Taking the MBE Online

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Many states have recently announced that they will be going forward with a remote, online, October examination. Others have not announced yet, but may do so in the coming weeks. If you have been practicing MBE questions on paper, you may be nervous about what this means. Remember, that the key to all of bar study is “plan, don’t panic.” All that is required is a change in approach, just like you have done with nearly every aspect of your life over the past several months. (This blog will tackle MPTs and MEEs online in the next couple of posts.)

Note that if your jurisdiction is opting for NCBE’s October remote administration, you will have 100 MBEs total. There will be two 90-minute sessions of 50 MBEs each. This greatly cuts down on the level of stamina you need to have to get through a set of MBEs. That’s good. Make sure you practice doing 50 MBEs in a row on the computer several times before exam day.

Your overall test-taking strategy should remain constant.

  1. Read the call of the question first.
  2. As you read the fact pattern, make note of legal issues that the facts trigger in your brain, and key facts such as dates, ages, occupations.
  3. Read all of the answer choices and use the process of elimination to cross out distractors. (Ask yourself if the answer choice is correct on the law, correct on the facts, and responsive to the question asked.)

Strategy number 2 is where you are going to need to alter your approach since you can’t easily circle, underline, or make notes on the page in the way you are used to. Get used to highlighting directly on the question itself. Don’t highlight everything. Be judicious about what you choose to highlight because the goal of highlighting is for you to easily be able to see a key fact, and not have to reread the whole fact pattern.

You may also be able to make notes on a “scratch pad” feature on the computer itself, though the technical mechanics are not clear at this point.. Most bar review companies and supplemental MBE programs have online MBE programs that allow you to highlight the question and strike through answer choices as you eliminate them. As you practice, you should try different strategies to see what works for you. In particular, practice using the note/scratchpad feature to write out in words or symbols the diagrams/timelines that you are used to writing in the margins. You will still need a way to keep track of multiple conveyances/occurrences.

Just as you would on paper, make a note of difficult questions that you want to come back to, if there is a mechanism for doing so. But, always select an answer choice. You don’t want to leave any questions blank, in case you run out of time to go back to them.

Finally, slow down. We tend to read more quickly on a screen than we do on paper, and consequently we can miss important details. That is because our brains are accustomed to skimming social media content and news articles on screens, and are less used to deep, critical reading online. Ultimately, you will need to be moving through each MBE question in 1 minute and 48 seconds. However, as you begin practicing online, it is ok to go a little bit slower as you get used to the format. Pay attention to your timing so that you have a sense of how quickly you are moving through questions, but don’t freak out about timing just yet.

While we don’t know exactly what the exam technology will do, take a look at this tutorial for the MPRE (https://home.pearsonvue.com/mpre) to get an indication of what it will likely look like. Note that you will likely be able to highlight and strike through text. You can also change the font size and color. Have a plan for what settings you plan to use, so that you don’t spend time on the day of the exam trying to decide on a color scheme. Once your jurisdiction announces more details, or opens up a mock exam, practice with it multiple times.

For more tips on multiple choice exams, and a chance to take some questions in an online platform, check out these CALI lessons:

A Methodical Approach for Improving Multiple Choice Performance by Professor Steven Foster

Multiple Choice Questions: Wrong Answer Pathology by Professor Nicole Lefton

If you have taken the MPRE or New York Law Exam, or other multiple choice exams online and want to provide tips to your colleagues, you can leave a comment on this post.

Breathe. Plan. Practice. Be kind to yourself.