Real Property questions can be a real source of stress as you go to prepare for the bar exam. The questions require a detailed knowledge of Real Property law, and often turn on the tiniest of details in the rules. Even though Real Property might make you cringe, it can be a great place to pick up points on the bar exam. The very thing that can make Real Property questions daunting—the need to really know the rules—means that targeted studying and memorization can really boost your scores on these questions.
Real Property questions on the MBE make up 25 of the 175 scored questions you’ll encounter on exam day. Within Real Property, the question breakdown is the following:
- Ownership of Real Property: 5-6 questions
- Rights in Real Property: 5-6 questions
- Real Estate Contracts: 5-6 questions
- Mortgages/ Security Devices: 5-6 questions
- Titles: 5-6 questions
Unlike some of the other topics that you’ll encounter on the MBE, the sub-topics in Real Property all carry equal weight. Don’t worry; this could end up working to your advantage: If you’re really not comfortable with, say, mortgages and security devices, you’re still going to pass the exam because the topic doesn’t count significantly towards your overall score.
Let’s look at your overarching approach for Real Property MBE questions, as well as some advice on how to stay collected through the more dreaded Real Property topics (ahem, the Rule Against Perpetuities).
Your Overarching Real Property Approach
Real Property MBE questions can seem intimidating because the fact patterns are convoluted and use vocabulary that’s reminiscent of the 1600’s. But just like any other MBE question, you can use a methodical approach to each question.
On every question, you should analyze it in the same way you would an essay. First, pinpoint the issue or issues that the question is testing you on. Often, you’ll get quick clues within the question’s fact pattern and the call of the question that can help you narrow the issues. For instance, a scan of the fact pattern could include an adverse possession statute, or say that you’re in a race-notice jurisdiction. Use these clues to narrow down the landscape of what the bar examiners are testing you on.
Once you’ve spotted the issues involved, your next task is to pinpoint the legal rule or rules at play. In Real Property questions, this can oftentimes be the most difficult part. Again, Real Property questions are driven by detailed rules. Once you’ve honed in on the rule or rules, it’s time to apply the rule to the facts. Then, before turning to the answer choices, make sure you reach your own conclusion. When you finally move to the answer choices, you can confidently select that answer that most closely matches the conclusion that you already reached.
Handling the Ownership of Real Property Questions
One of the toughest topics tested in Real Property is the ownership of real property category. These questions involve present estates (fees simple, defeasible fees, and life estates) and future interests (reversions, remainders, executory interests, and possibility of reverter). Just looking at having to relearn all of these rules for the bar exam may make you cringe, and we haven’t even gotten to the really dreaded questions: those that deal with the Rule Against Perpetuities, or RAP.
The Rule Against Perpetuities is easy to state, but tough to apply. Under RAP, certain future interests are void if there is a possibility that the interest may vest more than 21 years after the death of a measuring life. In applying the rule, we assume that a person is fertile no matter his or her age. If a portion of a devise violates RAP, the portion violating RAP can be stricken. Figuring out when to strike a devise gives countless students a hard time, so don’t worry if you’re one of them. The key to surviving RAP questions—as well as other ownership of real property questions—is to methodically learn the rules.
Once you’ve got the vocabulary down and are comfortable with the rules, start tackling practice questions. And if you’re still struggling with this question type, don’t worry—it’ll only comprise 5-6 questions on the exam.
Hone in On Your Weakest Areas and Keep Studying
The bar exam is a long road, and it’s easy to hit a rut while you study (and Real Property questions often don’t help). No matter what you do as you tackle the Real Property questions, don’t get discouraged. You want to take note of the answers you get wrong so that you can continue to hone your skills in each particular subtopic. With hard work and diligence, you can turn Real Property into an MBE topic that will boost your overall exam score.