One of the most important things you can do to prepare for – and pass – the bar exam is to write a lot of practice essays and performance tests. But how do you assess your performance? Are your answers good enough to pass, or do you need to improve? If you’re planning to take the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE), your best benchmarks are the materials provided by the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE): Analyses of Multistate Essay Examination (MEE) questions and Point Sheets for Multistate Performance Tests (MPT). Here we’ll focus on how to use MEE Analyses effectively.
Each Analysis has three components: Legal Problems, Summary, and Discussion. Let’s take a closer look:
In this section, the Analysis sets out the legal issues that must be discussed in the answer. You may be startled to find that the phrasing of these issues, and their number, doesn’t always correspond to the call of the question. This is because a single question may require discussion of multiple issues. Reviewing the Legal Problems section of each Analysis can improve your issue spotting and your sense of the Examiners’ expectations for precision and organization.
For example, a Secured Transactions question involves a man who purchases two bicycles on credit from a retailer for personal use, then sells one at a garage sale and gives the other to a friend as a gift. The MEE poses two questions regarding interests in the bicycles held by (1) the garage sale buyer and (2) the friend. But the Analysis identifies three issues. Can you spot the third issue? It’s the retailer’s purchase money security interest in the bicycles – a threshold issue that underlies both questions asked. You need to determine whether the retailer has a valid PMSI before you can analyze the interests of the buyer and the friend.
Does this mean your answer has to have three sub-parts rather than two? Not necessarily. But if you found yourself discussing PMSI in the context of the buyer’s interest and then repeating the PMSI analysis, or referring back to it, in the context of the friend’s interest, this would be a sign that PMSI could stand alone as a separate issue. You’d get points for discussing it anywhere in your answer, but the best organization would be to separate it. This improves readability and makes your answer easier to grade. Of course, for other MEE, the issues and the questions asked may align more consistently.
Each Analysis includes a Summary – but your answer will not. The Summary is a shorthand answer, an overview that makes the rest of the Analysis easier to follow. It provides the general contours, while the Discussion fills in the details. It is a study aid, not an expected component of your MEE answer.
The Discussion is comparable to a model answer, although it is more comprehensive than any actual answer would be. The Discussion states the expected conclusion and explains the reasoning; use this to assess your answer, and note the following features:
Citations. The Discussion explains and supports its reasoning by citing authority. These citations allow you to use the Analysis as a study tool. Follow up on rules you don’t know and issues you didn’t spot. You can learn more from an Analysis than simply whether you answered the question correctly. But your answer won’t include citations. It’s fine to toss in a rule number or a famous case name (Rule 56! International Shoe!) but it’s not necessary or expected.
Headings. Note that each “Point” in the Analysis is presented as a substantive heading, stating a conclusion and brief rationale. Follow this practice in your own answers.
IRAC. After each heading is a detailed IRAC analysis. While your answer will be less detailed, it should use IRAC or CRAC organization.
Precise Rule Statements. Pay close attention to rule statements in the Analysis. Try to make your rule statements comparably complete (and accurate). As noted above, use the rules in the Analyses to help bolster your understanding of the law as you study.
Specific Facts. One of the most important aspects of a successful MEE answer is its use of facts. As you review Analyses, pay attention to their use of facts. You’ll find that virtually every fact in the fact pattern appears in the Discussion and that facts are used to support conclusions and counter arguments, if any.
What About “Best Answers” From Certain Jurisdictions?
Some jurisdictions post passing MEE answers online. These represent strong work by real examinees under actual exam conditions. Accordingly, they’re not perfect; they are aspirational but attainable. You will not learn as much from such an answer as you will from the corresponding Analysis, with its comprehensive treatment of each issue and its reference to supporting sources where you can turn to deepen your understanding of the law.
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