Multistate Bar Exam Strategy Tip: You Can’t Memorize Everything!

Success on the Multistate Bar Exam (MBE) requires time and correct strategy. The time element simply means that you have to put in the hours of studying. There are no shortcuts or overnight solutions. Correct strategy means that you are studying in a way that leads to correct answers. To some extent, a correct strategy can overcome some shortage of time; however, no amount of time spent studying can compensate for a poor study strategy. (If you doubt this, consider how many students dedicate huge amounts of time to studying for the bar exam and fail.)

One strategic mistake that many students make is thinking that they should memorize all the black-letter law. This is a mistake for two reasons.

First, it would be nearly impossible to memorize this amount of law. I was watching a young woman study for the MBE (Multistate Bar Exam) in the library a few years ago. She was lugging around several printed and bound outline books for each of the MBE subjects. Stacked on top of each other, the outlines must have stood five inches tall. I am guessing she had at least 500 pages of densely packed outlines in front of her. It would be nearly impossible to memorize all of that. If you are like many students, bar exam review starts in June and ends in July. Even if all you had to worry about was the MBE, you still would not have time to memorize every definition, three-prong test, and exception to the exception.

The second reason why it does not make sense to spend your time memorizing black-letter law is that the MBE is an exam that requires application of the law, not regurgitation. No question will ask you to list the elements of a cause of action or the definition of an easement. What you need to do is get a working familiarity with each subject and then dive into sample questions. For example, you could take the time to memorize the elements of each property crime or you could skim the section of your outline and start doing questions. Memorizing each element is a waste of time because in reality the crimes are all similar – they all involve stealing someone else’s stuff! When you dive into sample questions, you focus on how these crimes are different. And the differences between these crimes is where the testable issues hide.

In short, don’t waste time memorizing black-letter law for the MBE. It makes more sense to just dive into the questions and test your knowledge and learn along the way.