Mpt Bar Exam Formats For Essays

Note: We revised this memorandum extensively on April 2, 2007. Please visit the revised version here.

MEMORANDUM

To: Bar Candidates

From: Mary Campbell Gallagher, J.D., Ph.D.
President, BarWrite®

Re: Scoring High on MPT Memorandum Tasks

Date: February 12, 2006

INTRODUCTION

The Multistate Performance Test (MPT) allows bar candidates an extremely short time for researching and writing a memorandum, only ninety minutes. Accordingly, the MPT uses an abbreviated format. It does not usually ask the bar candidate to draft a statement of facts, to frame issues, or to write brief answers. The bar examiners emphasize, however, that using correct memo format is key.


DISCUSSION

As always on the MPT, the memorandum must fulfill the requirements stated in the partner memo and the candidate must finish on time. Even though the memo task on the MPT is abbreviated, however, it is vital for the bar candidate to show that he or she knows the correct format. Format is key.

At the top of the memo put in all capital letters, centered, printed and underlined: MEMORANDUM.

Flush with the lefthand margin list the following:

To: Pat Partner

From: Candidate

Re: Charles Client – Arbitration of Securities Claims

Date: February 12, 2006

In your Legal Writing Course, you probably learned a format for the body of the memo something like this:

(A.) Heading;
(B.) Issue(s);
(C.) Brief Answer;
(D.) Facts;
(E.) Discussion; and
(F.) Conclusion.

The MPT, by contrast, usually asks the candidate to use the following radically simplified format:

(A.) Introduction;
(B.) Discussion;
(C.) Conclusion.

In one MPT case called In re Steven Wallace, the partner memo asks for a two-part memorandum. What that means is that the Discussion will have two parts. The partner memo specifies what those two parts are.

The MPT point sheets indicate that the grading of a memo on the MPT stresses persuasive writing and correct format:

(a) powerful topic headings,
(b) persuasive writing,
(c) argument from supportive law,
(d) distinction of–or attack against–unfavorable law,
(e) skillful use of the facts, and
(f) careful use of the memo format.

Note, again, that the bar candidate is being graded on “careful use of the memo format.”

Read the partner memo carefully for instructions about format. Nothing requires MPT tasks asking for memos to be identical in format. Accordingly, you must read the directions in the partner memo with your usual care. It is safe to say, however, that there is usually no section in a memo for a Statement of Facts, no section for Issues, no section for Brief Answers. The MPT is short, short short.

Powerful topic headings are key. Give each section of your Discussion a powerful topic heading. Underline your topic headings. For example: Under FCC sec. 2-326(3), Charles Client’s strongest argument is that the contract he entered into with Bee Brokerage required “alternative dispute resolution.”.

Use the BarWrite® techniques for writing your memo task. In an MPT memo, you will leave the first page or the first two pages of your bluebook blank. You will write the Discussion first, then the Conclusion, forcefully summarizing your arguments in one or two sentences. Finally you will go back to the beginning of your blue book and add the opening part of your Memorandum format, including the Introduction. See above.

Thus, the last thing you will write is the Introduction for the MPT memo, at the beginning of the memo. You will have left the space for it in your bluebook. At the beginning of your writing process, when you are starting to write the memo, you don’t yet understand the project well enough to write a good Introduction. That is why you leave writing the Introduction until you are almost finished.

CONCLUSION

A bar candidate can give the bar examiners an MPT memo that will maximize his or her score. Again, the bar examiners say that they are looking for:

(a) powerful topic headings,
(b) persuasive writing,
(c) argument from supportive law,
(d) distinction of–or attack against–unfavorable law,
(e) skillful use of the facts, and
(f) careful use of the memo format.

Fulfill the directions in the partner memo, manage your time, and combine attention to these aspects of your work with careful attention to the BarWrite® systems, and you can get a high score on an MPT memo task.

Wishing you the greatest success on the bar exam!

*************************************************************************************

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Practice exams are a crucial component of successful bar prep. While a bar review course may provide feedback on a limited number of practice essays and performance tests, you should do more and assess your own work. We’ve previously discussed how to do this using MEE Analyses. Here, we’ll explore how to use MPT Point Sheets and sample answers.

The key is to distinguish form from substance. A Point Sheet will not be in the form required for your answer, but it will contain the required substance. A sample answer should be in the required form, but it may not be complete in terms of substance. Let’s take a closer look.

A Point Sheet Is Not A Model Answer

To succeed on the MPT, you must follow directions. This includes drafting the requested document in the requested format. The most commonly requested document is the memo, followed by the brief, with letters to various recipients ranked third. Some MPTs request an unusual document, such as a closing argument or a bench memo. Some recent MPTs have involved hybrid tasks, such as revising a contract and writing an explanatory memo. You should practice a variety of MPTs so you can be ready for anything. Despite this variation, the Point Sheets follow the same format: a Point Sheet for a memo looks the same as a Point Sheet for a brief. No Point Sheet follows the format of the requested document. To make matters worse, the format of the Point Sheets has evolved over the years. A Point Sheet from 2015 does not have the same components as one from 2010, for example. But none of this matters if you focus on substance.

Preliminaries: The Point Sheet typically begins with a summary of the facts, task, and contents of the File and Library. This section, which may or may not have a title, may refresh your memory if you’re reviewing an MPT some time after writing it.

Recent Point Sheets note that they include “all the points the drafters intended to raise in the problem.” Older Point Sheets followed this statement with the reassurance that “[a]pplicants need not cover them all to receive passing or even excellent grades. Grading is left entirely to the discretion of the user jurisdictions.” Despite the current omission of this language, it remains true that you can score well without a detailed analysis of every point. The Point Sheets continue to refer to subtleties that may be raised by “perceptive” or “excellent” examinees. Strive for excellence; a high score on the MPT may offset a weak score on another section of the bar exam. Each jurisdiction grades its MPTs, so some variation in standards may remain.

Format and Overview: Recent Point Sheets have a section with this title, but the information contained here is found in all Point Sheets. This section briefly reviews the task and any format requirements, such as the use of point headings or omission of the statement of facts. It describes what your product should look like and identifies issues that should be addressed. Make sure your answer follows the format described here.

Discussion: The Discussion (or Analysis) presents the key rules (from the Library) and key facts (from the File), typically in a series of bullet points. Although the information is not presented in answer format, it is essentially organized in Rule/Rule Explanation and Application/Analysis order. A strong answer will present the same content, but in the requested format.

This section also states the expected conclusion. The MPT typically has a correct conclusion – most often favorable to the client — although counterarguments may be included.

What About Sample Answers?

It can be valuable to compare your work to that of real examinees under test conditions, especially if you’re intimidated by the complexity and level of detail in the Point Sheets. Some jurisdictions post “good” MPT answers online; a quick search will turn up many examples. Here are some things to look for.

Format: A sample answer should be formatted in accordance with the MPT task memo. This will provide an idea of what the requested document might look like.

Review more than one answer per MPT to see a range of acceptable variations. Some may have more or fewer subheadings, for example, and the headings may be styled differently.

Level of Detail: While the Point Sheet included every possible issue, source of authority, and fact, the sample answer may include fewer. Did the examinee score well by discussing the main points but not delving into the “perceptive” examinee issues identified in the Point Sheet? How detailed was the rule explanation (using Library sources) and the analysis (using facts from the File)?

Imperfections: No sample is perfect. Some may have obvious strengths/weaknesses. Don’t treat a sample as a limit on your aspirations. Try to exceed it.

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