Found: A strategy for the MBE

Found on Top Law Schools board:
Two of my repeater friends who failed yet again pointed to the MBE as their downfall. I'm confident that it wasn't due to an inadequate knowledge of the law. When I asked them (separately) about their approach to selecting answers, each of them said that they had eliminated the wrong answers until they settled on the right one. Correct approach, but imperfect. As I questioned them further, they both admitted that their approach ultimately relied upon gut instinct instead of a methodical plan of attack. The fact is, depending upon instinct is a terrible game plan for passing the MBE.

The MBE requires a mechanical approach to consistently solving the problems. Many people will advise you to read the call of the question first and glance at the answer choices to get your bearings, then read the facts, re-read the call, and then start eliminating wrong answers. I agree with this approach. However, for study purposes, it's an incomplete strategy. After you have read the facts and re-read the call, but before you start trying to eliminate answer choices, you need to take a moment to identify and articulate (out loud is best) the following: 

(1) What issue is this problem actually testing? (Is it negligence or an intentional tort, consideration, acceptance, relevance, a defense?)
(2) What is the law of the issue, i.e., what are all of the elements that are needed to prove this issue? Recount them aloud.
(3) Which single element is the determinative point of law given the call and these facts?

Once you have completed this analytical drill, you will be ready to start eliminating wrong answers. Ignore the clock. Take the time to make this drill a Habit with every MBE problem that you do. Being methodical in your approach must become second nature. Automatic. You can work on your speed as you get closer to the bar, knowing that you will naturally become faster as you continue to work through MBE problems.

As I reviewed and re-reviewed my wrong answers over and over (another important prep strategy), I studied why I had selected the wrong answer, in addition to reviewing the rules of law. In other words, WTF did I do wrong? As a tactic of studying the test itself, not just studying the law, I kept track of the underlying reason behind every incorrect answer that I selected. You need to do the same if you are having trouble with the MBE. The majority of my wrong answers involved a breakdown at one of the 3 steps outlined above. (An insignificant percentage involved going too fast or just stupid mistakes.) About 45% of my wrong answers resulted from not knowing the law and the elements well enough. Okay, predictable. But surprisingly, another 45% of my wrong answers turned on my failure to identify the precise, narrow issue that the problem was in fact testing. Sometimes this turns on a single word in the facts. I could see that it was a torts problem, duh. But winging it by instinct and the seat of my pants, I would misidentify the narrow issue on which the correct answer turned, even though I knew the elements cold otherwise. If the right answer turns on intent, and you're thinking about causation, you will be applying the wrong litmus test when eliminating answer choices, which will lead you to the wrong answer selection.

Scoring high on the MBE depends upon knowing all of the elements cold, but also recognizing which element that the problem is testing. During your prep, take the time to mechanically, logically figure out the right litmus test to apply using the 3-step process above before you stampede through the answer choices. You will get more of them right, making fewer dumb mistakes, and you'll condition yourself to bring a winning approach to the table on the bar.

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