Remember the MPT

Dear bar studiers: some of you will be tempted to do scant preparation for the Multistate Performance Test (“MPT”) portion of the bar, because it doesn’t require as much memorization as the MBE and the essays. This is a strategic error that can mean the difference between passing and failing the bar first time. Emory Law students, especially, should be able to do well and gain points on the MPT, because of the strength of our legal writing courses and the fact that so many Emory Law students take Contract Drafting and other similar classes.

Take the time now to get familiar with the MPT and how it works. Look at the past MPT questions used on the bar exam you plan to take, whether the Uniform Bar Exam (“UBE”) or the Georgia Bar, which posts past questions and sample answers, to both essays and the MPT, here. February 2020 questions are here. (The MPT parts will be at the end). Most commercial bar review courses offer the option of taking a practice MPT, submitting it, and getting graded individual feedback. Make sure you take advantage of that in time to get and use the feedback, so you can fine-tune your approach.

Prof. Mary Campbell Gallagher, founder of BarWrite and author of books on passing the bar and of a blog on the same subject, gives a detailed analysis, below, of one of the 2018 MPT questions that proved difficult for many bar-takers, including our graduates. She explains what was needed to score well on that question, and how bar-takers may have fallen short, to their cost; most importantly, she suggests how to do better. Because it’s possible to fail the bar exam by one point, you should make sure you are well prepared to grab every point available to you, and I believe our graduates could pick up more points on the MPT with more strategic preparation.

  1. Practice doing the close reading of MPT instructions Prof. Gallagher describes, using real MPT questions, and practice outlining how you would respond to them.
  2. Write out full practice answers to a few, looking for questions that ask for different types of written work product, and compare them to sample answers.
  3. Remember that your answers on the MPT will be graded on your responsiveness to the instructions regarding the task you are to complete, as well as on the content, organization, and thoroughness of your responses.

You may be asked to produce a memorandum to a supervising attorney, a letter to a client, a persuasive memorandum or brief, a statement of facts, a contract provision, a will, a counseling plan, a proposal for settlement or agreement, a discovery plan, a witness examination plan, or a closing argument. You should know what those look like and how to create them with specific reference to the instructions you are given. There are free MPT questions and point sheets from 2010-2015 available here at the NCBE website (scroll down).

Yes, you must do your very best on the MBE and the essays, and that will require memorizing a lot of material, but don’t leave MPT points on the table. Those points count too! Go get them!

Prof Gallagher’s article and analysis:

Bad News on the First July 2018 MPT Task

Some Tips for The Last Weeks before the October Bar

No matter what state’s bar exam you will take in October, it is essential that you complete as much as possible of your commercial bar review course before then. For example, the average completion percentage of BARBRI’s successful bar-takers last summer, July 2019, was about 82%. We advise trying to do more. We also advise that bar-takers aim at having done a total of about 2000 practice MBE questions by the time you take the real thing (that includes all practice questions you’ve done since beginning your bar study). Use the tools your bar course provides to calculate how much time you need to budget daily to finish your work, including — VERY IMPORTANT! — taking the simulated MBE if you haven’t done that yet. And just as important as taking it, you must assess your own performance on it so you can target any subject areas of weakness between now and October 5.

Here’s the recorded Zoom session with Prof. Rich Freer and BARBRI’s Director of Legal Education, Jonathan Augustin, held on Sept. 23: MBE Strategies.

When you review your simulated MBE score, Profs. Riebe and Schwartz recommend analyzing WHY you got any particular answer wrong so you can plan how to do better. They identify four main categories of error: 1) reading comprehension (RC); 2) missed issue (MI); 3) error of law (EL); 4) applied law incorrectly (A). As you review your test results, jot down those letters by each one you got wrong, and identify which kind of error you make most often, then work on improving that skill.

Emory Law graduates, if you weren’t able to attend last week’s session on how to tackle the Georgia essays, plus other tips on the MPT and what you can do to reach peak bar readiness over the next few weeks, that session was recorded and you will find it on Zoom here: Georgia Bar Essays and Other Tips for Readiness. The Powerpoint used during that session is here: 

If you missed last week’s separate session with Georgia’s Director of Bar Admissions, that was also recorded and the recording is available on Zoom: Information about the October 2020 Georgia Bar Exam.

Check communications from the Georgia bar or your bar jurisdiction as to whether you will now be allowed to use any scratch paper during the MPT, as that was a recent change option, but not all states have changed their restrictions.

If this feels like a heavy lift after the long months of delay, quarantine, rule changes, schedule changes, etc. — it is. But this exam is the last obstacle between you and the license to practice law that you’ve all worked so hard to achieve. You’re almost there! You can do this! We are all cheering you on!

Georgia Bar Publishes Details About October Exam

The Georgia Office of Bar Admissions has updated its FAQ section with more details and specific logistical requirements for the remote October bar exam: here. If you plan to take that exam, please review those very carefully, as a failure to comply strictly with all requirements could result in your being disqualified. You all have waited too long and endured too many changes to have that happen in the home stretch!

As set forth in the new FAQ and in an email you should have received from the Georgia Bar this week, laptop registration is now open. It will close on September 18 at 4 pm, so please don’t leave that until the last moment. There is other paperwork you must complete, so do read their email carefully, it has detailed instructions in addition to the FAQ posted. Both are essential for you to review.

The Office of Academic Engagement & Student Success will host a special review session for Emory’s Georgia bar-takers on September 10 at 4 pm, on Zoom, to discuss how to tackle the open-book Georgia law essay questions. Check your Emory email for details and a link.

Take good care of yourselves, the light is showing at the end of the tunnel. 

New York, Illinois Will Give Remote Bar Exam in October; Other States Confirm Diploma Privileges

The ABA Journal has published the following summary today to reflect more changes announced by bar jurisdictions yesterday:

In light of public health concerns, Illinois and New York have joined the growing list of states that canceled in-person bar exams, with plans for an October remote test offered by the National Conference of Bar Examiners.

Ohio and New Hampshire made similar announcements Wednesday, as did TennesseeWashington, D.C.Massachusetts and New Jersey during the month of July. Maryland is also offering the NCBE October exam, which the state announced in June.

Additionally, Louisiana announced on Wednesday that the state would be offering diploma privilege for candidates who graduated from an ABA-accredited law school no earlier than December 2019.

According to the NCBE’s website, Utah, Oregon and Washington are also offering diploma privilege.

Georgia Supreme Court Replaces September Bar Exam With Online Exam in October

student with head down on desk

Chief Justice Harold D. Melton announced this afternoon that the Supreme Court of Georgia has canceled the in-person Georgia bar examination scheduled for Sept. 9-10 at the Georgia International Convention Center: https://www.gasupreme.us/online-bar-exam/. Due to public health concerns during this pandemic, and concerns specifically for bar-takers’ safety, an online exam will be administered Oct. 5-6 in its place.

Atlanta, July 20, 2020 – Chief Justice Harold D. Melton announced today that the Supreme Court of Georgia has canceled the in-person Georgia bar examination that was scheduled for Sept. 9-10 at the Georgia International Convention Center. Due to public health concerns during the pandemic, an online exam will be administered Oct. 5-6 in its
www.gasupreme.us

It is expected that the October exam will use most of the same materials from NCBE that other jurisdictions will use for online bar exams in October, but with Georgia law essays as usual instead of Multistate Essay Exam questions. All the subjects that were previously identified as eligible for testing are still potential subjects on the October exam, for the MBE, the MPT, and the Georgia law portions. Although the exam will still be given over two full days, the exam itself will be shortened.

If you were previously registered to take the September exam, our information is that the bar plans to roll over your registration, but make sure to follow all official instructions and announcements from the Office of Bar Admissions itself. If you had previously decided to wait until February 2021, but would now like to take it this October in the online format, it is likely you will get a chance to register for October, but that window may be brief, so keep checking the bar admissions website, below.

Details will be forthcoming at www.gabaradmissions.org. If you are already registered, look for further direct communications to you from the Georgia Office of Bar Admissions, which will also post answers to Frequently Asked Questions on that website later this week.

New York Cancels September Bar Exam

The New York Board of Law Examiners has cancelled the upcoming September administration of the New York bar exam:
 
*New July 16, 2020 *

UPDATE REGARDING THE SEPTEMBER 2020 BAR EXAMINATION:

In light of accelerating public health concerns and continuing governmental restrictions, the Board of Law Examiners has concluded that an in-person bar exam cannot be safely administered on September 9-10, 2020. Participants’ health and safety must remain our top priority and, because conditions have not sufficiently improved, the September exam has been cancelled. Please continue to monitor this website for updates regarding the New York bar exam. Additional information can be found in the Court of Appeals’ statement, available here.

When a determination is made as to a future exam, the Board will announce how the application fees paid by candidates currently registered for the September exam will be handled.
 

Tennessee Cancels July Bar Exam, Keeps Fall 2020 Exam

Confused law student

The Tennessee Board of Law Examiners announced that the Tennessee Supreme Court had issued an order today canceling the July 28 -29, 2020 administration of the Uniform Bar Examination in Tennessee:

Although stringent public health and safety protocols were planned for the administration of the July 2020 examination, the potential benefits of administering the examination do not justify the risk of assembling groups of people in limited space for a multi-day examination, when another examination will be administered in Tennessee in two months.

The Court order cited the recent increase in confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Tennessee. Yesterday, Tennessee reported the largest single day increase in new COVID-19 cases. In the last week, all three locations for the July 2020 exam, Knoxville, Memphis, and Nashville, posted their highest single day increase in confirmed COVID-19 cases. Some of the largest increases statewide have been among people aged 22 – 35, the age group of the majority of those scheduled to take the bar examination. The Nashville mayor announced today a major reversal in the plans to reopen the city.

The Tennessee Supreme Court and the Board of Law Examiners are acutely aware of the toll the ongoing pandemic is taking on bar examination applicants and are committed to administering the Uniform Bar Examination in 2020, while making every effort to minimize the risks associated with the spread of the COVID-19 virus. All applicants for the July 2020 examination who have not been determined ineligible for the examination or who have not already transferred their application to the February 2021 examination should expect to sit for the fall examination in Tennessee, to be conducted September 30 – October 1.

“Applicants to the Tennessee bar are afforded broad permissions to practice pending admission and can begin working immediately upon graduation, drafting documents, meeting with clients, and appearing in court. Applicants can continue to practice even if subsequent examinations are affected by the national healthcare crisis,” said Bill Harbison, President of the Board of Law Examiners.  “We understand that this has been a difficult time for recent law school graduates and the Board is committed to making the Uniform Bar Examination available to all July 2020 applicants before the end of the year, absent any new “safer at home” orders or other significant changes.” A copy of the order can be found here.   Complete COVID-19-related bar examination announcements can be found here.

Florida Cancels July Bar Exam, Will Hold Online Exam in August

In the ongoing saga of changes to this summer’s bar exams, Florida announced today that it will not administer its bar exam in July, as previously scheduled, but instead will administer an online bar exam in August. The July date is canceled.

The online August exam will take place on August 18, 2020. Among other details shared in its press release, the Florida Board of Bar Examiners has said:

The August 2020 Bar Examination will consist of 100 multiple-choice questions and three essay questions and may cover any subject that is traditionally tested on Part A or Part B of the General Bar Examination. Any subject may be tested by essay, multiple-choice, or both. • For the August 2020 Bar Examination cycle only, applicants will not be required to take the Multistate Bar Examination to establish technical competence. A scaled score of 136 on the August 2020 Bar Examination and a passing score on the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination will be sufficient.

The Board also announced that it “will extend the deadline for applying for test accommodations under the ADA relating to the online format to July 10, 2020. Test accommodation petitions under the extended deadline must be received by July 10, 2020. No further extensions will be granted.”

If you plan to take the Florida bar exam, be sure to read the entire announcement and go to the website of the Florida Board of Bar Examiners for details and updated logistics, including deadlines.

 

7, 13, or 16 Weeks To Go?

Like so many things this summer, bar readiness is confusing right now. You know it’s essential to plan ahead and stay focused on studying for the bar exam, but how to do that when 1) important public events are deeply disturbing and distracting; and 2) for the first time any of us can remember, there are at least three four different scheduled bar exam dates already; and 3) who knows what more might change? (Just as I published this post, the District of Columbia announced it was canceling its September bar exam date and would give a remote exam in October that would not provide a transferable score).

First, the crucial public events and protests. Many of you may have taken part already, more may take part in coming weeks. Please remember that you are already uniquely equipped to fight for justice, if you’re studying for a bar exam: you have a law degree. Only about .5% of the adult US population has that education. Meaning only about .5% of the adult US population has that kind of power to effect change through our legal system. To wield that power, you have to pass the bar. So your success this summer or fall on the bar exam may be one of the most valuable contributions you can make, long-term.

Second, whether you will take a bar exam in late July, early September, or late September, here are some things to keep in mind, at this point in the summer:

Here again is a recording of the MBE Overview program Professor Rich Freer did for us last year: MBE Overview-Prof. Freer 1-30-19. It’s a good reminder right now, as you continue to work in your commercial bar review courses, of his excellent advice. The MBE Subject Matter Powerpoint shown onscreen in this recording is also available on this blog, under Online Learning Resources (above), with the other MBE Subject Matter outline Powerpoints I created for these faculty-led sessions. They are drawn directly from the MBE Subject Matter Outline document on the website of the National Conference of Bar Examiners.

If you will take a bar in July, you now have seven weeks until the bar exam. It may be helpful to look again at those outlines occasionally, to see how the sub-topics within each major subject on the MBE relate to each other, while you continue to do practice MBE questions regularly in sets to test your knowledge. Don’t freak out if your results look worse when you do “mixed sets” of questions in different subject areas, as opposed to “blocks” of questions in one subject like Torts, or Contracts. That is normal, and part of the learning process! Don’t give up on doing the mixed sets — push through the challenge and keep doing them, knowing that you probably won’t score high for a while. Mixed question sets are a very effective way for most students to learn material, especially for an exam like the MBE where you won’t know what subject a given question is testing until you try to answer it. Doing them over an extended period of time, instead of cramming all the practice in at the end of your bar study, is also an effective learning strategy.

If you will take a bar in September, you have the opportunity to spread out practice questions even more, and use principles of “spaced repetition.” As we said two weeks ago in our first online “Bar Study Hall”, it is critical to be using this time wisely, and you should have in place now a written plan for how your personal study schedule will proceed, all summer. Use the gift of extra weeks to do more practice questions and better self-assessment on all parts of the bar exam: MBE, MPT, and essays.

Forced retrieval”, which is what you are doing when you give yourself practice questions and tests, is a highly effective learning technique. Remember that it’s not the initial results you get that matter, no one else is watching! What matters is the process of making yourself answer questions, over and over, and then reviewing your results to understand what you got wrong and how to answer correctly next time. Active learning, retrieval and practice always win over passive “recognition” (re-reading and re-watching material you’ve seen before, without then testing yourself on it). It is well-established that adult learners learn best when their activities are “meaningful, active, motivating, and significant.” Your effort to pass the bar is meaningful and significant, to yourself and to others. Keep it active and stay motivated!

Third, no one knows for sure what this summer may bring in terms of COVID-19. That’s just the reality of life right now, including for the jurisdictions and public officials who administer bar exams. So while it really is essential to have a written personal study plan and schedule, write it in pencil. You might have to change it because of personal circumstances unique to you, or because the jurisdiction where you plan to take the exam has had to change something. Stay up-to-date on your jurisdiction; the National Conference of Bar Examiners updates its summary of jurisdiction information at least weekly, if not more often.

Finally, keep taking good care of yourself. The ABA has provided some great online resources, including this video/audio recording: “Self-Care and Mindfulness in the Age of COVID-19.” The ABA Law Student Division also has lots of good resources and guidance for tackling the project of studying for the bar exam.

It has been a very challenging spring and this summer promises more challenges. Try to remember how important your ultimate goal is, for you and for others, and keep your eyes on that prize — a license to practice law. Stay safe, and stay well!

Featured image from www.law.com.

New York Bar Gives Priority to New York Law Schools

The New York Board of Law Examiners announced last night that its bar application and registration process will now give priority to applicants from the law schools located in New York:

Our efforts to seat as many candidates as possible remain ongoing. To that end, the Board of Law Examiners has been in contact with representatives of New York’s fifteen law schools, who have generously offered their facilities to accommodate test-takers. We remain hopeful that, with the assistance of these valued partners, it will be possible to administer the September exam in a safe and responsible manner.

However, given current conditions in New York – including ongoing public health concerns, social distancing guidelines, and limitations on large gatherings – it is clear that our seating capacity for the September exam will be sharply limited, and therefore the Board likely will not be able to seat all applicants who wish to take the exam. As a result, the application process for the September exam will proceed on a rolling basis as space permits. From Tuesday, May 5, 2020 at 12:00 A.M. through Friday, May 15 at 11:59 P.M., applications will be accepted from any J.D. or LL.M. candidate who is sitting for the bar examination for the first time and who has graduated (or will graduate in Spring 2020) from one of the fifteen law schools located in New York State: Albany Law School, Brooklyn Law School, University at Buffalo School of Law, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Columbia Law School, CUNY School of Law, Cornell Law School, Fordham University School of Law, Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University, New York Law School, New York University School of Law, Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University, St. John’s University School of Law, Syracuse University College of Law, or Touro College Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center. Registration will remain open for the duration of the May 5 to May 15 application period and priority will not be given based on the date a candidate registers within that period.At the close of the first application period, the Board will assess available seating in light of existing health and safety guidance. If seating remains available, the Board will then open the application period to a larger pool of candidates.

Given the constraints caused by the public health crisis, candidates are strongly encouraged to consider sitting for the UBE at a later date or in other jurisdictions that may be better positioned to accommodate test-takers. While our efforts to maximize seating are ongoing, the health and safety of all participants must remain our top priority.

Please continue to monitor this website for updates.

If this leaves you wondering where to take a bar exam instead of New York, you can consider taking it in other UBE jurisdictions, some of which offer “courtesy seating” for bar takers who won’t be applying for admission to that state’s bar. The NCBE Bar Admission Guide has a list of those states that was up to date at the time of publication several months ago. Given the rapid changes in jurisdictional processes recently, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is vitally important that you check on a jurisdiction’s official bar website as to whether that option is still open and how to apply for it. The NCBE is also posting jurisdictional updates here: NCBE COVID-19 Updates. This blog is not designed to keep up with such rapid changes and does not purport to address all 50+ bar jurisdictions.

If you have a job offer that you have accepted or will accept, it is suggested that you contact that employer and ask if the employer has a preference for any particular alternative jurisdiction if you are unable to register for your first choice, presumably the jurisdiction where the employer is located.