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Analyze MBE Questions

A Guide On How To Analyze MBE Questions

As you are doing practice MBE questions to prepare for the bar exam, one way to improve your score is to carefully analyze the question to increase your chances of getting the answer correct!  In this post, we explain how to analyze MBE questions and provide some tips and tricks to help you navigate through the answer choices! Be sure to also use your time strategically and efficiently by focusing on highly-tested MBE subjects and applying the tips below!

A Guide On How To Analyze MBE Questions

1. Read the fact pattern.

Some people prefer to read the call of the question first, while others simply start reading from the beginning of the facts.  While we recommend simply reading the facts, there is no real harm in reading the call of the question first.  Either way, you should NOT start by reading the answer choices!  Not knowing the applicable facts, there is a strong possibility that you will misread the answer choices or have one (or more) answer choice stick out, and then you read the facts specifically looking for that to be the correct answer choice.  By doing this, you may misread the facts and end up overlooking something important!

2. Read the call of the question.

There is a lot of important information that you can glean from the call of the question.  For instance, if the call of the question asks about the “constitutionality” of a particular fact, that indicates that you are looking at a Constitutional Law question!  If the question asks about the admissibility of evidence, it could be an Evidence or Criminal Procedure question!

If the call of the question references some fact within the question (e.g., “How is the court likely to rule on the plaintiff’s argument?”) be sure to re-read that part of the question (if necessary) to ensure that you fully and accurately understand that very important fact!

3. Answer the call of the question BEFORE looking at the answer choices!

To answer the call of the question, you can break the question down even further: First, identify the subject being tested.  Is this an Evidence question?  Contracts?  Constitutional Law?  Then, see if you can narrow the issue down even further by identifying the legal issue being tested.  For instance, once you have identified a question as a Con Law question, next identify the issue as equal protection, due process, etc.  Third, try to state the rule for the applicable issue that you just identified.  For an equal protection question, you might state that equal protection applies when the government treats various classes of people differently.  When the classification is alienage or race, those protected classes get strict scrutiny.  For gender and illegitimacy, intermediate scrutiny applies.  Rational basis applies to all other classes.

Once you state the rule, turn back to the call of the question.  Based on the rule that you just stated, try to answer the call of the question. Many students who excel on essays but struggle with multiple-choice questions find this method to be particularly helpful.  It will reduce the stress of having to review and analyze each and every multiple choice option and, instead, you answer the question based on what you know as if it is an essay!

4. Analyze the answer choices and select the one that matches your answer.

Now that you have answered the question, turn to the answer choices, and select the one that best matches the answer you just stated!

Sometimes this is easier said than done.  Students sometimes report that the answer they stated is not present in any of the answer choices.  If that is the case, it is possible that you misidentified the issue being tested (or that the question is not testing the obvious issue).  If that is the case, try to glean the issue being tested from the provided answer choice and re-evaluate the applicable issue.  Try to state the rule for the newly-identified issue and try reviewing the answer choices again.

Additionally, here are some tips for analyzing the answer choices:

  • Only and always: Watch out for answer choices with words like “only” or “always.” This wording often makes the answer choice too strong and, therefore, incorrect.
  • If and unless: Even if you think you know the answer, skim the other answer choices.
    • In particular, look for answer choices that contain the words “if” or “unless.” These words can change the fact pattern, so you may have to reconsider whether you have selected the best answer in light of the change provided after the “if” or “unless.
  • Identical answer choices: If two answer choices seem virtually identically and you are unable to discern between them, there is a possibility that they are both incorrect! Go back to the facts and see if one of the other answer choices could actually be the strongest answer!
  • Incorrect rule statements: Know the rules! The better you have the rules memorized, the easier it will be to spot incorrectly stated rules in the wrong answer choices!  You can quickly eliminate answer choices that state the rule incorrectly if you have the rules well-memorized!

5. Keep practicing!

This method can be extremely difficult and time-consuming, especially as you begin studying.  You may find it particularly difficult to state the rules from memory if you have not committed much to memory yet.  As you keep studying and practicing, though, you will find that this method becomes easier and easier!  Also, it will test your memorization, which can help you with other parts of the bar exam! Here are some memorization tips to help!

The other thing to note about this method is that it is time-consuming.  It will likely take more than 1.8 minutes to complete each question when using this method.  As you begin studying, don’t worry about timing.  After you start to feel more comfortable with the material, you will not only get faster at this method of answering questions, but you can also start to incorporate timed questions into your practice and work on answering questions under the timed circumstances that you will face on the exam!

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