The MPRE can be tricky – there’s no denying that! So, what’s the best way to approach answering MPRE multiple choice questions? Apart from rigorously studying for the exam, you can answer MPRE questions according to a formula. This post will provide you with a step-by-step formula on how to analyze and answer MPRE multiple choice questions in a way that is both effective and efficient. Although running through these steps on the questions will take some getting used to, remember that practice always makes perfect!
1. Read the Call of the Question First!
Reading the call of the question first is critical, and there are two types of questions you may see. A general call of the question is, “Is the lawyer subject to discipline?” For general calls of the question, the prevailing ethical issue the question is testing should spring to your mind as you read the fact pattern.
A specific call of the question is, “Is it proper for the attorney to represent both parties in the contempt proceeding?” Specific calls of the question tell you what ethical issue the question is testing, and in this instance, it is conflicts of interest.
2. Read the Fact Pattern Carefully and Actively
On the MPRE, you have two minutes to read each question, answer it, and move on. This means you have to have a really good grasp on the ethical rules and understand how to apply them so that you can respond relatively quickly. So, what does that mean for you? It means you need to know what to look for.
Always pull out the ethical question a particular fact pattern is raising. For example, say a question involves a lawyer’s representation of multiple parties. The ethical issue from those facts would be: Can the lawyer represent all of the parties in light of a potential conflict of interest?
There are special facts you want to look out for in the fact pattern. First, pay special attention to statements about the lawyer’s or the client’s state of mind. In many ethical rules, the validity of the lawyer’s conduct depends on whether he or she knows or believes something. His or her knowledge or belief will determine whether some act on his or her part is mandated or prohibited. Second, pay attention to the lawyer’s motivation when he or she acts or fails to act. Just as the extent of an attorney’s knowledge can determine the validity of his or her behavior, so too can his or her reasons for undertaking, or failing to undertake, the behavior. Thus, you should always make special note of the reason for an attorney’s actions.
Third, and possibly most important, disregard distracting facts and pay attention to the lawyer’s behavior. One of the most common ways the examiners try to trick students and distract them from the correct answer is to “fix” the rule violation with a good outcome, client consent, or the fact that the attorney or judge would have done things the same way even if there was not a potential breach of ethics. These are ALL distracting facts – we care about what the lawyer’s behavior was – NOT the outcome!
3. Choose the Best Response
First, always eliminate the answer choices that are without a doubt, absolutely wrong. This means that the most important skill you can apply to the MPRE is to perceive when an answer is wrong. Here are some general tips to understanding why an answer choice is wrong on the MPRE:
- If you know the right answer for sure, ignore these principles. If there’s no question in your mind that one answer is correct, choose it and move on!
- Eliminate any answer choices you know are wrong, and concentrate on the remaining ones. In many cases, you will immediately recognize that at least one and perhaps two of the answer choices are wrong.
- Always remember that at least most of the answer choices will draw on the same issue. What makes the MPRE difficult is that the answer choices seemingly resemble one another. That leads to one important rule when you’re taking the MPRE: in general, if there is a single answer option that seems VERY different from the other options, it’s probably not the best answer.
- Analyze the ways in which a particular answer can be wrong. There are a lot of clues to concluding that an answer is wrong. An answer is wrong IF:
- It misapplies a rule of ethics to the facts. This is the most common type of distractor the examiners use!
- It misstates the ethics rules. This is also a common trick!
- It misstates or deliberately confuses the facts.
4. Consider a Tutor for the MPRE
A tutor can give you the tips and skills you need in order to combat the examiner’s tricks on the MPRE. Tutoring for the MPRE helps students not only understand how the Model Rules of Professional Conduct are tested, but also how the structure of the MPRE works. A tutor can help you understand the facts of a problem and how they trigger particular ethical issues and can help you always choose the best response.
Although the MPRE is becoming more difficult, there are ways to combat this difficulty. Following this question approach, and getting the help from a tutor to refine this approach, can absolutely lead to success on this exam!
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