For many folks engaged in bar prep, the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE) is the most difficult part of the bar exam. It’s also the most critical part for everyone but those taking the exam in Louisiana (the only state where they don’t include the MBE). Here’s Crushendo’s latest compilation of MBE tips, tricks, and strategies to help you pass the bar exam.
Our Top Tips to Crush the MBE
Tip #1 – Competence before practice
There’s nothing that will stress you out more than doing practice questions prematurely and getting demoralizing score after demoralizing score.
Tip #2 – Study the right subjects
What are the right MBE subjects?
Civil Procedure, Constitutional Law, Contracts, Criminal Law and Procedure, Evidence, Real Property, and Torts—and each matters equally.
Tip #3 – Study the right content
What is the right content? The NCBE—the company the makes the UBE—actually tells you. No, the NCBE does not spell out the actual laws tested but it does give you the sub-topics within each subject that could come up. And the NCBE gives you the rough exam emphasis of each MBE sub-topic.
Hopefully, you find a bar prep course that addresses the NCBE-specified sub-topics and gives the appropriate emphasis. If you’re using Crushendo, you can take confidence in knowing that Crushendo’s outlines are structured to closely mirror the NCBE’s outline structure. Though Crushendo starts each MBE outline with the most emphasized subject and then works through the others from there and sometimes adjusts organization in other ways for pedagogical purposes, while still covering the bases.
The MBE is like walking into seven closed-book multiple-choice finals, back-to-back-to-back.
Tip #4 – Use accurate prep materials
You’re asked to know the current, generally applicable law. Though free outlines abound online, make sure you’re using something from a credible source that maintains its material.
Tip #5 – Use mnemonics
Mnemonic is just a fancy word for memory hook.
The MBE is like walking into seven closed-book multiple-choice finals, back-to-back-to-back. Unless you have a near photographic memory, you’re going to need a way to string everything together. This is why Crushendo uses hundreds of memory hooks. If you don’t use Crushendo, try to make your own mnemonics.
Tip #6 – Use flashcards
Use flashcards or have a friend quiz you or both. Before you test your application of knowledge by taking actual practice questions, you need to test your knowledge through flashcards or something similar to help things gel. This is why Crushendo provides not just online visual flashcards, but audio flashcards, affectionately called CrammerTime.
Tip #7 – Listen
Listen, listen, listen. Listen to your outlines over and over while doing what you enjoy. You cannot sit at a screen all day. Especially during a beautiful summer day or if you’re taking the winter bar, when you could be on the ski slopes. It will crush your soul. If your bar prep course does not have audio outlines, buy Crushendo’s or record your own. Audio outlines are that valuable.
Tip #8 – Chunk it up
Start by studying one subject at a time, one sub-topic at a time.
Think of studying for the bar like building with Lego bricks. You don’t half assemble a dude and then half-build a wall and then half-build a car. You build in chunks or everything becomes a heap of chaos. Memory is like that, too. Crushendo’s audio outlines are broken into roughly 5-minute tracks, that you can listen to on repeat, before trying to memorize the next track. If you record your own outlines, make sure to break your recordings into digestible, repeatable chunks.
Tip #9 – Practice with subject-specific questions
Once you’ve memorized an outline for a subject, take some subject-specific practice questions. This will help you confirm competence before moving to another subject and further aid in chunking—putting information in the right buckets in your brain.
Tip #10 – Regularly review material
Regularly review memorized material. Regularly means at least weekly.
Tip #11 – Use reliable practice questions
The NCBE—again, the company that makes the UBE—also sells practice questions. They‘re invaluable. Crushendo has a licensing agreement with the NCBE to use all its practice questions. You can buy directly from the NCBE or from a place like Crushendo.
Tip #12 – Leave no question behind
Wrong answers hurt as bad as blanks.
Tip #13 – One for one
Choose only one answer per question. If you select multiple, you get no points. Period.
Tip #14 – Choose the best answer
Choose the best answer—don’t hunt for the perfect one. You only need the best answer.
Tip #15 – Nail your timing
102 seconds. That’s how much time you realistically have per MBE question. Technically, you have 108 seconds, but shaving off six seconds will give you ten minutes of flex time during each three-hour session. Your bladder won’t have to explode, diarrhea won’t destroy you, and you may even be able to double-check some answers.
Crushendo’s timed practice quizzes train you to keep the 102-second pace.
On exam day, flag questions 35 and 70. Get through 35 in the first hour and you’ll be right on track. Then try to get through 70 in the second hour. If you take a break during the second hour, just make sure you finish 70 by two hours and ten minutes into the exam.
Tip #16 – Look to pass
Passing, not perfection. Your target should be around 70% correct on practice MBE questions. Obviously, higher scores won’t hurt, but you should feel pretty confident if you’re sitting in the 70s.
Tip #17 – Avoid absolutes
The law rarely “always” or “nevers.” Answers suggesting a black and white world are usually red flags.
Tip #18 – Evade the unfamiliar
Test writers like to make up new Latin terms, rules, and exceptions. If you’re reasonably competent in an area, odds are that anything that sounds completely unfamiliar is an evil trick.
Tip #19 – Rule out easy non-answers
If a question is tough, rule out the easy non-answers. If you narrow it down to two possible right answers, just pick the first one and move on. If you’re too much of a perfectionist on tough questions, you can burn time and sabotage odds on the easier ones.
Tip #20 – Obvious does not mean wrong
Just because an answer seems obvious does not mean it’s wrong. Sometimes a question can mess with your mind by being a little too easy.
Tip #21 – Follow the facts
Remember, right answers don’t contradict the facts.
Tip #22 – Read carefully
The devil is in the details. Read fast but carefully. Normally, every word matters. If two answers feel correct, odds are you misread part of the question.
Tip #23 – Issue before facts
Read the actual question before the facts. This will help you read the facts with an eye for what actually matters.
Tip #24 – Dissect your mistakes
When you miss a question, figure out why.
Tip #25 – Stay centered
If you feel like the floor is falling out, take a deep breath and clear your mind before pressing on.
Tip #26 – Simplify the Choices
If you’re faced with a yes-because-no-because type of MBE question (which are quite common), and you have a strong feeling that the answer is yes or no, only read those two answer choices and ignore the other two. You don’t want to be distracted or tempted by the other two answer choices.
Tip #27 – Use Common Sense
Part of common sense is not overthinking it.
One last general word of advice that applies to all three parts of the bar exam. Make time for family, friends, and even service. Don’t obsess about the bar or yourself. If you keep your life in balance, yes, it’s possible that you’ll fail the bar. But at least you won’t fail at life. And frankly, you’re more likely to fail the bar if you’re failing at life, so keep a healthy and happy balance.
Crush the bar exam
With these bar prep tips, you can be prepared to crush the bar exam!