By Florence Kerner, Associate Director - Grading Services and In-School Programming, Helix Bar Review
Most law students have the bar exam on their radar. But there are other steps to becoming a licensed attorney in addition to passing that pivotal exam. The requirements vary by jurisdiction; however, in nearly every state, passing the MPRE, or Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam, is a pre-requisite for admission to the bar. Fortunately, this is one box you can check off your “to do” list before you graduate! But when is the right time to tackle this important test? Here are some questions to help you create an MPRE plan that works for you.
Where do you plan to practice law?
Already know the state or territory where you want to practice? Then your first step is to check out that jurisdiction’s bar admissions website to find out if there are any MPRE timing requirements. Be sure to see how long your score will be valid and whether you must take the MPRE before you sit for the bar exam.
If you don’t yet know where you’ll be after law school, that’s ok too. You can research the MPRE timing requirements in any U.S. jurisdiction you’re contemplating in the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) Bar Admission Guide. (And keep track of what you learn about possible jurisdictions using this checklist, which you can access by creating a free Ask EDNA! account.) Generally, if you earn a passing MPRE score within two years before the date you take the bar exam, you should be safe in any state. (So, sit tight, 1Ls.)
Have you taken a course in professional responsibility or legal ethics?
Many students wait to take the MPRE until after they have completed a Professional Responsibility (PR) or Ethics course in law school. While these classes are not designed specifically to prepare you for the MPRE, they can provide a solid foundation for the exam since the MPRE measures your knowledge and understanding of established standards related to a lawyer’s professional conduct. These standards are covered extensively in a typical PR course. It’s good to have a general understanding of the guidelines by which attorneys operate and some practice applying these rules before you begin to prep for the MPRE.
When will you have time to study for the exam?
The MPRE is offered three times per year – in March, August and either October or November. Typically, successful students spend about 20 hours studying for the MPRE, usually in the weeks (or weekends) preceding the exam. Head to the NCBE website to find the scheduled examination dates over the upcoming year, and then consider your obligations in the weeks leading up to each exam. When will you be able to best fit MPRE prep into your other myriad obligations?
When you have figured out the answer to that question, check out Helix MPRE℠, a comprehensive (and free) MPRE prep course, which includes 2-week and 4-weekend Sample Study Schedules that can help you plan how to best juggle exam prep, law school and life.
Do you find multiple-choice questions challenging or struggle with test anxiety?
Time for a reality check. The MPRE is a two-hour 60-question test that is many aspiring lawyers’ first exposure to the challenging format of “bar style” multiple-choice questions. Each jurisdiction sets its own passing score, somewhere between 75 and 86 (out of 150). The good news is the vast majority of MPRE takers earn a passing score or higher (the mean score in 2021 was 97.5). But if you know (or suspect) that you may have difficulty with this exam, consider taking it sooner rather than later to give yourself every chance of passing before you graduate and become consumed with studying for the bar.
Do you plan to apply for ADA exam accommodations?
ADA accommodation requests for this test are evaluated by the NCBE. The suggested deadlines for exam accommodation applications are almost two months before the exam registration deadline. This is because you cannot register for the MPRE until your accommodations have been granted. So, if you’re up against an MPRE registration deadline and you haven’t yet applied for exam accommodations, you may need to consider taking the exam the next go-round.
Are you flexible about where to take the test?
The good news is that, since the MPRE is a nationally administered and scored exam, you may register to sit for it at any location where it is offered. You will take this computer-based exam online at a Pearson VUE testing center, so (unlike the bar exam) you don’t have to travel to the jurisdiction where you plan to practice to take the test. Be sure to check for locations near you – some states only have one or two centers that administer the MPRE, and keep in mind that if you register too close to the deadline, you may not be able to sit for the test at your preferred location. So, once you’ve figured out the best time to take the MPRE, plan ahead and register early!
Now that you have an idea of when you should take the MPRE, you may be wondering what the exam is all about! For more details on everything you need to know about the MPRE, including dates, deadlines, fees, content, preparation tips, test-day procedures, exam results and additional resources, check out Ask EDNA! - Education Network at AccessLex. This free platform contains tons of information on licensure, the bar exam, law school and even financial planning. The more you know, the better you can plan to fit this exam into your busy schedule!