Recent MBE Changes and the Importance of Using Updated Questions

Here is another guest post.  This one is from Dina Allam at MicroMash.  This is very timely and useful information about recent changes to the MBE portion of the bar exam.  Take it away, Dina ...

The Multistate Bar Examination (MBE) is notoriously one of the most feared aspects of the bar exam.  It certainly was for me.  It was the only time in my life 6 hours didn’t seem like enough time to finish an exam.  Every second counts on the MBE, and two minutes can make the difference between passing and failing.  I drank a Red Bull during lunch break to help me stay focused.  It had its payoffs (I believe drinking Red Bull helped me pass the bar) and its consequences – I had to rush to the restroom after lunch because I didn’t want to “waste too much time.”  Because there is so much pressure on the MBE, a better name might be the mental endurance test.  No matter what you call it, it’s important that you fully understand the MBE before you take it.  Over the next few months, you’ll have the pleasure of getting to know the MBE as well as I did or maybe even better.  

The MBE is the 200-question, 6-hour, multiple-choice portion of the bar exam administered on the last Wednesday in July and February.  Since the MBE tests content that is important to beginning the practice of law, the NCBE (National Conference of Bar Examiners) drafters evaluate questions on their relevance and credibility to beginning practitioners.  In recent years, the MBE has undergone many changes to become more consistent in style and format, resulting in more concise questions.  MicroMash Bar Review wants students to be aware of the several changes to the format of MBE questions that the NCBE announced and put into effect starting with the July 2009 bar exam:
  1. There will be no “none of the above” or “all of the above” answer choices.
  2. There will be no hypothetical fact-based answer choices (options that include “if” or “unless” statements which change the fact pattern).
  3. Common nouns will be used in lieu of proper nouns when practical (e.g., “a painter,” not “Pat” or “Painter”).
  4. There will be no “K-type” questions (Roman numerals in complex answer choices, e.g., I is true, but II and III are not true).
  5. One question will relate to a single fact pattern, instead of a series of questions that relate to one fact pattern.
In addition, the language in the answer choices will be parallel.  That is, the test taker will have options comparing similar elements, such as four different causes of action or four defense theories, etc., rather than comparing an answer choice that has a cause of action to one that has a defense theory.
Here is an example of a “K-type” question you will no longer see on the MBE (or at MicroMash)!

What does this all mean?  In the end it really means only one thing: you should no longer be using MBE practice questions in the old format.  One of most oft-repeated pieces of advice regarding bar exam prep (and MBE prep in particular) is to practice as many MBE questions as you can, making sure to do those questions in as close to realistic test conditions as possible.  That means answering practice questions in a timed environment whenever possible.  It means finding questions that, on par, are about as difficult or as tricky as those you’ll see on the MBE.  Most importantly, it means answering only MBE questions that reflect the new question format!  Studying and practicing for the MBE with updated question formats will prepare you for the actual MBE and simulate what you’ll see on exam day.  It will also help you accurately score yourself and keep track of how much time you need to plow through the examination.  

There are plenty of options available to assist you with bar prep (and MBE prep in particular).  Do yourself a favor and verify with your bar review company that their MBE practice questions are up-to-date with the current MBE question format standards.  The last thing you want is to show up on July 28th and see questions that don’t look familiar!

MicroMash is one of the bar review companies that has updated its questions to the current MBE format.  We excluded “K-type” questions, our fact patterns no longer have multiple questions, and our answer choices have been updated so that there are no “none of the above” or “all of the above” choices in the options.  

Visit our blog at for up-to-date “MBE Questions of the Day” starting Friday, May 28th, 2010, to help you study for the bar exam.  In the meantime, stop by for other bar exam tips and tricks!
For more information on the recent changes to the MBE, please read “Recent Changes in NCBE’s Multiple-Choice Examination Programs” by Beth E. Donahue of the NCBE.

Dina S. Allam, Esq.
Academic Director, MicroMash Bar Review


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