every point. The Point Sheets continue to refer to subtleties that may be raised by “perceptive” or “excellent” examinees. Strive for excellence; a high score on the MPT may offset a weak score on another section of the bar exam. Each jurisdiction grades its MPTs, so some variation in standards may remain.
Format and Overview: Recent Point Sheets have a section with this title, but the information contained here is found in all Point Sheets. This section briefly reviews the task and any format requirements, such as the use of point headings or omission of the statement of facts. It describes what your product should look like and identifies issues that should be addressed. Make sure your answer follows the format described here.
Discussion: The Discussion (or Analysis) presents the key rules (from the Library) and key facts (from the File), typically in a series of bullet points. Although the information is not presented in answer format, it is essentially organized in Rule/Rule Explanation and Application/Analysis order. A strong answer will present the same content, but in the requested format.
This section also states the expected conclusion. The MPT typically has a correct conclusion – most often favorable to the client — although counterarguments may be included.
What About Sample Answers?
It can be valuable to compare your work to that of real examinees under test conditions, especially if you’re intimidated by the complexity and level of detail in the Point Sheets. Some jurisdictions post “good” MPT answers online; a quick search will turn up many examples. Here are some things to look for.
Format: A sample answer should be formatted in accordance with the MPT task memo. This will provide an idea of what the requested document might look like.
Review more than one answer per MPT to see a range of acceptable variations. Some may have more or fewer subheadings, for example, and the headings may be styled differently.
Level of Detail: While the Point Sheet included every possible issue, source of authority, and fact, the sample answer may include fewer. Did the examinee score well by discussing the main points but not delving into the “perceptive” examinee issues identified in the Point Sheet? How detailed was the rule explanation (using Library sources) and the analysis (using facts from the File)?
Imperfections: No sample is perfect. Some may have obvious strengths/weaknesses. Don’t treat a sample as a limit on your aspirations. Try to exceed it.