Save Time on the Multi-State Performance Test! (MPT)

Today it is my pleasure to welcome Doretta McGinnis to discuss the Multistate Performance Test (MPT) and some strategies for making the most of the 90 minutes you have to complete the MPT. Doretta is a law school and bar exam tutor with the Law School Toolbox and Bar Exam Toolbox. 


For many examinees, the most challenging aspect of the MPT is the 90-minute time limit. Here are some tips for making the most of your time.

Follow This Attack Plan

  • Read the task memo: 2 minutes
  • Skim the File: 2 minutes
  • Read the Library/outline the law: 20 minutes
  • Read the File/ fill in facts: 20 minutes
  • Review the task memo: 1 minute
  • Write the answer: 45 minutes

You can’t beat the MPT by reading it straight through. There’s simply not enough time for an unfocused approach. The Attack Plan ensures that you understand the task – including basic content, such as issues to be addressed, and formatting requirements – at the outset. Skimming the File gives you a sense of key facts without getting bogged down in detail. Reading the Library carefully helps you determine the legal rules, which will drive the organization of your answer and facilitate your reading of the File, because you’ll know what you’re looking for.

Treat the prewriting time limits as maximums. The specific time allocations will vary in practice depending on factors including your reading speed and the complexity of the File and Library. If you can read and outline the law in less than 20 minutes, fantastic! If you’re spending more than 20 minutes on it, you should probably move on.

Reserve at least half your time for writing. While you might accomplish your prewriting in less than 45 minutes, you should reserve at least half your time for writing the answer. It’s hard to do a good job in less than that. Directives in the task memo and your outline of the law should prepare you to organize your response appropriately. Write the big, analytical sections, where you’ll earn the most points, first; then circle back and complete the niceties, like point headings or a conclusion.

Read the Library Efficiently

Extract applicable legal rules. If the Library contains a statute, read it first and use it to create an outline of the law. As you read the remaining Library items, focus on how they relate to the statute. If there is a CFR section, does it define statutory terms or provide examples? If there are cases, do they apply the statute?

It’s very common for statutes in MPT Libraries to contain irrelevant provisions as well as essential provisions. Your careful reading of the task memo and skimming of the File should help you distinguish irrelevant sections. Don’t be afraid to disregard them.

What if your Library contains only cases? In this situation, it may be a bit more challenging to extract the rules. Pay special attention to the hierarchy of authority. You may have a rule articulated by the Franklin Supreme Court and applied in subsequent cases, or you may be dealing with persuasive authority from a neighboring state.

See how the rules apply. After you’ve identified the rules, note how they’re applied in the cases. What facts are used in the court’s analysis? What facts determined the outcome of the case?  Add these facts to your outline of the law. Based on your reading of the task memo and skimming of the File, key facts should be obvious.

Who won? For each case, note whether its outcome is favorable or unfavorable for your client. This will help you differentiate cases you’ll use in your primary argument from those you’ll discuss in counterargument, and help you identify supporting or distinguishable facts in the cases.

Read the File Efficiently

You should have a solid outline of the law before you read the File. The goal now is to match the facts in the File to the elements of the rule. If you outlined the law and included key facts from the cases in the Library, it should be straightforward to identify determinative facts in the File. Let irrelevant facts go.

Follow Template/Guidelines

Your MPT may provide a template or guidelines, especially if it’s not a memo. Following the template will improve your score and save time, as you won’t have to ponder organization.

What if there is no template provided? Be prepared with a standard format, especially for memos and letters.

Don’t Waste Time

Skim the instructions. You should be so familiar with the MPT instructions that you don’t have to read them. Just skim them to reassure yourself they haven’t changed.

Stay focused. The bar exam tests your stamina as well as your legal knowledge. Go into the exam well rested and well nourished. Minimize distractions by wearing earplugs if they’re allowed. Don’t panic.

Don’t lose track of time. The Attack Plan should help you stay on task. Be sure you can see a clock or watch, and don’t forget to keep an eye on it.

You can pass the MPT!

All opinions, advice, and experiences of guest bloggers/columnists are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions, practices or experiences of Solo Practice University®.

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