The Multi-State Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE) is a required ethics exam that the vast majority of law students must take if they hope to be a licensed attorney. The MPRE is a 60 question, multiple-choice exam. Exam takers must complete the test within two hours.
There is no required date when students must take the MPRE, and no required class, but there is a huge timeliness advantage in taking the MPRE as early as possible. In this article I will go over aspects of the MPRE that you should know, my experience with taking the MPRE, and my recommendation on when you should take the MPRE.
The vast majority of U.S jurisdictions require bar applicants to take the MPRE. If you are in one of the lucky few jurisdictions that do not require the MPRE (Maryland, Wisconsin & Puerto Rice), then congratulations, you do not need to worry about this exam. For all the rest of you unlucky folk in a jurisdiction that requires the MPRE, you should familiarize yourself with individual jurisdictional requirements.
The MPRE is graded on a scale from 50 (low) to 150 (high), and states are all over the place on minimum score requirements. 75 is the lowest passing score, and 86 is the highest passing score (California). Two states accept completion of a professional responsibility course as satisfaction of the MPRE requirement (New Jersey and Connecticut).
I can’t give you a black and white answer on how many questions you need to get correct to pass in any jurisdiction. This is because out of the 60 exam questions, 10 are experimental and ungraded, and the MPRE is curved so you are not penalized for taking a more or less difficult version.
However, it’s generally safe to say that if you get 30 out of the 50 graded questions correct you will pass in any jurisdiction.
How Tough is it to Pass the MPRE?
I’m going to give you the lawyer answer here, it depends. As a graduation requirement, my law school required a professional responsibility class, which was extremely helpful in preparing for the MPRE. Unfortunately, lots of my friends decided to wait until 3L year to take the MPRE. By 3L year, these friends had long forgotten the professional responsibility rules they learned in class, and this made the exam considerably more difficult.
Lots of students say that a black and white rules-based multiple-choice exam like the MPRE is a breath of fresh air for many law students. Still, others have difficulty with the exam, whether that be as a result of inadequate preparation or just difficulty with multiple-choice test-taking. I know several people that have taken the exam multiple times, but we are going to make sure that you’re not one of them!
My Experience With the MPRE
Like many other law students, I worked my a$$ off 1L year. My intention at the beginning of 2L year was to grind it out for one more year and fulfill all my major graduation requirements, so I could really coast 3L year.
During my fall semester of 2L year I had 3L friends that were getting worked up because they had all of these graduation requirements they needed to complete, and they were just beginning to study for the MPRE.
I decided at that point to take my professional responsibility class in the spring, and take the MPRE two weeks later. I have to admit that I received an extremely sweet deal. I took the compressed class which was only two weekends! Once the class ended, the MPRE was offered a few weeks later in March.
I began studying heavily for the MPRE five days before the exam. When exam time finally came, I was so well prepared from the professional responsibility course and the few days of studying, that I completed the exam in half the time and scored in the 140s.
When You Should Take the MPRE
I can not recommend enough that you should take the MPRE during your 2L YEAR!!!!
I know that 2L year is busy, but the MPRE is an extremely important requirement and you definitely do not want to cut into Bar preparation in order to study for the MPRE. Another reason is that if something were to go wrong and you needed to retake the exam, it would be far less problematic to have taken it 2L year.
Take the compressed class if available
Many law schools require their students to take a professional responsibility course. If your law school offers a compressed course I would strongly recommend taking it. The course was painfully boring for me, I never did any of the readings, and I was on the internet the entire time. Although those two weekends were among the most boring of my life, I could not imagine taking that course for the entire semester.
I am certainly not recommending the approach I took to my professional responsibility class, but that approach won’t sink you like it would in most other courses because the MPRE tests your knowledge of rules. Rules-based knowledge is easily ascertained outside of class.
Take the MPRE soon after your professional responsibility class
Do not waste what you learned in your professional responsibility class by waiting six months to take the MPRE. This might seem obvious to most, but you will forget nearly everything you learned in that class. The only law students I have seen fail the MPRE are the ones who kicked the can down the road after taking the class, and then neglected to take the exam seriously.
Use available free resources
Forget about any paid MPRE study guides or courses, trust me you DO NOT need them. There is only one MPRE resource that I absolutely recommend you use, and it is 100% free. The free Barbri MPRE Course is extremely useful, it contains tons of videos, practice tests, and an outline. Barbri does not require that you commit to its Bar review course or that you even give it your credit card information.
Trust me, this is the only study aid you will need for the MPRE. Watch all of the videos, take the practice exams, and repeat. This strategy, combined with summarizing and re-reading the rules, allowed me to breeze through the exam.
Take it seriously but don’t lose sight on what the MPRE really is
The MPRE is an important exam for future lawyers, but lets remember what this exam actually is. It is certainly not a Bar level exam, the MPRE is only 60 questions and there really is not that much material to learn. Neither is the MPRE on par with most of your class exams. The amount of material you have to learn and synthesize in Torts and Contracts class is enormous compared to the Rules of Professional Responsibility.
What I am trying to say is that you should certainly take this exam seriously, you don’t want to retake the MPRE. But you don’t have to go overboard and study a month before the exam. If you have not taken a professional responsibility class or you took it a while ago, I recommend that you begin preparing two weeks out from the exam. But if you are coming out of a professional responsibility class you can shorten that timeframe in half.
I hope this MPRE article helped with your decision on when to begin studying for the MPRE. The MPRE is an important milestone in a law student’s journey, with some preparation and hard work you can get over this hurdle with ease!