The MEE and How to Write High-Scoring Essays

THE-MEE-AND-HOW-TO-WRITE-HIGH-SCORING-ESSAYS

The Multistate Essay Examination (MEE) component of the Uniform Bar Examination (UBE) is delivered on the Tuesday before the last Wednesday in February and July. It is comprised of six questions to be answered within three hoursaveraging about 30 minutes for each.

Scoring

The essays you’ll write for the MEE make up 30% of your overall UBE score, which breaks down to 5% per fact scenario. Good news: The MEE and Multistate Performance Test (MPT) are scaled to the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE). This ensures that passing is dependent upon an individual's performance on a given exam, rather than the relative proficiency of a group or particular test items at that administration.

Purpose

As outlined by the National Conference of Bar Examiners, the MEE tests your ability to: recognize legal issues amid hypothetical legal situations; differentiate between relevant and irrelevant material; present a clear, concise and well-reasoned analysis; and demonstrate a solid understanding of the fundamental legal principles raised by the fact scenarios.

Since your MEE score contributes so heavily to your overall UBE score, it is imperative you sharpen the associated skills unique to this portion of the exam. Knowledge of the law and the ability to effectively communicate your analysis are paramount. Luckily, there are proven strategies for constructing high-scoring essays and mastering the MEE.

These include:

Perfect Practice

The best way to prepare for the MEE is—wait for it… to practice. As the saying goes, practice does indeed make perfect, but not just any routine exercises. You want to integrate the most beneficial methods into your MEE preparation for the best chances for success.

Here are three best practices to help get you there:

  1. Use effective study habits.
  2. Complete thorough formative self-assessments, often.
  3. Learn memorization techniques.

Studies say: put down the highlighters, stop wasting time rewriting notes, and save yourself from the hell that is pulling all-nighters. Instead, consider distributed practice and practice testing. 

  • "Distributed" means breaking up practice into a number of short sessions over a longer period of time. Typical UBE prep consists of about 400 study hours throughout two months. So, for the MEE, distributed practice should look something like focusing on one practice essay per study day, or five-six essays each week (starting, perhaps, in the second month of prep, after you have a solid handle on all of the rules), rather than dedicating eight-hour blocks to marathon essay writing in the final few weeks leading up to the exam.
  • "Practice testing" is not only effective for learning material but also protects you from panic and stress. When using this method, commit to it fully by mimicking testing conditions. Remove distractions such as your cell phone and any background noise (music player or TV). If you are typing your MEE section, be sure to close your browser; you won't have access to the internet during the UBE anyway. If snacking has been a crutch throughout all of test prep, practice sitting the full three hours without a snack.
Formative self-assessment is arguably the most important element of effective practice testing. This entails reviewing your practice test scores and grader feedback, figuring out what you did wrong, and studying those concepts more. After you’ve completed your self-assessment, rewrite the essay with corrections. Rinse, and repeat.
 
Useful memorization techniques are integral to a successful bar exam study strategy. This may include learning clever mnemonics, or even teaching recently reviewed material to someone else.

When you sign on with Pieper, you’ll be exposed to helpful mnemonics, such as how the ingredients for a TACO make a contract:

  • T – definite Terms (express or implied)
  • A – Acceptance of the terms
  • C – Consideration
  • O – an Offer that invites an acceptance

Mnemonic devices and other acronyms or rhymes will help you organize chunks of important information in your mind that are ready for useful extraction at the drop of a hat.

Mastery of a topic or issue means you can explain it to someone else. So, teach the law to whoever will listen, be it a saintly significant other, a child, or even your dog. Even an inanimate object will do the trick.

Write Well, Fast

To master the art of writing high-scoring essays to perform well on the MEE, you’ll need to know how to write well, fast. To do this, consider dusting off (or buying) a copy of Strunk & White: The Elements of Style, because there are invaluable tips between its covers that will help you write clearly and quickly. You’re already suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous bar exam preparation, so if the thought of rereading an elementary grammar style guide right now elicits a haughty scoff, that’s fine!

We’ve compiled the book's most relevant tips for this daunting exam for you:

  • Make the paragraph the unit of composition – Once you’ve identified your issue(s), plan to dedicate a separate paragraph to each major rule of law you’ll be applying thereafter. And on the MEE, it is appropriate to label or number each paragraph. It will make your grader’s job easier, and provides a great visual framework for yourself.
  • Use active voice – Legalese jargon combined with the passive voice makes for an insufferable reading experience, even for a lawyer. Better to say “Client X took the money from the drawer” than “The money was taken from the drawer.”
  • Use Definite, specific, and concrete language – AKA facts. Even abstract theories of law are grounded in facts. Graders look for cold, hard logic, such as: “All Greeks are men, all men are mortal therefore all Greeks are mortals.”
  • Omit needless words – Commonly referred to as, “Killing your darlings,” this tip saves time and helps promote clear and concise writing. For the bar exam, we can extend this to include needless ideas and points. You simply do not have the time. If you’re convinced that a segment of writing is brilliant, but you just can’t quite seem to make it coincide with the flow of the rest of its friends, get rid of it and don’t look back. Toss that grenade and slow-motion strut away from the explosion with heat at your heels.
  • Avoid succession of loose sentences – Each sentence should contribute something vital to the story your analysis tells. Graders will know immediately if you’re just stringing together random bits of information, hoping the right answer is in there somewhere. Don’t waste your time trying to fool them. In fact, do the opposite. Hold your reader’s hand, be explicit in your explanations, and leave no room for confusion.
  • Avoid fancy words – Use legal terms correctly, sure, but don’t waste time racking your brain for superfluous synonyms for simple words or phrases. It won’t earn you any extra points and may even hurt you if you use those words incorrectly.
  • Be Clear –Especially when crafting legal analysis, the importance of clarity cannot be overstated.
  • Do not take shortcuts at the cost of clarity – We'll shout it one more time for the people in the back: Clarity is of the utmost importance! This counts especially for abbreviations and assumptions. Skip them both.
  • Prefer the standard to the offbeat – The bar exam is not a personality test. It is a test of “minimum competency” with regard to unsupervised practice of the law, nothing more. So don’t try to reinvent the wheel on test day. Use your vast practice of the IRAC (Issue, Rule, Analysis, and Conclusion) method as your foundation and build a legal argument like a lawyer.

Be Prepared

In Omnia Paratus is Latin for “ready for anything,” and should also become your new mantra. If you’ve studied hard for the MBE, you can take solace in knowing you’ve inadvertently studied for much of the MEE, too. There are subjects unique to this part of the exam, however, and you’ll want to be proficient across the board.

The MEE covers the seven subjects tested within the MBE (Civil Procedure, Constitutional Law, Contracts, Criminal Law and Procedure, Evidence, Real Property, and Torts), as well as:

  • Agency
  • Conflict of Laws
  • Corporations
  • Family Law
  • Future Interests
  • Limited Liability Companies
  • Partnership
  • Trusts
  • Wills
  • UCC Article 9

The National Conference of Bar Examiners also provides a full outline of the scope of topics covered on the MEE.

Know Your Audience

To avoid misdirected communication, create an imaginary persona to represent your essay grader. Visualize and empathize with your grader. Give her a name. And know this: Most Bar essay graders are not law professors, judges, or employees of large firms. In fact, they probably aren’t even bar examiners. More likely, examiners outsourced this duty to contract readers and trained them to grade your exam.

Graders are typically paid an average of $3 per essay, and each is tasked with assessing responses to the same fact scenario over and over again. Per one California Bar essay reader: Graders only spend two or three minutes assessing a question, and that’s for the California Bar, wherein 60-minute essays are administered, so you can assume graders give even less time and attention to the 30-minute MEE essays.

Breathe

Multiple-choice questions tell graders what you do not know. Essays, on the other hand, show graders, definitively, what you do know. Unfortunately, whether this is blessing or curse will depend largely upon how well you know your stuff. Regardless, this fact can and should inform how you approach this section of the test. Be sure to display what you do know rather than spending all of your time tackling your weakest area of knowledge within the question.

If you miss the tackle, you’re a goner, and the exam is off to the races, at your expense.

Graders need to see that you can reason and write like a lawyer. Instead of searching for an “answer” or making your primary concern about your conclusion, understand that big points are found in your shown workthe statements of law you do know, your use of relevant facts, and your application of the statements of law you provide to the relevant facts. It’s natural to be drawn to the issue you’re most unfamiliar with and commence panic. Avoid this at all costs. Practice equanimity, regroup, and focus on whatever you do know. The missing pieces may well fall into your response as you follow your lawyer-like reasoning pathway—it’s funny how that works out.

Pieper Bar Review

With more than 40 years of experience preparing students for all sections of the UBE, Pieper Bar Review places a heavy emphasis on ensuring its enrollees develop comprehensive essay-writing skills to help them score high on the MEE. This includes regular essay-composition assignments, along with timed practice exams graded by actual attorneys, and an essay-writing workshop designed specifically to focus on this all-important aspect of the UBE.

Learn More About Pieper's Full Bar Review Course

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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