MBE Study Tips – Part 1

Now that we have discussed the sections of the UBE and why studying for this exam will be wayyyyyyy1yyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy different than studying for law school exams, it’s important to discuss HOW to study for each of these sections. Ultimately, everyone will find what works for them which may differ by person, but there are some important tips to know before you even begin your preparations. Let’s talk about a few of those.2Before we do, if you haven’t read my previous posts about the UBE, stop here and go read them now. Seriously. Go. This post may not make sense unless you do. I will wait patiently here until you are done. First we will tackle the MBE which I have broken into two separate posts because there is just that much knowledge to impart on you. You’re welcome. 

(1) Practice from Day 1: If you read my last post3Which you should have per my last footnote. you will know that studying for the Bar Exam is very different from studying for your law school final exams. Instead of outlining and trying to memorize your outlines,4Some of which you will still do when preparing for the Bar Exam. the best way to study and reinforce the law for the Bar Exam is through practice. Lots, and lots, and LOTS of practice. There are several reasons for this. For one, your Bar Prep company, as good as they are, cannot teach you everything that shows up on the exam. It’s just not possible to do that in the time you have to study. What’s the best way to learn and practice some of the things they are not covering? You guessed it! Practice.

Another reason that practice is key is that learning the law is not enough.  Yes, it’s crucial to passing the Bar Exam, but until you know how to apply it, it will not get you points on the Bar Exam. And applying the law is an entirely different beast than just memorizing the rules. Especially on the MBE where the Bar Examiners are actively trying to trick you and lead you astray in the 1.8 minutes you have to answer each individual question. 

Finally, you need to get your timing rhythm down for exam day and the only way to do this is by actually practicing questions. 

So how much should you do? You should be doing actual MBE practice questions every single day that you are studying. You should be aiming to complete a total of at least 3,000-3,500 MBE questions by the end of your Bar Prep. I know it sounds like a lot, but when you do them every day, they will add up quickly. 


(2) Time your practice: When you practice, you should also time yourself. Most bar companies have a “tutor mode” where you can take as long as you want to answer the questions and they give you an explanation for the answer after you answer each question, but you should only be using this when trying to work on specific weaker areas of MBE. Otherwise, you should do your practice question in nice, easy to time blocks,5I suggest questions sets of 17, 33, 50, 66, or 100. This equates to 30, 60, 90, 120, or 180 minutes. THEN going back to review the answers once you have completed the questions in that block. The reason being that time is your number one enemy on the Bar Exam. If you are not practicing your timing every chance you get, then you will not be ready for the time crunch on exam day. I always compare it to running a marathon. You don’t just show up on race day never having run the actual length of the race. You have to train for it and get your body ready for it. It’s the same here. You need to get your endurance training in for the Bar Exam and this is the way to do it. 

(3) Mix your practice: It’s great to get ANY practice in, even practice that is focused on one particular subject area. However, you also want to mix up your practice. You should aim to do a set of practice questions mixed with all MBE subject areas every day. This will help you train your brain to bounce between topics for each question. This will also help you start to practice identifying what area of law each question is testing which is not always easy to identify quickly. 

(4) Study the law but don’t let that limit your practice: The most common and most harmful thing I hear from students is “I don’t want to start practice questions until I am comfortable with the law.” I completely understand the desire to want to understand something before doing it, but you do not have that luxury when studying for the Bar Exam. If I waited to do practice questions until I fully understood or felt comfortable with the law when I was studying for the Bar Exam, I would still not have done one single practice question…11 years later.6Ugh, I feel old. There is too much law to learn or ever fully understand on the Bar Exam. The only way to start to feel comfortable with the law is by doing lots of practice. That is how you will learn this law. Yes, it will be frustrating. Yes, your scores will suck on your first week of practice questions. Yes, you will question your life choices and decision to go to law school. But slowly and surely, you will make progress and learn the law (and the frequent tricks of the Bar Examiners). 


To be continued…

Meet the Author
Stephen Iannacone is Director of Academic Success at Cardozo School of Law and a Bar Exam Coach at Vinco. Prior to joining Cardozo School of Law, Stephen was a trial attorney at the law firm of Spiegel & Barbato, LLP. He specialized in civil litigation in all New York venues and argued several appeals in the First Department. He was also an adjunct professor at Pace Law School where he taught classes to third-year students preparing for the Bar Exam as well as classes to second-year students focusing on legal writing and analysis. Read more about Stephen >