For those of you not already familiar with the Uniform Bar Examination, as explained on the National Conference of Bar Examiners’ (NCBE) website, the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE) is a uniformly administered, graded, and scored exam composed of the Multistate Essay Examination (MEE), two Multistate Performance Test (MPT) tasks, and the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE). The test is administered over two days, with the MEE and MPT given on the first day (which is always a Tuesday) and the MBE given on the second day (which is always a Wednesday). While the NCBE scores the MBE component of the UBE, jurisdictions that have adopted the UBE grade the MEE and MPT components themselves. The scores are weighed as follows: the MBE is 50%, the MEE is 30%, and the MPT is 20% of your total UBE score.
If you’re wondering how you are graded on each section and what UBE graders want to see when grading your exam, here are some things to remember with respect to each of the test’s sections:
The Multistate Essay Examination (MEE)
The MEE section consists of six 30-minute essay questions that may test you on one or more of the following areas of law: Business Associations (Agency and Partnership; Corporations and Limited Liability Companies), Civil Procedure, Conflict of Laws, Constitutional Law, Contracts (including Article 2 [Sales] of the Uniform Commercial Code), Criminal Law and Procedure, Evidence, Family Law, Real Property, Torts, Trusts and Estates (Decedents’ Estates; Trusts and Future Interests), and Article 9 (Secured Transactions) of the Uniform Commercial Code.
This section is designed to test your ability to:
- Identity legal issues;
- Demonstrate an understanding of the applicable legal principles at hand;
- Separate relevant and irrelevant material;
- Analyze the legal issues in a clear, concise, and organized manner;
- Set forth a probable solution to the issues at hand; and
- Complete all essays within the time limit
If these tested skills remind you of your old law school buddy IRAC, then you are absolutely correct! As explained more fully in another post, just because you are leaving law school doesn’t mean you leave IRAC behind you.
Therefore, your ability to respond to the call of the question (the issue and sub-issues at hand) is of paramount importance to your graders. No matter how eloquent your writing, you will not get a passing score for addressing legal issues, setting forth legal rules, or reaching legal conclusions that don’t respond to the call of the question.
Similarly, clarity is king. Unlike what your professor may have done for you on your law school exams, the UBE graders don’t have time to review your answers for buried rules, analysis, or conclusions. They’re skimming. This means you should (1) use headers (which act as signals for the grader), (2) break up your text into shorter paragraphs when possible (which are easier for graders to review quickly), and (3) pre-plan your answer before you begin writing (which results in more structured answers that are easier for your grader to navigate).
The Multistate Performance Test (MPT)
The MPT section consists of two 90-minute items that require you to perform one or more of a variety of lawyering skills, such as writing a memorandum to a supervising attorney, a letter to a client, a persuasive memorandum or brief, a statement of facts, a contract provision, a will, a counseling plan, a proposal for settlement or agreement, a discovery plan, a witness examination plan, or a closing argument.
Unlike the MEE and MBE, the MPT doesn’t test your substantive knowledge! Rather, it tests your ability to use fundamental lawyering skills to complete a task that beginning lawyers should be able to accomplish. Specifically, this section tests your ability to:
- Sort detailed factual materials and separate relevant from irrelevant facts;
- Analyze statutory, case, and administrative materials to pull out applicable law;
- Apply the relevant law to the relevant facts in a manner likely to reach a conclusion;
- Identify and resolve ethical dilemmas, when present;
- Communicate effectively in writing; and
- Complete tasks within the time limit
Because the MPT attempts to mirror real life situations, the materials in each MPT’s File and Library may include relevant and irrelevant facts or facts that are sometimes ambiguous, incomplete, or even conflicting!
Like with the MEE, graders only have time to skim your answers to see if you included the applicable facts, rules, and analysis and whether you reached reasonable conclusions based on those three things. Much like the “rule dump” doesn’t work for the MEE, the same can be said for the MPE. I have seen students trip up by including mini briefs of the applicable cases or large block text without any explanation. These kinds of actions will not result in a passing score, even if your answer is organized with stronger headers! The graders want to see (1) an organized answer (2) that sets forth the applicable legal rules with precision and (3) ties them to the legally significant facts (4) in an organized structure that (5) reaches a conclusion only after steps (1) – (4) have been satisfied.
The Multistate Bar Examination (MBE)
The MBE section consists of two hundred multiple choice questions (175 scored and 25 unscored questions) that test you on Civil Procedure, Constitutional Law, Contracts, Criminal Law and Procedure, Evidence, Real Property, and Torts, with 25 questions for each of the seven subjects. This section is designed to test your ability to:
- Read carefully;
- Identity legal issues;
- Demonstrate an understanding of the applicable legal principles at hand, including legal nuisance (such as exceptions and exceptions to those exceptions!)
- Choose the best answer, often times out of many correct or seemingly correct answers
- Answer all questions within the time limit
Eight great tips for mastering law school multiple choice tests are in another article, but are equally useful for the UBE. However, unlike some law school exams you may have taken, you should never leave an answer blank on the MBE. A wrong answer will not lose you points, but a blank answer robs you of a 25% chance of guessing correctly. Also, remember that this is a multi-state test. If a question sets forth a theory of liability or minority rule that is contrary to the law of your jurisdiction, apply the law as given in the fact pattern. Finally, test tricks that may have worked for you on multiple choice questions in college or even law school will not work on the MBE, so don’t use them! For example, don’t guess “C” just because you have five “B” answers in a row and didn’t want to choose B for the sixth time.
Passing the bar isn’t easy, but with hard work and dedication you can do it! You can find more information about preparing for the UBE on the NCBE’s website or by speaking with one of our qualified tutors.
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