The Multistate Bar Exam Is Just Like Dating


Both the Multistate Bar Exam (MBE) and the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE) differ from multiple-choice exams you have taken in the past. Unlike the traditional multiple-choice exam where you simply pick the right answer, the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) has devised a different kind of multiple-choice, called a “best answer choice” exam. That means you can expect to see each question followed by four imperfect answer choices. Your job is to pick the “best” choice from among those presented.

With Valentine’s Day upon us, it got me thinking that the multiple-choice portion of the bar exam is a lot like dating. When you enter the dating world, you start off with an idealized vision of your perfect mate. But you quickly discover that such a person does not exist (with the exception of my own wife, of course – Happy Valentine’s Day Honey!). So instead of looking for the “right” person, you begin to look for the “least wrong” person for you. Over time, you figure out how to quickly eliminate obvious wrong choices from consideration. Eventually you settle for the one that most closely resembles what you were looking for, without falling for bad choices disguised as good ones.

How will you know when you found the right one? In dating, you may never know if there is someone better around the corner. Fortunately, on the bar exam, you are limited to only four possible choices and you must choose one. Since this is a process of elimination, once you have eliminated the bad choices you can safely choose the remaining option with confidence and live happily ever after (which is more than I can promise in my dating analogy).

To help guide you in your decision-making process, here are some situations to watch out for as you begin your search for the perfect mate and/or bar exam answer choice:

1) Watch out for choices that are wrong for you. In dating, the qualities that make a person right for someone else, may not be the same qualities you are looking for. Similarly, an MBE answer choice may contain a correct statement of the law, but it may not be law that is applicable to your fact pattern. So make sure that the reasoning behind the answer choice is responsive to the call of the question. A choice can only be correct if it matches what you are looking for.

2) Watch out for choices that are not as they appear. If you are dating someone and you start to notice inconsistencies between the way they describe themselves and what you observe, that person may be overstating or misrepresenting the qualities that attracted you to them. Similarly, if an MBE answer choice has obvious flaws such as misstatements of the law or facts, you can be sure that it is not the choice for you.

3) Don’t assume facts. For instance, if someone drives a nice car, don’t assume that they are wealthy. That car may be the only thing they own, or maybe it’s not even theirs (maybe they borrowed it from their mother). Similarly, on the bar exam, do not assume facts that are not there. The facts that you need in order to answer the question are going to be given to you. So you must rely on those facts alone. Any choice that requires you to assume facts not given, is probably an attempt to deceive you into making a bad choice.

4) Don’t let yourself get seduced. On the bar exam, as in dating, you must consider your choices carefully. There are concepts that seem as though they ought to apply to a wide range of fact patterns, but they actually have no application to the fact situation in question. For instance, in Constitutional Law questions, the Privileges and Immunities Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment sounds as if it should make a variety of laws unconstitutional. However, that is not the case, which is why it is an attractive, yet often wrong, MBE answer choice.

5) Don’t base your choice on the wrong reasons. Sometimes you can find yourself presented with a viable choice but find that you are choosing it for the wrong reasons. For instance, if you meet someone who drives a nice car, has a steady income, and makes a good impression on your mother, you might continue to date that person even after you realize that you are not compatible with one another. Similarly, on the MBE, you might be presented with an answer choice that states a correct response to the call of the question, but that bases that response on faulty or incomplete reasoning. While you may be drawn to such an answer choice, it may not be the best choice available to you. Be sure to compare it to other potential answer choices. Remember that there are plenty of fish in the sea.

I hope that the above advice will help you in your search for love AND the correct answer to every MBE question you encounter. Happy Valentine’s Day!