“Where can I find practice multiple choice questions?” is the single most asked question I receive by students preparing for their exams.
It seems rare for law schools to provide vast resources of practice multiple choice questions for students, and this can cause unnecessary stress and pressure on students when preparing for their exams. Oddly, this is despite the fact there is an increased importance on your MBE score to pass the bar exam. Although finding quality multiple choice questions for 1L and 2L classes is increasingly difficult, the importance of mastering multiple choice test taking skills has never been higher.
To ensure success in law school and on your first bar exam attempt, you will want to practice multiple choice questions early and often. However, rather than turn to supplemental materials, I highly recommend students draft their own multiple choice questions for practice as it is a great way to actively engage the material. Preferably, this is done in a group where other students can practice by answering your questions and also analyze your questions for discrepancies.
So why write your own questions?
Well, it is immensely difficult to create valid multiple choice questions and by drafting practice questions, you will have a stronger understanding of the subject matter and will better anticipate distractor answers on your real exams.
There are two major challenges to writing quality multiple choice questions:
- Multiple choice questions require very specific facts, and any modification to a legally significant fact can change the entire outcome of a question. This makes questions immensely difficult to modify since there can be so many unintended consequences for the professor.
Professors prefer to use vetted and previously tested questions because the question’s integrity is less easily challenged. This also contributes to why previous exam questions are not released, as professors want to reuse questions.
In fact, a slight change to the facts can completely change the outcome of question. For example, a question may ask, “after receiving a valid offer, Buyer responded to Seller, “that might work, but what do you think about $1,000 instead of $1,500.” This is likely an invitation to deal, not a rejection and counter offer because of the soft language of Buyer’s response.
However, if the response is changed to, “that might work, but my boss will not approve anything more than $1,000,” this constitutes a rejection of the original offer and a new counter offer from the Buyer because of the certainty in Buyer’s response. There is a subtle nuisance to multiple choice questions that is important to master. Simply put, different students will interpret ambiguous facts differently, and this is something a professor must account for when creating quality multiple choice questions.
- Multiple choice questions have subjective, not objective determinations. Law school multiple choice questions test more than the just the elements of a rule, or the application of the facts, they require students to apply that rule to a specific situation. This requires the student to understand the grader’s subjective perspective.
For example, a torts question may ask the student to pick the stronger claim between a battery claim and an intentional infliction of emotional distress claim. This forces the students to make a judgment call to determine at what point does “harmful and offensive contact” rise to the level of “extreme and outrageous” behavior. On an essay, the student would be able to explain why he or she is interpreting the facts a specific way; this may be different than the professors’ arguments, but the student can earn credit for those arguments if they are grounded in sound legal reasoning. On a multiple choice question, you are forced to make a distinction without explaining your reasoning.
Addressing all the legally significant facts in a neat, 200-word package is very challenging for the reasons described above. Fortunately, drafting your own multiple choice questions is a great way to both overcome this issue and prepare for multiple choice exams.
To create your own questions, the drafter must posses:
- A complete understanding of the relevant rules and area of the law.
- An understanding of how subjective facts will be interpreted and why.
- An understanding of distractors answers and why some answers are “better” even though multiple answers are technically correct.
As discussed above, these are all skills you need to master in order to succeed on a multiple choice exam because they are critical to creating the question in the first place; Creating your own questions is a great way to reverse engineer that practice. When you understand the focal point of a multiple choice question, picking the “best” correct answer is much easier.
You should practice the skill of drafting your own questions until dissecting multiple choice questions becomes second nature. Remember, it is important to have the right mindset when studying for exams, and creating practice multiple choice questions is no exception.
After completing a question, share it with your study group for additional scrutiny. Any differing interpretations of facts or analysis create excellent discussion points to help students synthesize the materials. Remember to keep in mind our tips for mastering multiple choice questions as you answer the practice questions.
The point isn’t to create perfect questions on the first try, but rather to help familiarize the student with the traps, tricks, and nuisances to these types of questions. Creating your own questions is also a great discussion leader during office hours with your professor as it shows an attempt to engage, rather than just memorize the material.
As with anything in law school, active learning will impact a student’s grade more than passive learning so be proactive about practicing multiple choice questions by drafting questions yourself. This active engagement will pay off on your final exam and eventually when you start bar prep by helping more precisely interpret facts and applying the law.
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