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bar exam appealsThe Evolution of the Multistate Essay Exam: Why Family Law — and Other Subjects — May Be Tested Less

Just a little background on the multistate essay exam (MEE). The Multistate Essay Exam is administered by 35 states. The Multistate Essay Exam is composed of six 30-minute questions.  Included in these 35 states, are the 22 states that have adopted the Uniform Bar Exam  (a bar exam composed of the Multistate Essay Exam, two Multistate Performance Tests, and the Multistate Bar Exam) as well as jurisdictions that have not adopted the Uniform Bar Exam.

If you look back at old multistate essay exams (MEE), it can get…confusing to say the least. The MEE has changed quite a bit. In this post, we explain how it has evolved.

The subjects that are tested on the Multistate Essay Exam have changed. Pre-2011, the Multistate Essay Exam tested only non-MBE subjects (Corporations & LLCs, Agency & Partnership, Family Law, Secured Transactions, Conflict of Laws, Decedent’s Estates, Trusts and Future Interests, Negotiable Instruments, and Civil Procedure—which was then not an MBE subject).

The National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) added the then-six MBE subjects (Contracts & Sales, Criminal Law & Procedure, Constitutional Law, Torts, Evidence, Real Property) to the list in 2011. They got rid of Negotiable Instruments in 2014.

Currently, the Multistate Essay Exam tests all of the “MBE” subjects, listed above, plus a variety of non-MBE subjects. To see the most highly-tested subjects on the Multistate Essay Exam, click here.    However, the subjects that are tested are not the only thing that has changed.

The number of questions written by the NCBE has changed. If you look back at past Multistate Essay Exams, some have six questions. Some have seven. Some have nine essay questions. Upon seeing this, some students call me in a panic and ask if they will be expected to answer nine questions in six hours. The answer is no!

To be clear: There are only six essay questions administered on the Uniform Bar Exam. (In theory, jurisdictions administering the MEE without administering the UBE can administer as many as they want, but most administer six.)  Here is why you see varying numbers of questions on the MEE:

  • Prior to 2007, the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) wrote only seven questions and allowed jurisdictions administering the Multistate Essay Exam choose six of those seven questions to include on their MEE’s.
  • From 2007 through 2013, the National Conference of Bar Examiners wrote nine questions and allowed jurisdictions to choose which six they used.
  • Starting in February 2014, the National Conference of Bar Examiners only began writing six questions, thus eliminating the option for MEE-states to have any choice about which subjects they test.

This means that jurisdictions administering the National Conference of Bar Examiner’s six-question MEE have no questions to choose from. They are stuck using whatever six the NCBE writes. If you are in an MEE (but non UBE) state that frequently tested Trusts instead of Decedent’s Estates, that might change now that the state will not have an option to choose one or the other.

The four highlighted subjects are the ones that I expect to see less on the MEE now that the National Conference of Bar Examiners is only writing six essays for MEE-jurisdictions to choose from.

chartMEEFamily law was administered only twice in UBE-states since 2011 (versus the six times questions were written for use in non-UBE states). Constitutional Law is tested a bit less on the UBE and so is Secured Transactions (which may come as a relief!). Trusts and Wills are tested about equally on the UBE.  (If you would like to see a lovely chart of the subjects that have been tested on the Uniform Bar Exam, please see this post.)

When the National Conference of Bar Examiners started writing only six questions in 2014, Family law only showed up once on the 2014 and 2015 exams. Trusts, Secured Transactions, and Constitutional Law were tested on two of the four exams administered in 2014 and 2015.

Does this mean you won’t see these subjects? No. Of course all subjects are still potential. However, it does mean that even if you are not in a UBE-jurisdiction, your exam will still be greatly affected by whatever test questions the National Conference of Bar Examiners chooses to write for the UBE. Jurisdictions administering the Multistate Essay Exam used to have choices about what subjects they tested; now they do not.

To sum up the changes in this post (as well as their impact) in simpler terms: The National Conference of Bar Examiner’s used to write more than six questions for jurisdictions that wanted to administer the Multistate Essay Exam (without full-out adopting the Uniform Bar Exam) to choose from. At one point, the National Conference of Bar Examiners wrote seven questions; at another point they wrote nine. (Somewhere in between, they also changed the subjects that could show up on the Multistate Essay Exam to include the MBE subjects.). Now jurisdictions that used to be able to choose questions to test on their Multistate Essay Exam are no longer given a choice. They test the exact same essay questions that the National Conference of Bar Examiner’s administers on the Uniform Bar Exam. So whether they like it or not, they are becoming more and more UBE-y.

Why the National Conference of Bar Examiners decided to change the amount of questions is up for debate (maybe they did it to encourage states to just adopt the UBE since they are administering at least 2 of the 3 exact UBE components already!).

Whether the change is good or bad is up for debate. What is not up for debate is that the changes affect MEE-takers, even those in states that do not administer the UBE!

How does this affect you if you are in an MEE state?

Well if you are in a jurisdiction that has adopted the Uniform Bar Exam, you want to look carefully at this chart of the subjects that have been tested on the Uniform Bar Exam to see what may be coming up on your bar exam.

Even if you are in an jurisdiction that has adopted the Multistate Essay Exam but not the Uniform Bar Exam, rather than paying attention to all of the subjects that have shown up on the essay exam in your state, I would study this same chart of the subjects that have been tested on the Uniform Bar Exam. Whether your jurisdiction likes it or not, they no longer have a choice about which subjects they test on their essay exam and their essay exam is going to start looking a lot like that of the Uniform Bar Exam.

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One Comment

    How to Study for the MEE (Multistate Essay Exam) - And Study Efficiently!

    […] You’ll notice that Civil Procedure, for example, is tested SUPER heavily! Whereas, say, Criminal Law and Procedure are not tested as often. (If you are in a Uniform Bar Exam state and want to what subjects the National Conference of Bar Examiner’s has liked to test most often on the Uniform Bar Exam MEE, please see this post! You may not realize that the Multistate Essay Exam used to have more subjects for states to choose from . . . So just because a subject was popular on the MEE does not mean it is popular on the UBE! See this post to get an overview of the evolution of the multistate essay exam. […]

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