Multistate Performance Test (MPT): To Be Welcomed, Not Feared
The Multistate Performance Test, or MPT, is the portion of the Bar Exam that should be welcomed, not feared. In Uniform Bar Exam (UBE) administered states, the MPT portion of the Bar Exam accounts for 20% of your total Bar Exam score. This is a good thing. By achieving a high score on this portion of the exam (a very realistic goal), it can mitigate any potential shortcomings in the other areas of the exam, the MBE and MEE portions leading to a passing score.
“The MPT is the only portion of the Bar Exam where you do not need to know any law.”
The MPT is designed to test an examinee’s ability to complete a task that a new lawyer should be able to accomplish after completing law school. In essence, you will need to analyze a set of facts or laws and articulate a response in a given format. The facts, the laws, the research, the format, are all given to you by the NCBE. You must simply “perform” and complete the task in the allotted time.
When you open your MPT booklet, you will see two things, a File and a Library. The File contains the instructions of the task you are to complete. Examples of these tasks include:
- A memo to a supervising attorney listing your opinion of how the law applies to your firm’s client’s particular set of facts
- A demand letter you must write to opposing counsel
- A persuasive brief or memorandum to a judge
- A discovery plan
- A letter to a client
- Closing arguments
This is far from an exhaustive list, but it gives you an idea of how you will be tested. Other documents in the File may include facts about your client’s case and prior research or advice from your “firm” about your client or the case.
The second set of documents in your MPT booklet is the Library. The Library contains all of the legal authorities needed to complete your assigned task. Some of these legal authorities are actual cases, regulations or statutes, others are fictitious, and some may be authorities that have been modified in some way.
First, as in everything we teach at EBP, we stress TIME MANAGEMENT. You cannot, we repeat cannot, go over 90 minutes per MPT question. This includes whether you are in a UBE jurisdiction where two MPTs are administered or in a jurisdiction where only one MPT is administered per Bar Exam. Going beyond 90 minutes per MPT question will cause you to severely lose points as you are rushed or you are unable to complete other MEE/MPT questions. You need to time yourself and cut yourself off at 90 minutes. Trust us, the additional points you may obtain by going over 90 minutes on a MPT question will be far outweighed by what you loose on other written questions. By practicing MPT questions ahead of time, you can come to a better understanding of where you need to be in completing the task (whether writing or reviewing the file or library) at any given time.
Second, read the File first. This will give you a better idea of what you are looking for in the Library.
Third, as you review the Library, write down on your scrap paper every case, statute, or regulation referenced in the Library. This does not mean only the legal authorities that are headlined in the Library. Often, a case will appear in the opinion of another case. You must mention both cases. Failure to do so will cost you points. Also, we hope you have had no previous exposure to the legal authorities or issues in the Library or File. Often, the MPT is completely at odds with real life established law. That is the point of the MPT. You are analyzing the law and facts at hand, not what you have memorized previously. Even if the MPT is wrong, you must treat it as correct law and analyze accordingly.
Fourth, when you have reviewed the File and the Library, you should begin to write. You should plan ahead of time when you will begin to write, we suggest at the 30 minutes mark. You need to get something down on paper around that time. The first thing you should write is the format. You MUST complete your task in the format assigned by the MPT. We have heard countless stories of people who got zero points on the MPT because they completed the task their way. The NCBE, your local state bar examiners, or even us do not care where you went to law school, what big law firm you interned at, or how your method of completing the assigned task is better. Its the NCBE’s way or the highway. If you wish to fail the Bar Exam, the easiest way to do it is to not used the assigned format called for by the MPT. In the MPT, the File will include the instructions to the assigned task and often an example. Copy that example. Before you begin to write your analysis, outline, or anything else. You should complete the form letter with the conclusion at the end. If your task is a demand letter, make sure you write “For the reasons above, this letter demands you to ….”. The amount of points you obtain just from using the correct format with a conclusion are tremendous and quite easy to obtain.
Fifth, you should complete a very brief outline before you write your analysis. Type it in your answer so you can see it and follow it as you complete the task. Make sure that outline lists every legal authority in the Library. If a legal authority is in the Library, its most likely there for a reason. As you complete the task, remove the portion of the outline that relates to it that you have typed in the answer. That way you are sure you mention all the necessary legal authorities in your answer.
Lastly, a significant portion of examinees will never practice an MPT prior to taking the Bar Exam. This can be a very costly mistake. You need to become accustomed to the time constraints of the MPT. Professional Bar Exam takers who work with national bar prep companies often cannot finish MPTs in the allotted 90 minutes. You need to become familiar with how to review the File and Library and how to structure your answer to the format required by the MPT.
Obtaining a high score on the MPT can be the difference between passing and failing the bar exam. We have provided sample MPT answers in our previous article on free resources. You can find that link here: Free Resources
As always, if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask in the forum and we will do our best to help. Good Luck!