Did you get disappointing MBE scores on the bar exam? Don’t worry – you’re not alone. Today we are fortunate to welcome to the Bar Exam Toolbox Sean Silverman, an MBE expert. He will share with you his top five study tips for conquering the MBE. Welcome, Sean!
One of the most common questions I receive, especially in an initial tutoring session, involves coming up with a studying plan for the MBE. I work with many repeat bar exam takers, and, of course, it’s important to modify the studying plan used on the previous attempt. Though my advice varies quite a lot depending upon the unique circumstances of each person, here is a simplified version of the advice that I believe all can utilize when thinking up a plan for preparing for the next MBE.
1. Print out a copy of the MBE subject matter outline on the NCBE website.
This outline will provide you with all testable content, and it’s an essential studying tool. As you learn an area of law, check it off on the outline. Your goal should be to have everything on the outline checked off. Doing so does not mean you are prepared for the MBE, but it does mean you have completed one component of the preparation; namely, learning the law that could potentially show upon on the exam.
2. Begin reading your subject-matter outline in the subject in which you scored lowest on the previous attempt at the MBE.
You want to start with this subject because doing so will allow you the greatest amount of time to review it. As you’re reading the outline, you might consider writing flashcards, or re-wording the content in a way that makes sense to you. Active reading is far more effective than passing reading, so you don’t simply want to read the outline; you want to become engaged in the material in a way that you are thinking carefully about which areas of the outline are causing you the most difficulty. When I work with students I have them write down questions as they are reading their outline. We then discuss these questions during the tutoring session. Even if not working with a tutor, I’d recommend this approach, as it forces you to acknowledge the areas with which you are struggling (as these are the areas for which you’ll write your questions), and working with the material actively in this way is beneficial in itself.
3. Start working through practice questions in each individual area.
Every time you answer a question incorrectly, you should write down the rule of law that could have been used to answer it correctly. What you’re trying to do is glean the general legal principle that the question was testing. That general principle is far more important than the specific fact pattern of the particular question, as the fact pattern won’t show up on your exam, but the principle will. Learn the rule, so that you can apply the rule correctly when it shows up again (and it will).
4. Go back to your outline.
Granted, this can seem redundant, but after doing practice questions in a given area, you will begin to read the outline with new eyes, so to speak. You’ll be reading the law and thinking about how it was tested in the questions, and certain information that might have been glossed over on previous reads will stand out as important now. In addition, start ensuring that you are able to answer those questions you wrote down on your first read, and also determine if there are new questions now that your knowledge about the content has increased.
5. Work through mixed questions, and increase your endurance.
There comes a point (about 3-4 weeks prior to the bar exam) when you’ll want to move away from working through questions in individual areas, and move on to mixed questions. Doing so will provide you with a better indication of the experience you’ll have when taking the MBE. In addition, you should begin to work through full-length, or at least half-length practice MBE exams. This final point can’t be stressed enough. Regardless of how well you know the law, and how well you’ve learned to apply the law, if you become fatigued you are more likely to become careless, and because the distractors (wrong answers) on the MBE are written so well, you are far more likely to choose them if you are not thinking clearly. Build endurance in the month leading up to the bar exam, so that all the work you’ve put into learning the material won’t go to waste.
Sean Silverman is an attorney and instructor for a New York based bar review company. Throughout his time tutoring, he has prepared students for the MBE, as well as the state portion of the New York, and Florida Bar Exam. In addition, he writes a blog providing readers strategic advice for effectively preparing for the MBE, as well as providing an opportunity for readers to ask questions regarding any of the content tested on the MBE. Visit his blog, and email him directly for tutoring inquiries.
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