How To Approach Sample Bar Exam Questions

Students Taking Test In Classroom

You learn more by doing. That’s true of riding a bike, driving a car, and even preparing for the bar exam.

For the latter, this means answering sample questions. You can memorize every law in the book, digest hours of lectures, and take diligent notes, but if you can’t apply your knowledge and write clearly under strict time constraints, you won’t be successful on test day.

So where can you find these sample questions?

A great place to start is Pieper Bar Review’s free ‘Question of the Day.’ Enrolling in Pieper’s bar review course also gives you access to sample essay questions, Multistate Performance Tests (MPTs), and hundreds of Multistate Bar Exam (MBE) questions. The National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) has study materials available for purchase, as well, but those same questions are included in your Pieper materials.

Find a quiet study area and establish a routine, outline a schedule that ensures success, and approach the sample questions with discipline and a readiness to improve.


How to Approach Sample MBE Questions

It’s not enough to take 10 sample MBE questions, score 7/10, and call it a day. Heck, even if you ace them all, taking them just for the sake of doing so won’t help very much.

Sure, it’ll serve as a quick review, but conquering the bar exam requires a deep understanding of its structure, the substantive law, time requirements, and the intricacies of specific questions.

That’s where sample MBE questions can help the most.

Early in Your Bar Preparation

Consider sample questions an informal introduction to the bar exam. After signing up for Pieper’s aforementioned Question of the Day, make it a habit to review every aspect of the questions: categories, framing, explanations of correct answers, and why the others are incorrect.

That last bit is crucial. Incorrect answers serve as learning opportunities. You also may have guessed the answer, but understanding why it’s correct is just as important as getting it right in the first place.

Designing your initial foray into sample questions this way will familiarize you with the language and structure of the MBE, while establishing a foundational approach for exam day.

As You Progress

Once you’ve found your studying rhythm, it’s time to set a baseline for success. Organize your sample questions by topic (most are labeled) and track your progress. Identify your strengths and weaknesses—key components of bar exam prep work.

For example, you may find that you’re correctly answering anything to do with torts. That’s great! You can spend less time on torts-related questions, and more in areas where you might be lagging. In doing so, you’ll maximize the efficiency of your study sessions.

Close to the Exam Date

As you near the exam date, it’s important to dedicate more time to subjects you struggle with. So, too, is developing endurance for test day. For all the intellectual challenges the bar exam presents, sitting for six hours in a day also exacts a physical and mental toll. You need to be ready for that.

Measure yourself against the clock by tracking your time in test-like settings—i.e., a quiet place with no distractions. You may find that you breeze through the questions with no issues, but if you’re struggling to complete them within the allotted time, focus on shortcuts. For instance, if you know you struggle with real property questions and you come across a long fact pattern involving deeds and future interests, consider quickly guessing on that question, which might save you enough time to complete two shorter questions in areas with which you are more comfortable and may otherwise not have had enough time to address. 


How to Approach Sample MEE Questions

Students tend to tackle more sample MBE questions than essays because it’s easier to complete 10 multiple-choice questions than to write a practice essay. Half the bar exam, however—the Multistate Essay Examination (MEE) and Multistate Performance Test—is written. That’s why it’s so important to practice essays in addition to sample MBE questions.

Early in Your Bar Preparation

If the MEE were a verbal test, how would you answer each question?

Considering this is a great way to approach your first practice essays. Test how well you know the material just by talking about it at length. Then it comes down to knowing how to develop a response. This is where outlining can be a useful tool. Spend time identifying the legal issues and decide which are directly responsive to the questions you have been asked.  Think about how you can explain each issue in three to five sentences rather than one or two.  Then try writing, and review them with a trusted source, such as a fellow student or favorite professor.

As You Progress

The best way to improve your essay writing is to open yourself up for constructive criticism. Share your sample essays with an expert—a law school professor, an attorney, or a bar review course instructor, to name three—and apply their feedback.

Also, focus on nailing the technical aspect of writing: Turn long paragraphs into concise passages; change passive voice to active; and write clear, strong introductions and conclusions. By developing your craft, you’re adding a level of certainty to your response—you don’t know the subject you’ll be asked to address, but you will know it will be written well.

Close to the Exam Date

As with MBE questions, mastering the endurance and time constraints of the bar exam is imperative to acing your essays. You may be capable of writing a strong response, but if you can’t do it in a short window, then it does you little good.

As you get closer to exam day, break out that stopwatch (or your phone for that matter) and time yourself, writing multiple essays back-to-back.

Finally, consider hiring a tutor if you lack confidence in your writing. You can improve incrementally from the beginning of your bar prep to the end, but a tutor will provide the kind of one-on-one guidance that can ensure your success on the exam.


How to Approach Sample MPTs

Underestimating the Multistate Performance Test is a critical error that strong writers make every year.  They assume it is just a reading comprehension exercise and prioritize it less than other the other components of the UBE.  However, it's 20% of the exam, and success on the MPT is crucial to achieving a passing score. 

Remember, every point matters on the UBE and the MPT is the first section you’ll take on test day (at least in the eastern time zones of the US). You want to get off on the right foot. So while you should dedicate more time to sample MBE and MEE questions, set aside sessions for the MPT.

Early in Your Bar Preparation

The MPT is less straightforward than the MBE or MEE. It’s more about applying skills than knowing law. 

“The MPT is not a test of substantive knowledge,” states the National Conference of Bar Examiners website. “Rather, it is designed to evaluate certain fundamental skills lawyers are expected to demonstrate regardless of the area of law in which the skills are applied.”

Therefore, familiarize yourself with the format of the MPT first and foremost. Work on determining relevant facts from the information provided and mocking up organized responses.

As You Progress

Similar to practice essays, the best way to improve your responses is to have an expert review them. They’ll provide feedback on everything from how to recognize key facts to writing concise, clear responses. Use these reviewed practice MPTs as study tools.

Close to the Exam Date

Again, it’s about mastering the time constraint. You’ll have three hours to complete two MPTs on exam day. Allocating 90 minutes to each is crucial.  Hopefully, you can practice MPTs early in the study process so that you're not packing multiple MPTs into your last week of studying, but you'll still want a final MPT tune-up to re-assure you that your timing and organizational skills are at their peak.



About the author

Pieper Bar Review

For over forty years, Pieper Bar Review has taught students the legal concepts and skills necessary for success on the bar exam, and reinforced students’ knowledge through thought provoking examples and bar exam questions. The proof that the Pieper teaching method works is found in the success of our former students – now present-day attorneys. Learn more

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