You’ve started studying for the bar, and you’re finally in a flow of practicing essays, cramming the law, and moving on to the next essay. You may be starting to suspect that this is not enough and that there is no way you will remember how to organize your essays during the actual exam.
Don’t worry – the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) provides a guide to each of the essays on the UBE. These point sheets are intended to guide the exam graders, but savvy test takers use them to improve their skill before the test. If you know what the graders are looking for, you will know how to better prepare for test day. The point sheets tell you how much each issue is worth so this is a great way to estimate how much time you should have spent on each issue as you practice.
The point sheets for the Multistate Essay Examination (MEE) and the Multistate Performance Test (MPT) will look slightly different, but your approach to using them successfully will be similar. Self-evaluation is critical for preparing for the exam.
MEE Point Sheets
Before you even look at a point sheet, make sure you have written a practice essay. Ideally you will do this closed book and under timed conditions. Reviewing point sheets without having done this will be a waste of time – there are far more efficient ways to review the law. After you’ve drafted your essay, find the corresponding point sheet.
The MEE point sheets from the NCBE identify the issues, law, and facts that you should have incorporated into your answer, but keep in mind that these are not model answers. If you are anything like I was in my earliest stages of bar preparation, you are only skimming the point sheets and using them as a basic checklist. This is fine for the earliest stages of test preparation, but doing this alone will not get you very far as you continue preparing.
As you review the point sheet, you will see an answer summary, followed by a lengthier explanation of the answer. These explanations cover just about every nuance of the question and the relevant law. They are not, however, in proper IRAC essay form, so you should never rely on them as models for how you should have answered the question. The examiners do not expect your answer to be as comprehensive as these summaries. You will see, for example, that the NCBE provides citations. You are not expected to do this.
Instead of using the point sheets as a model, use them to make sure you addressed the key issues and made appropriate rule statements for each issue. The sheets will also show you which facts the examiners thought were most important. Review your essay to make sure you included those. If you are missing any of these, consider why. Do you need to practice drafting rule statements? Or perhaps your issue spotting needs bolstering?
Once you’ve reviewed the point sheet, reread your essay and prepare to rewrite it. No one likes rewriting, but that’s an important step. Now that you know what’s missing from your essay, try putting everything together in IRAC format.
MPT Point Sheets
You can use MPT point sheets to similar effect during your test prep. Like the MEE point sheets, the MPT point sheets are not meant to be model answers and will not be in proper CRAC/IRAC format. The NCBE puts more detail into each one than any test taker could produce, so do not get overwhelmed when you compare your answer to the point sheet.
Start by drafting your own answer under timed conditions. Each MPT will have a different format (brief, memo, bench memo, etc.), but the point sheet will not reflect this in the summary. After you’ve completed your draft, review the point sheet for the major issues. If you are consistently missing issues, take note of this so you can look for patterns in your test taking.
The analysis section of the point sheet is the most critical. You will usually see a bullet point list of information, but your essay should be in standard paragraph form and should almost always be in CRAC/IRAC format. You should have included everything in this section in your test. Review the legal authority section of the point sheet to make sure your answer includes each of these points. Your conclusion should be similar to the conclusion provided.
If you see yourself missing similar issues in multiple practice MPTs, look for similar MPTs so you can practice spotting them. Do as many practice exams as you can. You will not be expected to discuss each issue as comprehensively as the NCBE does, but you should have hit nearly every one.
The point sheet will tell you how the test should have been formatted based on the task memo’s instructions. Quickly make sure that your essay measures up. If it doesn’t, make sure you read the task memo more carefully on subsequent practice tests.
Point sheets are valuable tools to help you understand exactly what the examiners would like to see on your test. Please remember that they are chiefly intended for the graders, and you are not expected to produce as comprehensive of an answer in your very limited time. The most important thing you can do is draft multiple practice essays and then improve them based on information you find in the point sheets.
The more you review your essays against the point sheets, the more familiar you will become with how the bar examiners think. Look for clues in the sheets: sometimes the examiners will describe particularly excellent or perceptive responses. Hone in on those clues and work toward improving your performance over time.