October 10, 2020

You, Me, and the MPRE – Part 2


What Is Tested on the MPRE?

Part 2

Written by: Scot Goins, Director of Academic Achievement and Bar Success

In Part 1 of this 4-part series, we took a high-level look at the MPRE, reviewing the exam basics and the requirements to achieve a passing score. In Part 2, we will dive deeper into the content of the exam, and review how the exam breaks down into its component parts in order to help guide your studies. The percentages indicated are general guidelines, but remember that specific administrations can vary slightly.

A good starting place to reviewing what is tested on the MPRE comes from the NCBE which states that the exam ‘is based on the law governing the conduct and discipline of lawyers and judges, including the disciplinary rules of professional conduct currently articulated in the American Bar Association (ABA) Model Rules of Professional Conduct, the ABA Model Code of Judicial Conduct, and controlling constitutional decisions and generally accepted principles established in leading federal and state cases and in procedural and evidentiary rules.’

One question that arises for exam takers is ‘what about changes to either the model rules or the model code?’ The good news is that any amendments won’t be reflected on the MPRE any earlier than one year after the amendments receive approval by the ABA. The bad news is that you have to keep in mind that any such rules or code that are amended may be tested by questions that reflect the aforementioned prior to being amended. It behooves an examinee to review any amendments by visiting the respective ABA sites referenced previously, just to make sure that one is aware of any potential changes that may be ripe for testing (or alternatively, that will not be ripe for testing and require adherence to rules or code that exists in its pre-amended form).

It should be noted that the NCBE states that questions outside of the conduct or disciplinary context are designed to measure an exam taker’s understanding of the generally accepted rules, principles, and common law regulating the legal profession in the United States and apply the majority view of cases, statutes, or regulations on the subject. To the extent that questions of professional responsibility arise in the context of procedural or evidentiary issues, such as the availability of litigation sanctions or the scope of the attorney-client evidentiary privilege, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the Federal Rules of Evidence will apply, unless otherwise stated. As a general rule, particular local statutes or rules of court will not be tested on the MPRE; however, a specific question may include the text of a local statute or rule that must be considered when answering that question.’

Before we breakdown the MPRE based on this extremely helpful subject outline that the NCBE provides (which is a one-page summary overview of the exam that is helpful to review on a daily basis), there is an additional document that the NCBE provides. This helpful review tool for the MPRE relates to important distinctions regarding what I refer to as ‘may versus must’ and ‘should versus shall’ language distinctions. Much of the language in the rules and code has important modifiers, and this is an opportune time to conduct a highly encouraged review of the key words and phrases document that the NCBE provides for MPRE takers.

Without further ado, let’s examine the 12 MPRE topics prevalence breakdown: 

  1. The Regulation of the Legal Profession (6-12%)
  2. The Client-Lawyer Relationship (10-16%) 
  3. Client Confidentiality (6-12%)
  4. Conflicts of Interest (12-18%) <Highly Tested>
  5. Competence, Legal Malpractice, and other civil liability (6-12%)
  6. Litigation and Other Forms of Advocacy (10-16%)
  7. Transactions and Communications With Persons Other Than Clients (2-8%)
  8. Different Roles of the Lawer (4-10%)
  9. Safekeeping Funds and Other Property (2-8%) <Easy area to get maximum points)
  10. Communications About Legal Services (4-10%)
  11. Lawyers’ Duties to the Public and the Legal System (2-4%)
  12. Judicial Conduct (2-8%) <In my experience, often overlooked by MPRE takers>

Although this list appears short, remember that the topics themselves are internally broad and require the appropriate time and study devoted to each. As you can see from the percentage breakdowns, there are several areas that WILL be worth 10% or more of the entire exam (the lawyer-client relationship, conflicts of interest, and litigation and other forms of advocacy). In fact, those three areas alone could potentially account for anywhere between 32-50% of the entire exam, so make sure you concentrate especially on them. However, given that there are only 50 tested questions that count towards your score, you don’t want to ignore any topical area.

Remember to checkout Part 3, where we will discuss resources for your MPRE preparation, including free MPRE courses, and also Part 4, where we will discuss study timelines and review strategies to ensure that you achieve success on the MPRE.