Before they enter law school, most law students have heard of the Bar Exam. What they don’t necessarily know is that it’s made up of several tests. The MPRE, or the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination, is one of the exams that will be required for you to be admitted to the Bar in most states. This test is the ethics portion of the Bar. It’s offered separately from other parts of the Bar Exam, and you will probably take a Professional Responsibility course in school that will help prepare you for the MPRE. Let’s get into detail about everything you need to know about the MPRE.
WHAT IS THE MPRE?
The MPRE is the ethics portion of the Bar Exam. It is a two-hour, 60-question multiple-choice objective exam administered three times per year. Only 50 of the 60 questions count towards your score; the other 10 are pretest exploratory questions. The pretest questions are indistinguishable from the scored questions, so to treat each question as a “real” question.
Each question provides a scenario and a call of the question, followed by 4 answer choices. Common calls of the question are as follows: Is the attorney subject to discipline? May the attorney withdraw? Was the attorney’s conduct proper? The answer choices will all begin with a yes or a no, followed by an explanation.
The MPRE is offered in March, August, and November. The regular registration fee is $125, and the late registration fee is $220. Registration for the following year’s test dates usually opens in December. Early registration ends approximately 8 weeks before the test, and late registration one week later.
Here are details about the August and November 2021 test dates:
|TEST DATE||REGISTRATION DEADLINE|
|August 11 or 12, 2021||June 10, 2021|
|November 4 or 5, 2021||September 17, 2021|
Note that the MPRE is now offered on weekdays in two-hour blocks rather than on Saturdays in four-hour blocks. There is no late registration deadline. Students should register as early as possible to ensure that they get an appointment at the time and testing center they prefer and receive any requested accommodations.
The MPRE tests two bodies of law. One body is the American Bar Association’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct. These are the rules that govern lawyer ethics. The other is the ABA’s Model Code of Judicial Conduct. These are the rules that cover judicial ethics. The most commonly tested subjects include: regulation of the legal profession, the lawyer-client relationship, client confidentiality, conflicts of interest, competence, forms of legal advocacy, communications with people other than clients, the different roles of a lawyer, safekeeping funds, advertising, lawyers’ duties to the public, and judicial conduct. The NCBEX’s outline of subjects can be found online.
MPRE scoring can throw test-takers off. There is no national scaled passing score, even though it is a national exam. Each jurisdiction decides how to treat the MPRE scaled score. Most students taking the MPRE exceed the score they need the first time they take the exam. It is required for admission to the Bars of all but two U.S. jurisdictions (Maryland and Wisconsin). MPRE scores are scaled, and range from 50 to 150, with an average of approximately 100. For example, New York requires a score of 85, which translates to a raw score of approximately 32-35 correct out of the 50 testable. Because the MPRE is scaled, your score will be affected by everyone who took the MPRE that day. If the exam was particularly difficult, a lower raw score will likely net you a higher final score.
WHEN DO YOU TAKE THE MPRE?
The material on the exam will be covered, at least in part, in your Professional Responsibility class at school. The closer you take the MPRE to the time you finished your PR course, the more you’ll remember and be able to apply to your class.
Many law students take the MPRE the August in between their 2L and 3L years, or a few months after the PR class at school ends. You don’t want to take the MPRE before you learn the material in school. While the choice of when to take the MPRE is up to you, you should plan the time carefully. For example, you probably don’t want to take the exam after you take the actual Bar Exam because you will feel burnt out at that point.
The August MPRE test is a favorite of students, as opposed to test dates during the school year because you don’t have to juggle studying for class with studying for the MPRE. You also want to give yourself a bit of wiggle room, time-wise, just in case you don’t get the score you need on your first try. You will not be sworn in until after you have passed the MPRE, and you don’t want any delay there. In some jurisdictions, like Massachusetts, you must have taken and passed the MPRE before you apply for the MA Bar Exam.
HOW TO REGISTER FOR THE MPRE
As a law student you will need to register and create an account number with the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE). This usually occurs as you prepare to take the MPRE. Your NCBE account number is a unique identifier that will be associated with exam scores (MBE, UBE, and MPRE), the Character and Fitness application, and other bar admission purposes.
THE DIGITAL MPRE
As of March 2020, the MPRE is a digital exam administered at Pearson VUE testing centers. Until March 2020, some test-takers will be selected at random to take the computer-based exam at Pearson VUE testing centers, and all other examinees will take the paper-based exam at an LSAC testing center.
HOW TO STUDY FOR THE MPRE
Without passing the MPRE, you cannot become a licensed attorney. Kind of a big deal! Fortunately, since the exam covers only the subject of ethics, you don’t have to study for months and months. Your PR class will give you a solid foundation of ethics. Kaplan also offers a free MPRE prep course with practice exams to help you nail down concepts that you may not understand or be the strongest at.
Kaplan’s free MPRE preparation program provides a comprehensive review of the legal rules and concepts tested on the MPRE. It includes exclusive tools for organizing this material and a curriculum designed to:
- facilitate your learning
- improve your test-taking, and
- optimize your exam-day performance, so you can pass the MPRE with confidence
Here is what one student said about studying for and taking the MPRE
I studied for two weeks using Kaplan’s free MPRE course and was successful. My studies consisted of watching the Kaplan live interactive four-hour lecture first. I was able to ask questions of the professor during the lecture. There was an easy to follow outline that I filled in as I watched, a condensed outline of the key facts, practice questions from the question bank, and many full-length practice MPRE exams under timed conditions. Also there was even a question based review lecture of one of those exams where the professor went over every question.
The key, I found, was doing lots of practice questions to best learn and drill the concepts home. Utilizing Kaplan, I created quizzes with the topics and sub-topics that gave me the most trouble to learn those areas better, too. The questions on the actual exam could be pretty kooky, so I was glad that I got all my practice in.
The hot, humid day of the exam arrived, and I felt nervous, but pretty confident. I remembered the final piece of advice the Kaplan professor gave to me: “You have a duty to act as an ethical attorney 24/7 365 worldwide. The lens of ethics is always on you; On a cruise-ship in international waters. On a space capsule. Be honest, be fair, fight hard, don’t screw your clients financially, have appropriate relations, but if you do, get informed consent to do so and that will cure most ails!”
As the long line of us filed into the basement of the venue (it felt a little bit like a dungeon), took our seats, and began, I was so glad that I did all those practice questions. The actual exam questions were not easy, and the proctors who were walking around holding clocks above their heads so we knew how much time we had left were a little distracting, but I got it done. The two weeks of studying (as opposed to cramming the night before, which some friends did), got me ready and helped me succeed.
The MPRE is like a road test – you can take it as many times as you have to, only the passing score counts, and you only have to pass once. No one asks about any unsuccessful attempts. You’ll get your score via email approximately four weeks after you take the test. Get this licensing component of the Bar Exam over as early as you can in law school. Don’t wait until your final semester!