Updated March 14 2023. Originally published April 05 2020
Sample Multistate Bar Exam (MBE) questions are an essential tools for law students during their bar exam preparation. Remember, the MBE counts for 50% of your your score on the UBE, and sample questions are the best way for you to learn how legal concepts are applied (and improve your scores on the test).
Here are 5 ways sample MBE questions help you understand the underlying law and, ultimately, lead to success on the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE).
1. Learn How Concepts Are Applied
As you study for the bar exam, you'll be trying to digest an incredible amount of substantive law through course lectures, notes, and outlines. Yet even as you start to get comfortable with the “law” and explanations of the endless number of subtopics for which you'll be responsible, you might not truly understand the concepts until you see how they are applied. That's where practicing MBE questions plays a huge role. You'll start to appreciate how the rules work together (for example, you might be able to define a “prior identification,” but not know to apply it until you see how the officer's testimony about the victim's statements is admissible because she has testified in the trial proceeding and could be recalled).
Those connections are obviously essential for trial lawyers, and will also be essential for you on the bar exam. The bar examiners want to see that you can spot issues and then apply the knowledge that you learned in law school and while preparing for the bar exam. Your exposure to sample MBE questions will help you learn how concepts are applied and have you prepared for similar questions on the same concepts on the actual test.
2. Reinforce the Law You Know (and don't know) By Reviewing Answer Explanations
Bar Review moves a lot faster than law school. You may have spent two months learning a subject like negligence but then in bar review cover it in a few hours and move on to criminal the next day. That's where sample MBE questions can really help you to establish your foundation in the law. You won't have concepts and details cemented in your memory after only one day of course lectures and review, but attempting questions and then going back over their explanations will re-expose you to the law you covered, in the context of a fact pattern that helps it make sense.
This process of re-exposing yourself to explanations of the law will help keep concepts fresh and cement details in your memory. You'll probably notice that some of the careless mistakes or misunderstandings that you identify in sample MBE questions are the concepts that are most indelibly burned in your memory by the day of the exam.
Here is an example of a Sample MBE Question and Answer Explanation (similar to what you can receive in your inbox every weekday morning after registering forPieper's UBE Question of the Day):
A brother and sister owned two adjoining tracts of land. Each tract was bounded by the ocean. The brother’s land was covered with rocks, while the sister’s land was a fine sandy beach. In 2001, the brother constructed a home on his land. During the summer months since 2001, the brother and his family regularly have used the beach on the sister’s land for swimming and sunbathing. During each spring and fall, the brother has regularly used the beach for fishing. At all times, the brother has prevented others from using the beach on his sister’s land, telling them to “get off my beach.”
The sister regularly used the beach during the summer of 2013 and did not oust her brother from possession. In 2014, the sister sold her land to a buyer. The brother remained in possession of the beach until this year, at which time the buyer commenced an ejectment action.
Assuming the period for adverse possession in this jurisdiction is 20 years, who owns title to the beach?
(A) The brother, because he held himself out to others as the rightful owner of the land. (B) The buyer, because the transfer of title in 2014 interrupted the brother’s possession. (C) The buyer, because of the sister’s joint possession in 2013. (D) The brother, because the sister did not oust her brother from possession.
The Answer is C. Here's why.
Adverse possession must be exclusive to ripen into title. The sister’s possession of her land is sufficient to end the running of the statute of limitations against her, even though her brother also occupied the property during the same period. Therefore, the brother did not acquire title by adverse possession. As such both (A) and (D) are incorrect answers and choice (C) is the correct choice. Note, that the brother likely acquired an easement by prescription, which does not require exclusivity.
The concept of tacking applies to the rightful owners of the property as well as to possessors. The statute of limitations which first began to run against the sister continues to run against the buyer. Therefore, choice (B) is an incorrect answer.
In this example, knowledge of joint possession law and statutes of limitation is critical for naming the correct answer. Reviewing the explanations, however, can help you when answering questions of exclusive possession, adverse possession, and tacking, and even includes a hypothetical tip: "Note, that the brother likely acquired an easement by prescription, which does not require exclusivity."
Whether you get an answer right or wrong, try not to skip over these explanations. You may think you'll remember your mistake, or that you'll get similar questions right every time, but you're memorizing so many rules of law that any bit of knowledge not concrete in your mind may get lost in the shuffle when it matters most come exam time.
3. Familiarize Yourself With "Red Herrings"
This tip is multi-layered, with metaphorical caution signs everywhere. Firstly, a "red herring" in literature is defined as a kind of fallacy that is an irrelevant topic introduced in an argument to divert the attention of listeners or readers from the original issue; or more simply, as something, especially a clue, that is, or is intended to be, misleading or distracting.
On the bar exam, a red herring might present itself as a possible answer choice that contains words or phrases you've never heard of—in Latin, perhaps, or as an irrelevant fact within a pattern. These are designed to trip up examinees unfamiliar with the rule being tested.
Here's where caution comes in: Yes, red herrings might show up on your bar exam, but they are few and far between. You'll probably see more during bar exam review than on the actual test.
More often than not, answers or facts are wrongly dismissed as red herrings on the bar exam. Such decoys, however, do actually provide logical triggers to apply a specific rule, but the examinee has simply mistakenly overlooked something.
By taking advantage of practice MBE questions, you can familiarize yourself with these tempting tricksters—just note that this process might involve more debunking of red herring status in favor of relevance than the alternative.
The time for experimentation is during prep, and not during the exam. What we mean by "experimenting" is, for instance, that you can try answering questions before even reading the list of possible answers. If you can do that, you'll know you've sufficiently memorized the rule of law being tested. If not, no harm done; plus, you've created a learning opportunity for yourself.
Another way you can experiment is with timed versus untimed MBE practice questioning. When you forgo the stopwatch, you remove the added pressure of a time constraint and can practice thinking through fact scenarios. Practice this enough, and the thinking process will become more expeditious during your timed practice—and finally, on the UBE.
4. Target the Areas Where You are Struggling
On the bar exam, you'll be faced with randomly ordered questions in each of the seven subjects tested, but as you work with Sample MBE Questions, you'll have the ability to select questions in the areas you've been studying, see where you are performing well and where you are struggling, and then target the areas where you need additional work. Study tools like Pieper's Multiple Choice Lift (included in Pieper's Bar Courses and available separately for $175) will help diagnose your strengths and weaknesses and then let you target the individual subtopics where you need more help.
5. Improve Your Timing
Finishing each three-hour section if the MBE can be a challenge for many students, so as you practice, you'll want to try to work at a pace that would be appropriate on the exam itself (100 questions in three hours comes out to 1 minute and 48 seconds per questions). It's ok if you work past the window of time you set aside for completing your sample questions, but use that information to help improve your timing. You'll start to appreciate that you can't read every question multiple times and that knowing the law better can increase your speed.
You'll also want to complete at least one complete, 200 question MBE exam within 6 hours prior to sitting for the actual exam. It will help you understand how to pace yourself on the actual test and give you a sense of how mentally exhausting it is to keep your brain focused over such extended periods of time.
As a first time bar exam taker, if you don't pass the Uniform Bar Exam after completing Pieper's Full Bar Review Course, you can re-take our next course for free!
Pieper Bar Review teaches students the legal concepts and exam skills necessary for success on the bar exam, and reinforces students’ knowledge through thought-provoking examples and bar exam questions. Pieper’s courses do more than teach the material to students. They enable students to master concepts as they are tested so that students can excel within the time constraints of the exam. The proof that the Pieper teaching method works is found in the success of our former students—now present-day attorneys. Ask them, and you’ll learn why Pieper People Pass.