How to Study for the MPRE: What & When of Effective MPRE Prep

You heard it’s easy to study for the MPRE… But how easy?

The MPRE (Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam) is an important part of the process of becoming a licensed attorney. It tests your knowledge of professional ethics and responsibilities related to the practice of law in the United States. 

Yet another exam?! I know, right? You have the bar exam, the MPRE, the NYLE (New York Law Exam) if you’re in New York, the Patent Bar if you want to work with patents… Not to mention all those finals you’ve taken in law school.

Well, let’s get the MPRE out of the way. The silver lining is that it’s not as hard as the bar exam.

Three-prong approach to studying for the MPRE

The best way to study for the MPRE is to review the material, solve practice questions, and review the answers to see “what is ethical.”

Reviewing the material: Start by familiarizing yourself with the content that will be tested on the exam.

Find resources such as an MPRE book or outline, an MPRE course (bar prep providers often offer one for free), and MPRE practice tests and questions so you can become comfortable with the rules and the types of questions that will be tested on the MPRE.

You might wonder whether you need to memorize all the rules exactly, but you likely have an intuition about ethical conduct as a lawyer, especially if you take a professional responsibility course in law school. Solving practice questions and seeing how the rules play out is the best way to know how to answer the questions.

Solve practice questions: You can find this with MPRE outlines or MPRE prep courses. Barbri has a free course here. I suggest doing at least 200-400 questions to learn what is tested and how it is tested.

One trick: “When in doubt, pick the second-most ethical choice.” In other words, does the choice you select describe professional conduct that ISN’T Jesus level but is reasonably ethical and beneficial to clients not dishonest? Sometimes (not always) common sense can lead you to the right answer if you’re in a pinch.

Review the answers: This is at least as important as measuring your performance with the questions (as it is with the MBE on the bar exam). Review each practice MPRE question. If you get a question right, see why you got it right (not just out of luck). If you get a question wrong, see why you got it wrong (so you have a better chance of getting it right next time).

Finally, when it comes time for the actual test day, make sure you are well-rested and arrive early so there’s time to find parking and calm yourself before you begin. Even though this is a relatively minor exam, Passing this exam is necessary to becoming an attorney.

How is the MPRE scored?

The MPRE has 60 multiple-choice questions over 2 hours which are scored on a scale from 50 to 150.

Each jurisdiction sets its own passing score and may also set other requirements for admission to practice law. The scores are usually sent out within four weeks of taking the exam and can be used as part of an application for admission to practice law in some jurisdictions.

Here are the scores required to pass in each jurisdiction:

86 California, Utah

85 Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Virginia, Washington, Wyoming

82 Tennessee

80 Alaska, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Missouri, Montana, New Mexico, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia

79 New Hampshire

77 South Carolina

75 Alabama, Washington DC, Georgia, Mississippi, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania

Wisconsin doesn’t require the MPRE.

When do you need to take and pass the MPRE?

Most states require that you take the MPRE before you can be admitted to practice law.

For example, in California, applicants must pass the MPRE within two years prior to applying for admission. States may have different requirements, so check with your state’s bar authority to find out when you should take the MPRE.

The MPRE is offered three times per year. It’s usually administered in March, August, and November.

It’s a good idea to plan ahead and take the MPRE earlier rather than later so that it won’t interfere with your studies for the bar exam. Many law students take the MPRE sometime in their 2L year after taking a professional ethics course in law school.

Do I have to take the MPRE in order to become a licensed attorney?

Yep. In order to become a licensed attorney, you must take the MPRE exam. Even if you have already passed the bar exam and filed your licensing application, you will not be able to become a licensed attorney without taking the MPRE.

When should I register for the MPRE, and how do I register?

To register for the MPRE, you should begin the registration process at least 2-4 months before your desired exam date. You will need to create an account with the NCBE (National Conference of Bar Examiners) and pay the associated fee ($150) as part of registration. Follow the steps on this NCBE information page.

There are separate deadlines if you’re seeking accommodations, which you can find in the link above.

After registering, you will receive an email confirmation with instructions on how to access your registration information and schedule your exam. Keep track of all relevant registration information in order to ensure a successful test experience.

How long do you need to prepare for the MPRE?

“I studied over the weekend, and I was fine. LOL!”

Don’t listen to these people. Everyone’s different. The MPRE is not as difficult as the bar exam, but you still want to take it seriously.

Start at least the month before the exam to review the outline, go through the questions, and study the answer explanations as outlined above. If you find it easy, great, at least you’ll know instead of scrambling the weekend before.

Ultimately, give yourself time to do and review at least 200-400 questions. This could take 20-35 hours total, which is a leisurely week or a few hours on Saturdays and Sundays over the course of a month.

Can I take the MPRE after I take the bar exam?

If the procrastinator inside of you wins, you can take the MPRE after you take the bar exam. The downside is that you might be exhausted after the bar exam. The upside is that it won’t be nearly as hard as the bar exam.

Can I just study using the test questions NCBE has available on its website?

Well, the NCBE does have resources available on its website that can be helpful when studying for the MPRE. These resources include free sample test questions and paid practice exams. Check out their MPRE study aids for purchase here. More information about preparing here.

But as noted above, bar review courses often have free MPRE materials like outlines and questions. You may want to check those out first, like Barbri’s free MPRE review course.

For what it’s worth, I failed the MPRE in California with a score of 84 the first time I studied with Kaplan and passed with in the 90s with Barbri. (By the way, I don’t recommend Kaplan Bar Review either.)

Everything you need for MPRE review

Here’s the summary of what you need to prepare for and pass the MPRE:

  • Register and pay the fee at least 2-4 months before the exam.
  • Source materials like outlines and practice questions. Barbri has a free MPRE outline and a free MPRE course (which may come with an outline). Your preferred bar prep course may have one too.
  • Time to prepare. Start looking at the materials at least a month in advance to gauge how much time you need to study 200-400 questions. That includes the important part—reviewing the answer explanations. Give yourself 20-35 hours for the preparation.

If you’re gearing up for the bar exam, I have plenty of resources for it here at Make This Your Last Time.

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