In our last post, we shared that the mean score for the February 2022 administration of the MBE tied a record low. This corresponded to drops (sometimes quite significant) in passage rates in jurisdictions all over the country. What does this mean for examinees studying for July? Those hoping to see their names on the pass list in the fall will need to engage in dedicated and deliberate practice. There aren’t any shortcuts but read on for some counsel on how to bolster your score.
Sidebar: For extra assistance, check out our Mastering the MBE workshop series.
Understand the WHY Behind Your Wrong Answers
Too often, students assume they got an MBE question wrong because they didn’t know the rule. It’s certainly true that the MBE tests esoteric nuances, exceptions, and details you don’t typically encounter on the essay portion of the exam, so it may well be that you got bamboozled by the black letter law. However, this isn’t always the case. There are two other primary reasons we find students miss the mark when it comes to MBE questions.
The first is a reading comprehension issue—you miss something in the fact pattern itself, the call of the question, or one of the answer choices. For example, maybe you missed the fact that the plaintiff was suing the defendant for negligent product liability or the mention that the buyer and seller made their contract over the phone. In these cases, you may well know the rule for negligent product liability and the Statute of Frauds cold, but you simply overlooked the details.
The second is an analysis issue—you know the rule, and you read carefully, but you erred when it came to determining what the question was testing. For instance, you were sure that the question was testing impossibility, but the drafters were really focused on impracticability.
For every question you get wrong, you want to determine the “why” (and note that even if you miss the same question as your student partner, your respective “whys” may be different). This is crucial because the right “fix” will depend on your why.
If you really had a rule problem, make sure to jot the rule down. Add it to your outline or create a flashcard…just be sure to take the time to review it.
If it turns out that you struggled with reading, slow down. Read closely and carefully, annotating as you go.
Finally, if your issue was analyzed, make sure to jot down the trigger facts, so you don’t make the same mistake twice.
Defeat Best Defense Questions
You’ve probably encountered an MBE question that asks about a party’s best defense. We advise you to keep two things in mind the next time you come across a “best defense” question.
First, the best “defense” is always that the other party can’t make out their prima facie case. What does this mean for you? While you should absolutely keep traditional defenses
in mind (e.g. consent, self-defense), think about whether there is an argument that one of the elements of the underlying claim is missing.
Second, when it comes to this type of question, three of the four answer choices clearly won’t be viable defenses. The correct answer will be the only one of the four that is even a possibility based on the facts and applicable law. Your best bet is to rephrase the question to, “Which of the following is the only reason [Party X] may win?”
Need assistance with the exam’s essay questions? Consider the following:
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