The MBE is probably the lever that will move your bar exam result the most.
Yet we see that training when it comes to the MBE is sometimes shoddy and not really there. We LOOK like we’re trained, and you very may well be, but the actual exam experience is different from the simulations.
When you’re actually on the hotseat, you’re automatically less good at the things you’re normally good at on a day-to-day basis.
“We don’t rise to the level of our expectations; we fall to the level of our training.”
I don’t want you to find out that you actually weren’t training well as you fall to its level on the real thing. Instead, I want you to pass the MBE (and the bar exam) with flying colors.
To that end, here are my five rules for passing the MBE:
1) Quality > quantity
The learning happens between the questions, not during.
Doing a question is like getting on the scale. Reviewing the materials and reinforcing your understanding are the work you do between the scale readings.
This is critical feedback and self-critique that you do between the scale readings. This helps you change your approach, change your understanding, and ultimately improve.
This is different from merely getting on the scale every day hoping things change without eating less or exercising.
I’d rather have you master 1,000 questions than do 3,000 and learn nothing.
2) Be consistent
Let’s say you do and review 20 questions a day. Reviewing the explanations and your source material should take at least as long as doing the question. For example…
20 questions * (2 minutes to do a question + 3-4 minutes to review) = 100-120 minutes
This is only about 2 hours a day at most, or 1 hour for every 10 questions. Not bad! Let’s keep this pace as our baseline. Now you have hella time left over to do other things.
Let’s do the math, assuming 12 weeks of study:
20 questions/day * 84 days = 1680 questions total
A good amount.
But then say you’re “not motivated,” or you do it when you feel like it, or you get burned out, or life gets in the way, or you take a few days off here and there.
Let’s say you end up cracking open the questions five days a week on average:
20 questions/day * 60 days = 1200 questions total
1200 total ain’t bad, but this is a pretty big blow to the original number and probably straying from your goal. Also, you’ll feel the friction every time you try to start back up after a day of break. This might lead to even more days off as momentum wanes…
What if you don’t feel like doing questions on those off days—but still do at least one question a day and use the momentum to increase the number of questions (just five more) on the other days?
(25 questions/day * 60 days) + (5 questions/day * 24 days) = 1620 questions total
This is almost as many as the original 20 questions/day pace. If you keep going at it consistently, the numbers will add up.
Of course, if you wanted to, you could just increase the number of questions per day in the first place and get through even more.
But even when you don’t feel like it, try to do at least one question. MBE questions are quick to do, are easy to jump into since you’re at least familiar with the subject matter, and test important subjects that also appear on essays.
So, establish a routine. A question a day keeps the NCBE away.
Wait, didn’t you just say quality > quantity? I never said quantity wasn’t important.
3) Track your “win rates” by smaller categories, and use this data to target your weaker areas
It’s entirely possible that you’re awesome in one subject yet not so much in another, and your overall percentage doesn’t reveal this.
“I’m hitting 70% correct,” you say, “I’m on the way to passing the MBE and passing the bar exam.”
Generally speaking, yes. But what if you’re getting 90% in Criminal Law and 40% in Criminal Procedure? What if you’re getting almost all hearsay questions wrong?
How would this translate to your essay performance if those weak topics show up there?
These weak areas are low-hanging fruits you could slap into shape and raise your overall score that way.
4) Practice with real MBE questions
For obvious reasons. You can also supplement with simulated questions (written by professors or lawyers) if you want more to do. But avoid relying exclusively on them.
Ideally, you use questions with the format currently being used. Older questions have different types of calls. See for example:
I go more into the difference between older and current styles, and how the NCBE recommends NOT using questions with outdated formats here.
5) Redo the questions
Simple enough. But powerful and overlooked.
I go more into more detail in Passer’s Playbook.
So where do you go to hit all five of these rules?
These supplements all use licensed MBE questions at least:
Emanuel’s Strategies & Tactics for the MBE
- Broad coverage of testable issues with excellent explanations and subject-by-subject primers
- Most budget friendly
- Fewest questions (~700)
AdaptiBar ($40 off with code—grab one here)
- Uses (almost) the entire universe of licensed questions (older ones will be retired next year, btw) + 214 simulated questions (1,972 questions total)
- Least budget friendly
- Explanations relatively lacking (good if you already have a sense of the law and want to expose yourself to broad types of questions)
UWorld MBE QBank
- Uses the 1,375+ newest selections of licensed questions + hundreds of simulated questions in the current MBE format (1,800+ questions total)
- Budget friendly
- Visual, intuitive explanations (great for visual learners or for looking at a concept in a different way to reinforce the material)
“That’s so many choices…”
If you want to make the wrong decision, listen to everyone. Everyone has an agenda or circumstances that may not align with yours.
So trust yourself, and decide based on your own needs given the evidence. Other people will recommend whatever suits their agenda.
If you’re not sure where to start, I would personally start with Strategies & Tactics and add on AdaptiBar or UWorld as needed. You can always add either later instantly.
Or if you’re already set on either AdaptiBar or UWorld but not sure which one to get, check the comparison here.
Again, look at what I’ve laid out above, and listen to YOUR needs, not me! (If you want me to tell you what to do, that’s what a consultation is for.)
These are all excellent resources that I’ve curated. You can pass the MBE using one or all—but only if you start.
Start implementing these strategies. Start using the tools designed to help you learn the material and the patterns.