While many students often choose to underestimate the MPRE, the test can pose its own challenges and pitfalls to the uninitiated. The MPRE is designed to measure the knowledge and understanding of established standards related to a lawyer’s professional conduct. So, it is important to understand and appreciate the structure, format, and content that makes up the MPRE. Here are 10 quick tips to help you succeed on the next administration of the MPRE:
Learn the rules before doing practice questions. Many students make the mistake of simply diving into practice questions when they start studying for the MPRE. The problem with that approach is that you are essentially applying rules of law that you don’t yet fully know and understand. Start with the appropriate materials to learn the rule of law in a more organized and cohesive manner. Make sure to focus on things like keywords. Also, watch out for words such as “may” and “must” because they denote the mandatory vs. permissive connotation. Lastly, be sure to focus on rules where a client can give informed consent and that waive any potential ethical issues.
Learn the MPRE keywords and phrases. After you review and complete a number of practice questions, it will start to become apparent what keywords and phrases are important to focus on. Learning keywords and phrases will allow you to recognize certain aspects being tested and what the examiners are looking for.
Spend more time on highly tested topics. Remember, the MPRE is comprised of 50 scored questions (and ten unscored questions). Within those 50 questions, some topics make up a larger percentage of questions than others. For example, questions dealing with attorney-client confidentiality make up 6–12% of questions, which means 3–6 questions. The most highly tested subject on the MPRE are conflicts of interest questions, which make up 12–18% of the total questions. That’s 6–9 questions on that subject alone!
Use real MPRE questions. The MPRE is written and administered by the NCBE and they have released questions for purchase. Real questions will be the most similar to what you will see on the exam because they were all created by the NCBE. Real practice questions will allow you to come across fact patterns, complexity, length, rules, and structure all similar to what you will experience on the actual MPRE.
Do questions slowly and methodically. Don’t worry about timing yourself at the beginning of MPRE practice. It’s important to take the time to dissect questions and understand what is being tested and how it is being tested. After you answer a practice question, go back and see what facts were important and what facts were red herrings. Another great idea is to go back and explain to yourself why other answer choices were wrong, as this demonstrates an understanding and knowledge of the subject.
Focus on the lawyer’s actions in the fact patterns. Remember that this test is designed to test the actions of lawyers. Many times, questions will present you with fact patterns that revolve around non-lawyers taking a certain action. It may be a paralegal, an accountant, a client, etc. The examiners are not testing whether the non-lawyer’s actions are unethical, so be sure to look carefully at what the lawyer is doing.
Try and answer the question before looking at the answer choices. While it may be a natural reaction to immediately start skimming the answer choices after reading a question, slow down. First, read the facts and the call of the question. Second, stop and ask yourself what you think the answer is. Third, see if you can explain to yourself why you believe the answer is what you think it is. Lastly, see if your answer is amongst the answer choices.
Eliminate incorrect answer choices. This is a simple piece of advice that can have hugely beneficial results. This tip ties back to the emphasis placed on memorizing rules. Better memorization equals a better chance at identifying wrong answers.
Don’t pick the “no harm, no foul” answer choices. While these answer choices may appear harmless, they are generally wrong. Essentially, these answer choices state that because no one got hurt, the lawyer’s actions should not be subject to discipline. This is typically incorrect because the rules governing legal ethics are in place and operate irrespective of whether anyone got hurt or not.
Don’t forget about exceptions to rules. Sometimes, a misleading answer choice will state the general rule of law and it may sound correct. Be warned! While the general rule of law may indeed be correct, don’t forget to check whether any applicable exceptions to the rule apply.
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