One of the most difficult parts of the Multistate Performance Test (MPT) is the time crunch examinees face. For those who may not be familiar, the MPT is part of the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE), which is administered in many jurisdictions. The MPT places you in the shoes of a practicing attorney, giving you a realistic lawyering situation.
It begins with the File. The File contains a task memorandum from your supervisor assigning you to produce a practice-oriented document (like a memo or a brief). It also contains background material about your client’s situation—interviews, letters, and the like. Instead of sending you to Westlaw or Lexis to research, the MPT helpfully contains all of the legal authorities (statutes, regulations, caselaw, etc.) necessary to produce your final document. This part is called the Library. All told, the File and Library typically comprise twenty to thirty pages of material.
So how much time do you get to read the materials and craft a professional document? An hour and a half. Ninety measly minutes. Not exactly a leisurely exercise, is it?
And here’s the other fun part. Immediately after the first ninety-minute session, you do a second MPT! A new set of twenty to thirty pages of facts and law to review plus a document to produce in ninety minutes. (Note that if you are taking the compressed remote UBE administration this fall, it includes only one MPT.)
So, suffice it to say that on the MPT, time matters. How can you pump out your document in time? Becoming efficient on the MPT starts with knowing where not to put your time.
Don’t spend your time on citation!
Even though the MPT is a simulation exercise, putting you in the shoes of a practicing attorney, there aspects of practice that do not carry over to the test. Citation is one of them. On the MPT, you do not need to use perfect Bluebook citation form. MPT cases are labeled with the parties’ names (e.g. State v. Doe) and the deciding court (e.g. Franklin Supreme Court); they do not contain information about the reporter. Page numbers are included.
However, you are given more information than you need to use in your citation. You should use a quick citation form which shows the grader which source you are citing—that’s it! The MPT instructions specifically state that you do not need to use page references. And from experience, graders do not focus on whether you’ve noted the deciding court.
So, perfectly acceptable citations for the MPT would look like this:
- State v. Jones
- Statutes and regulations
- § 3(b)
- § 55
- 34 CFR § 106.41
Avoid extensive document formatting
MPTs will test a variety of document types. The most common are memos and briefs, but other document types will also appear on occasion. No matter what document type you are assigned, do not spend a lot of time on creating perfect document formatting. Over the years, I have worked with several students who procrastinate pounding out the analysis in favor of creating beautiful captions on briefs.
Can you picture it? The court’s formal name, capitalized, centered. The parties’ names, perfectly tabbed. The long alphanumeric case number, artfully bolded. The close parens ()) running down the center of the page and a horizontal line (creatively fashioned out of underscores (_)), as the word processing software used for examinations is less than sophisticated. A real work of art!
So, when assessing these students’ submissions, after scanning that beautiful caption, my eyes landed on woefully incomplete analysis. These students had run out of time. Don’t be like them. You don’t need to create a caption on a brief, or a fancy header on a memo. Pound out the analysis! Give great rules and incorporate specific facts. After all, it is where the graders focus in assessing your work.
Make that statement of facts brief!
Many MPTs will instruct you not to write a statement of facts. My guess is that the examiners often cut the statement of facts for the sake of the faster, more effective assessment. It is easier for graders to assess legal analysis to determine which examinees meet the minimum competency standard to practice law. It’s harder to determine which examinees have the needed skillset from factual descriptions.
However, a few MPTs include some sort of factual description as part of the assigned task. If you face a task that requires factual description, keep it short and to the point. Again, save your time for analysis—that’s where the graders are likely to focus.
Want to try an MPT that requires factual description? Here are three to consider:
- Vargas v. Monte (trial brief containing statement of facts, administered July 2003)
- In re Marian Bonner (demand letter, administered July 2004)
- Whitford v. Newberry Middle School District (closing argument, administered July 2002)
Cut the Long case illustration
Case illustrations can be a helpful addition to your analysis, especially where there are ambiguities in a rule that are best explained by a precedent case. When I taught legal writing courses, it was not uncommon for my students to produce high-quality, focused case illustrations that spanned six or seven sentences. These illustrations carefully gave the case’s background facts, the legally significant facts, holding, and reasoning. I taught my students to begin each case illustration with a sentence stating the overall takeaway of the case, and, if necessary, to include a similar sentence reiterating the case’s teaching at the end of the illustration.
On the MPT there is not time for this depth of coverage in a case illustration. Focus on providing the legally significant facts and the court’s holding and reasoning. Then, make a quick transition into your analysis. You can also consider simply stating the case’s teaching as a rule statement to save time.
The MPT is a challenge—but with practice and the right tactics, you can get your response written in time.
Need more ideas on how to quicken your MPT pace? Check out these helpful tips on reading the File and Library.