After three or four or more grueling years of studying law, are you already a lawyer? The answer is “no” in virtually every state in the United States because you must pass the Multi-State Bar Exam (MBE) before you can be awarded the honor of putting “esq.” behind your name. That shouldn’t be too difficult since you’ve been studying law for literally years, right? You’ve read the cases, you know how to file stocks, you’ve reviewed the bylaws until the wee hours of the morning, you know how to take an essay test as well as anyone. Now you face the MBE.
The MBE is a different kind of creature than the tests and exams you took in law school. You will be presented with 200 multiple choice bar exam questions. You have to answer them in a single day for six hours of testing. They will cover multiple areas of the law, including the Uniform Commercial Code. You will know in advance what areas in general will be covered, but that still includes a large swath of material. In short, to succeed in the bar exam you have to study!
Because the bar questions cover so many subjects, most test takers enroll in a bar exam preparation course. The advantage of an organized course over a self-study program is that the instructors and course designers are adept at predicting what the exam is likely to cover. MBE questions can be tricky and a good study program will also help students prepare for those moments of doubt – is it “b” or “d”? General skills for multiple-choice exams and the ability to recognize patterns and deduce probable answers are also useful by-products of intense study of the barre exam.
Another important preparation tool is the MBE practice exam. Accustom students to the flow of questions as they move from topic to topic. By practicing, students can also establish strategies to cope with problems during the test:
1) what to do if you get distracted, tired or scared;
2) if you can trust the old advice that your “first answer is probably correct”; and
3) What subject areas are the weakest? With the help of an MBE practice exam, you can focus your study efforts in the right places.
Finally, on the day of the multi-state bar exam, it is important to walk into the room feeling prepared and confident. Nervousness is the enemy of success in a test like this. The stakes are very high. However, keep in mind that a single test failure does not preclude your legal career. You can take it again if necessary. In fact, many law firms have a policy of allowing a new attorney hired immediately after law school to take the multi-state bar exam at least twice. So while the stakes are really high, give yourself the comfort of knowing that you can come back. However, if you are well prepared, you will most likely get it done quickly the first time!