The Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (“MPRE”), is required for bar admission in all but two states. The test is two hours and consists of 60 multiple-choice questions on professional responsibility and proper judicial conduct.
Students usually refer to the MPRE as easy, but a better descriptor would be very do-able. You will pass this test, but that does not mean you won’t have to study for it. I know of several of my most capable and intelligent friends who failed on the first go around, always because they labored under the assumption that they did not need to study. Check out Lee’s 5 Tips for MPRE Success for a nice run down of what you’ll need to do to pass.
Most students take the test in their last year of law school, but this foregoes using the test to maximum benefit. (Taking the test in your 3L wouldn’t harm you but won’t particularly benefit you either, if you are a 3L check out this post on how best to study). The better path is to take the test in your 2L year for three reasons.
Practice for a Professional Ethics Class
Failing the MPRE has about zero long-term repercussions (besides having to give up another Saturday to sit for the test). There is no failure notation that follows you around. What does follow you around is your grade in the Professional Responsibility class most law schools requires you to take.
Most study guides recommend taking the test after or concurrently with a Professional Responsibility class, but the truth is most Professional Responsibility class does not prepare you for the MPRE. Ethics teachers are usually more interested in theoretical ethical dilemmas, or the gray areas of particular ethic rules. The MPRE on the other hand, is a straightforward application of rules in a narrow multiple choice format.
Rather than follow convention wisdom, take the test before your Professional Responsibility course. As pointed out in “Tips for Using Facts on Final Exams” knowing the legal rules is usually only the first step to doing well on a law school exam, so why not spend a week learning them thoroughly for a low stakes test before sitting down with a PR casebook. Remember, if you fail the MPRE, no one knows, but getting a solid grade in a PR course is a nice addition to your transcript.
Testing Out Bar Material
The MPRE is a great way to test out different bar exam providers’ bar review courses. Many services send out free studying materials. Take a look at the Easy and Cheap Ways to Study for the MPRE for a nice run down on getting materials.
Use the materials to learn about the system used. Not just the system of how to study, but also the entire experience, do you like using the websites? If there is a lecture – does the lecture interest you? And importantly, how are the sample questions helping you learn the material? When you eventually choose your prep course you will be much better informed of what works best for you.
Use the MPRE to Shape Your Bar Study
The principal reason to take the MPRE in your 2L year, and before you take a Professional Responsibility class, is to learn, in a low-stakes way, what it is like to learn a completely new subject using a bar course studying method.
I was told by bar study organizations that if you were doing well in your courses it was not an imperative to take bar course. However, during the bar I learned this advice is much too broad, getting a top grade in a particular subject doesn’t mean you’ll be able to master subjects you’ve never been exposed to, particularly in a much shorter timeframe, and using a much different method.
So use the MPRE as a test run. Did learning the material from your free study materials feel effective? Did you struggle with the material absorption? How was your anxiety level heading into the test? Did you pass? With a little self-reflection you can come to realize whether you will struggle with the subject you weren’t exposed to and having taken the test in your 2L year, you can adjust your schedule in your 3L year to expose yourself more subject tested by the Bar.
The MPRE sometimes freaks students out; it’s their first exposure to Bar like testing. This includes taking the test outside of your law school, around people you have no familiarity with, with Bar like rule (no phone, no snack, etc.). The good news is the test itself is much easier, much less stressful than the bar exam, and is very do-able. If you treat it right, it can be a useful tool in making the actual bar exam go a little bit smoother.
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And check out these helpful posts:
- Strategies for Using Your 2L Year to Distinguish Yourself
- The 2L Slip: Academic Success (Or Lack of Success)
- The 2L Slip: Balancing On-Campus Interviews and Extra Curricular Activities
- Podcast Episode 61: Making the Most of Your 2L and 3L Year
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