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bar exam anxietyHow to Write an Objective Memorandum on the MPT – Five Tips: The Multistate Performance Test (MPT) is a lawyerly exercise that requires examinees to complete a task that is outlined in the memo. In order to complete the task, students must critically evaluate and analyze information provided in the file and the library. The MPT is worth a significant percentage of an examinee’s overall score on many bar exams. For example, if you are in a Uniform Bar Exam state, the MPT is worth 20% of the total score. Do not be surprised if the bar examiners ask you to write an objective memorandum as one of the MPT exercises. Students were given 90 minutes to write an objective memorandum 19 times in last 12 years.

Since the objective memorandum is so highly tested on the MPT, it is worth it to acquire some good strategies for answering these types of MPT questions! Below are five tips on how to write an objective memorandum on the MPT.

How to Write an Objective Memorandum on the MPT:

1. Generally, the task memo will provide guidance on substantive issues that should be addressed in the objective memorandum.

The task memo will tell you whether you have to write an objective memorandum. Generally, the task memo will tell you what legal issues should be addressed or omitted in your discussion. For example, one of the MPTs from February 2015, In re Harrison, told examinees to discuss different inverse condemnation theories and the client’s chance of succeeding under each theory.  Additionally, the task memo explicitly stated that examinees should not discuss the issue of physical taking.

2. Make a short outline after reading the MPT task memo.

Take a few minutes to make a short outline after reading the task memo. Your outline should note the substantive issues that should be discussed and/or omitted, as well as the key facts provided in the task memo. For example, with the In re Harrison MPT, you could note the following:

  • Facts
    • Client bought 10-acre tract from federal government last year
      • Federal government used that tract as armory and vehicle storage facility
    • Tract currently zoned for single-family residential development
      • Client applied to rezone property to be used as a truck-driving training facility
        • City denied application
  • Issues
    • Client wants to know whether he can pursue inverse condemnation claim against City
      • Define inverse condemnation
        • Types of inverse condemnation theories
          • Will client succeed?
        • No discussion of physical taking

An outline of the task memo will help you pick out the key rules of law from the cases and/or statutes provided in the library.

3. Memorize the general format of an objective memorandum.

Students often forget that they can get valuable points on the MPT if they properly format the objective memorandum. The task memo may tell you how to structure your memorandum. For example, the instructions may tell examinees not to include a statement of facts section.

However, the bar examiners generally do not lay out a complete skeleton of what the objective memorandum should look like. If you are not familiar with objective memoranda, take some time to memorize the general format.



To: New York State Bar
From: Examinee
Re: [insert title of the MPT] (e.g., In re Harrison)

I. Introduction:      Several sentences briefly noting the purpose of the task and your conclusions
II. Discussion:       Create headings for each issue you discuss
III. Conclusion:      Summarize your discussion and your findings

Do not structure the objective memorandum the way you learned in your legal research and writing class in law school! The memoranda you wrote in law school likely contained many more sections (e.g., brief answers, statement of facts, etc.). Your memorandum will be much shorter and contain fewer sections.

4. Use strong headings that apply the rule of law to the facts.

When writing your discussion, use strong headings that apply the rule of law to the facts. If possible, use complete sentences for your headings.

Bar exam graders do not have a lot of time to read each answer. If you use powerful headings, the grader will be able to see whether you came to an accurate conclusion that was supported by the relevant facts before reading your analysis.

5. Make sure to address any unfavorable law.

Keep in mind that the purpose of an objective memorandum is to provide the reader with a comprehensive explanation of the issues. You do not want to provide one side of the story. If you come across unfavorable law, address it in the discussion. If possible, note whether these obstacles can be overcome, or whether your situation can be distinguished on the facts.

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