You normally take the Multistate Performance Test (MPT) on the afternoon of the first day of the bar exam (some states reverse the order and have you do the MPT before the essays). It’s worth 20% of your total score. The MPT has two 90-minute tasks. Unlike the multiple choice and essay portions of the bar exam, you don’t need to memorize substantive law to rock the MPT. Each MPT task has you prepare some sort of legal document, like a letter, memo, or brief. You get the specifics of each assignment in a memo from your hypothetical supervising attorney. To tackle the task, you get a “file” of client-related information and a little “library” of potentially relevant laws. The heart of the challenge is analyzing lots of data and creating a coherent work product in a short time. The heart of the solution is practice.
MPT Tips & Tricks
Tip #1 – Practice, practice, practice.
- During your first one or two practice questions don’t worry about speed. Just get oriented to the MPT process and lingo in a low-key, but thorough way.
- After that, practice under timed conditions to improve pacing. Once you can handle one MPT task in 90 minutes, try doing two, back-to-back, just like exam day.
- As with MBE and MEE questions, practice using real MPT questions.
Tip #2 – 50/50. Or, if we’re talking minutes, 45/45. There’s no restriction on how you divvy up your time, but a rough target is half and half. Half the time scouring the file and library for answers and creating a basic outline. Half the time drafting the actual work product.
Tip #3 – Remember: Monkeys Steal Fancy Rings, which reminds you what to read when.
- Monkeys – Memo.
- Steal – Statutes.
- Fancy – Facts.
- Rings – Rest of library.
Tip #4 – Read each memo twice. The memos explain the required work product and give you the information you need to decide formatting and whether to have an objective or persuasive tone.
- Start each task by skimming its memo. Then immediately go over it again with a fine-toothed comb while outlining the basic headings to create a rough template.
Tip #5 – Read the statutes twice.
- Most of the time, the statutes will give you the basic laws you need to tackle your task. Add pertinent parts of the statutes to your template where they’ll be helpful.
- What if there are no statutes? Then read anything else that’s code-like, like constitutional provisions, regulations, or codes of conduct.
- If there are only cases, skim them to find their basic rules. You’ll come back for nuances in a moment.
Tip #6 – Search the file for relevant facts. Keep the memo and statutes (or other basic laws if there are no statutes) in mind as you review the rest of the file. Stick relevant facts in your outline by related sections.
Tip #7 – Use the rest of the library to mine for gold. Much of the stuff you dig through will be dirt; your shovel should strike quickly and toss it aside. But here and there, you’ll hit a nugget of gold—a detail about what a relevant statutory element or factor actually means, or a way to analogize and distinguish your client’s facts from prior cases. As you find helpful nuggets, put them in your outline by the related statutory provisions and client facts.
Tip #8 – Remember: Franklin is fake. Don’t assume any real law that you’re familiar with applies in fictitious Franklin, the hypothetical jurisdiction for MPT questions. Rely entirely on the library for the law.
- Sometimes, statutes and cases might sound familiar, but read them carefully, assuming nothing.
Tip #9 – Remember: UROC. To the extent logical, use the same UROC structuring that you use in your MEE essays on the MPT, rather than staying addicted to CRAC or stuck on IRAC. Quick refresher on UROC:
- UROC stands for upgraded issue, rule, operate on the facts, and conclusion. Watch our writing tips video to learn more.
Tip #10 – Simple citations. Put supporting statutory or regulatory section numbers and shortened case names. Don’t waste time on page numbers and formatting. Save as many keystrokes as possible.
Tip #11 – Look both ways. Whether you’re creating an objective or persuasive work, look at the issues from both sides. Addressing counterarguments will boost your score.
Tip #12 – Mention relevant ethical issues. You want to show that you can be a competent attorney and competent attorneys are proactive in raising any issues that should affect a supervisor’s decision-making.
Tip #13 – After drafting, reread the memo to make sure you did not miss anything substantive.
- Normally, you should not proofread or tweak technical issues unless you’re finished with the substance of both MPT assignments and you still have time to spare.
Tip #14 – Avoid paralyzing, priority-perverting perfectionism.
- Your drafts will be just that: drafts. They won’t be your best work product. And that’s okay.
Tip #15 – Type faster than 50 words per minute. If you cannot comfortably type at least 50 words per minute, consider taking a typing course. Some good free ones are available online.