As the February bar exam is now past, it is time to look forward to July. Many 3Ls have nervously registered for the exam and are likely paying for their commercial bar review courses. You may have even received some bar exam materials in the mail. As you unpack book after book, you may start to feel a bit overwhelmed, which is completely normal. This raises the question for many 3Ls around the country: “What can I do to study now?”
Start learning about the performance test.
Whether you are in California where it is called the performance test (and lasts three hours) or you are in another jurisdiction that tests using the Multistate Performance Test (MPT)( lasting 90 minutes), you should start learning about this part of the exam. How do you do that?
Check out past performance tests.
For those sitting for the California bar exam, the bar publishes entire exams starting in 2007 including high scoring student answers. For those studying for a jurisdiction that uses the MPT, go to past MPT packets here (from the NCBE).
If you have never seen a performance test before, take a moment right now to download one. There really is no reason not to. Why wait until the last minute to check out what this part of the test looks like?
But the exam is still months away!
This is true, but here is a secret—the performance test does not require you to know any law whatsoever. None. Zip. Nada. That is the beauty of the performance exam. You don’t need to know any law to be successful. You just have to be experienced at taking the performance test. And you gain that experience through practice.
How is it that it doesn’t require knowing any law?
The performance test is designed to simulate an assignment you would get at a job as a new associate. You get a “task memo” from your supervising attorney, review a “file” (a bunch of facts), and a “library” (a bunch of law). You then need to put all of the pieces together to complete the assignment presented in the “task memo.” That is it? Yup, that is it.
So what makes the performance test so difficult?
I think the performance test is challenging for some students for a few reasons:
- Not following the directions or doing the task asked of them.
- Not managing their time well.
- Not writing in a clear and concise way.
- Not focusing on analysis (too many rule statements). Remember what makes us lawyers is learning to apply facts to the law.
Many of these issues can be overcome with practice and feedback, however. This is great news, because at this point you have plenty of time to practice. You still have months before the exam to work on these tests.
But won’t I forget how to do the performance test if I study for it early?
My students actually tell me that they feel like learning to do a performance test is a lot like riding a bike. You need to do the practice to get comfortable with the exam- taking approach and to get familiar with the different types of tests typically administered by your jurisdiction. But once you have “figured out” the performance test, you are typically good to go. You need to do a bit more practice to keep up your skills, but this can free up valuable time during the preparation period to study the mountains of law necessary to be successful on the exam.
What if I am working while studying?
If you are working while studying, you want to consider starting with the performance test and then move on to studying the essays and the MBE. Studying for the performance test early will help balance out your study time, as you get closer to the exam.
Have any questions? Please leave them in the comments.
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