How I studied for the MBE

I know 139 isn’t that impressive a MBE score, but I did improve it 20 points from my February 2007 MBE score of 119. That might not be saying much though, seeing as how I got a 129 on the July 2006 MBE, but I know my revamped study strategy had a lot to do with my 139 this time around. Because I will be taking another state’s bar exam in February 2008, I will be sticking with my MBE study strategy again and won’t be changing it.

After failing the CO bar each time, I changed my study strategy. My July 2006 strategy consisted of spending too much time studying the law and not enough time doing practice MBE questions. Failed. My February 2007 strategy was basically quantity over quality – I did as many practice MBE questions as possible, but I didn’t focus on the explanations behind each answer choices. I just did as many as I could. I was doing 75-100 questions a day. I didn’t do a new and thorough review of the law. I figured practice would make perfect. That strategy completely backfired on me, causing my MBE to drop 10 points. I was at a loss afterwards of how to succeed on the MBE, but then I started this blog and got excellent advice from several people (including several readers who commented on my blog). I couldn’t have passed the bar if it weren’t for several of my readers. They helped form my July 2007 MBE study strategy as follows.

First of all, buy the Strategies & Tactics for the MBE by Kimm Walton and Steve Emanuel (yes, as in the Emanuel outlines from law school). I cannot emphasize enough how incredibly helpful that book was to me. It was my bible, and I did every single page in the book. Also with this book you don’t need to buy the released MBEs off NCBE’s website, because most if not all of them are used in the books, and even better they have explanations behind each answer, something you wouldn’t get with the released MBEs. Don’t buy the S&T book used, spend the extra money and buy it brand new. Several people have complained about buying used versions that were written in, highlighted, and the like, so it was detrimental and distracting to them. So I would definitely recommend buying this book brand new. I will be tackling this book again and first thing for February 2008.

Last time around, I made my own MBE outlines instead of using other outlines. However, someone gave me a GREAT set of MBE outlines that were formatted so well I used it to make my MBE outlines. It followed the Convisers very closely and I also plugged in some extra stuff from the Convisers that weren’t already there. I found it really helped me to learn and study the material when I typed it all out. For July 2006 I just went over the Convisers with highlighters and pens but didn’t make my own outlines. For February 2007 I didn’t do a thorough review of the law and that really bit me in the @$$. For July 2007 as you can see I made my own outlines and reviewed the law, and I felt it helped me tremendously. I used the NCBE’s MBE outlines as a starting point for my outlines and went from there. The NCBE outlines are definitely worth checking out as they tell you exactly which areas will be on the MBE, as well as how many questions will be given on specific areas.

I also used the BarBri StudySmart software and the Study Group MBE software to practice MBE questions. I also created 6 documents on Google Documents, 1 for each MBE topic, and every time I answered a MBE question I would type out the explanations/rules behind some (if not all) of the answers to help me understand the law behind the MBE questions and answers. This really helped me a lot with the July 2007 MBE and I could tell the difference because I’d read a MBE question and be able to repeat the specific law or elements to myself. Plus, the Google documents were always available to me whether I was at home or work, particularly because I have the MBE software installed on both my home laptop and work computer. I am using the Study Group MBE software at home and the BarBri StudySmart MBE software at work so I don’t end up repeating the same questions. I also have the MicroMash MBE software which I’ll probably use when/if I run out of Study Group questions.

I have the BarBri Simulated MBE book as well as other books with MBE practice questions, but I prefer the MBE software because I can instant feedback instead of having to flip back and forth between pages. However, I did use a couple of MBE books, especially the S&T book. I bought lined post-it notes (bigger than your average post-it notes) and wrote columns of question numbers down the margin so that I could stick the post-it note on the corresponding page and just move the post-it note every time I turned a page until I ran out of question numbers on the post-it note, then I’d start a new post-it note for the next set of questions. This also helped me when I checked the answer key so I could cross out whatever question I got wrong and write in the correct answer next to it, then I could go back and look at the question, then go to the explanations section and type out the rules/explanations behind the answers in the MBE Google documents.

I took the advice from one of my commenters that was incredibly helpful in revamping my MBE study strategy. Needless to say, his advice worked so I’ve posted his comment below:

JT said:
I failed the bar in July 06 and just passed in Feb 07 in Arizona. In AZ, 2/3rds of the total score comes from the essays, so I decided to focus my studying on essays. However, even though I spent a significantly less amount of time studying MBE questions, my score was higher the second time (only 4 points higher). I did two main things differently the second time around. During my first attempt I did all of the introduction and some of the intermediate MBE problems on the BAR/BRI Study Smart Software, and two weeks before the exam I did 50 questions (From the Red PMBR book, buy it off of Ebay, don’t bother with the class)on a single subject each day.

As for this time, I did the introduction level questions just to warm up, then focused solely on the advanced questions. The second thing I did was sit down and take the full 200 question PMBR practice exam. That PMBR practice exam and the advanced questions were much harder than 90% of the question I saw on this last (Feb) MBE. During both of these things (even the practice exam) I would write out the answer if got the question wrong or if I got it write for the wrong reason. I filled 2 and half legal pads by the time I was done. Using the StudySmart software is particularly helpful because it will give you the answer in between questions (and you can keep resetting it if you want to start over, which I did).
Don’t feel like you have to go over the answers you have written out, that wastes too much time. By just writing them out then moving on, you will have learned 100% more than if you just skimmed the answer.

When I walked out of the July MBE I felt terrible, I felt like a majority of the questions were the hardest questions I had seen (and they were). When I walked out of Feb MBE I felt much more confident even though I had practiced only about half the number I did in July. A lot of people will tell you that it is important to do thousands of MBE questions, and while it is important to do alot, it is not how many you do that counts but the quality of your learning. You will learn a lot more doing 800 MBE questions and writing out answers to everything you didn’t get, than you will by just completing 3000 MBE questions.

I had the PMBR red book, but unfortunately most of the pages were written in and most of the answers to the MBE practice questions were circled. After trying to block out the answers with an index card, I gave up and threw the book away. I might try to buy another, CLEAN copy but I think I have more than enough MBE materials to work with now.

In the last three weeks or so before the July 2007 bar, I tried to take simulated MBEs but usually did only about 50-100 at a time instead of the whole 200-question shebang. I thought 50-100 was more reasonable because if I got a lot of answers wrong, I could go back and review the material without wasting an entire day on 200 MBE questions.

One last thing, I signed up for the NCBE’s 2006 MBE Annotated Preview which is basically a 100-question practice MBE consisting of questions from recent MBEs. I signed up for it before the February 2007 bar, and again before the July 2007 bar. I’ll probably sign up for it again – the practice is helpful after all. And $26 isn’t much.

I didn’t take any bar prep classes, not even PMBR’s 3-day MBE workshop. I was told it was a waste of time and not to bother. I’ve never done well with just sitting in a classroom with lectures – I’ve always been a self-studier. All my life, I’ve taught myself material from my classes, from elementary school through college. I also tried to do the same in law school. I’m the type to try and figure something out for myself. I’m not by any means advocating not taking any bar prep classes. It really depends on what works best for you in learning and studying the material. If you work best in a lecture/classroom environment then by all means go for it. Because I’ve never taken bar prep classes, I really can’t give you any advice on which bar prep courses are good or bad, but you can read people’s opinions of different bar prep providers by reading the comments in my archived posts.

Well, I think that is all for now, although I feel like I probably left something out and can’t remember what it is. However, please feel free to post any MBE advice of your own that you may have to offer, in the comments. I’m always looking for ways to improve my MBE score!


68 thoughts on “How I studied for the MBE

  1. Midwesterner in D.C.

    Hey FBE-

    Did you find any correlation between the score you got on the NCBE annotated deal compared to what you ended up getting? I didn’t know about this last summer, but based on your post here and others, I purchased this and just went through it.
    My score is definitely higher than last summer (as I feel it should be since I have a better command of the info) but I wonder if these older questions are a bit easier than the current state of the MBE…
    Glad to hear you got cleared for launch finally…I think the Board of Law Examiners in every state are a bit crazy!

  2. Pingback: My February 2008 bar prep strategy « Frustrated Bar Examinee

  3. liz

    I took the S&T simulated exam, but since there’s no gauge, I don’t know if my score is good or not. I only got 107 raw. That’s definitely not enough to pass, but I know with pmbr and bar bri they tell u that they put the hardest possible questions in so it’s understandable. Any advice, pls email me! Bar in less than a week

    1. Erum

      I would really appreciate if you could share that outline with me at erumshaq@hotmail. Aslo the Strategies & Tactics for the MBE by Kimm Walton and Steve Emanuel would still be updates as this is 2012. Plz reply

  4. brian

    I would also appreciate those outlines if you don’t mind sharing… as i am re-taking the bar b/c of my mbe score. Loved the advice and keep it coming.

  5. Matt

    Just purchased ‘Strategies & Tactics for the MBE’ on you advice, would you mind sending me the outlines (, law school has broken the bank for me already.

    Thanks, I referred your site to many colleagues!

  6. Chad

    re-taking bar for 3rd time. Great advice on your website. Do you mind sharing your outlines?


    1. carl mcneill

      Chad, I passed the bar in 1992, but did not get fully licensed in the two year period as Texas requires. My probationary licenses were revoked. Texas requires that I repass the bar exam. took the 1998 and 2000 bar and failed.
      Would you mind sharing the outlines mentioned in the blog? Thanks, carl mcneill

  7. steve lim

    Hi mate,

    nice post, enjoy it thoroughly. I will do everything you said except the red PMBR because I might use this – kinda pricey though but seems good.

    If you could send me your outline I would greatly appreciate it. I won’t mind sending you mine but you might have passed 🙂

  8. jb

    Thanks a ton. I bought the suggested book and I passed the MD and scored well enough on the MBE to waive into DC.

    Appreciate the help.

  9. Jennifer

    I too almost went the quantity over quality route. That’s all people told me to do was “do as many questions as you can and you will start to see patterns”. I failed the mbe by two points cause I concentrated on knowing the law and only did about 250 questions. If I was that close on my method, I knew going the total opposite way would be wrong for me. Thank you for confirming my gut feeling. I just ordered S&T and plan on using your idea for the ncbe outlines to give what i currently have a fresh appeal. I would love to check out yours since they are already organized that way; it would be much appreciated ( Thanks again so much for great advice and wish me luck!

  10. Mike


    Just came across your blog and found some great advice. I failed the Bar by 4 and 8 points (Thanks MBE) and taking it for the third time next month. Thanks for all the info. Also, I would love to check out your outlines..might help me finally pass this damn exam =)

  11. Nathan

    Thanks for the post. This is my first attempt at the NY exam so I am trying to get the full scoop on the MBE. Didn’t know if you were helping others out by sharing your outlines. If so, would be great to get a copy at Thanks again for the info.

  12. J

    Gearing up for CA bar exam Feb 23-25.

    Been doing MBEs but they’re killing me. I ordered the ones on the website. They are so much shorter and simpler than the ones in PMBR, barbri, etc. Is this true on the actual exam? Thanks!

  13. Dale

    I have no idea how to study for the MBE. There are too many variations of the same laws. I suggest really doing all the questions to help you memorize the law. I hope I didn’t fail my second time around.

  14. George

    I have been reading all your comments from your website which I found really helpful. I have failed the MBE portion of the DC bar exam and will need to sit again this coming July. As you strongly suggested I already ordered the Strategies & Tactics for the MBE which I hope will help as well. Also, would you mind sharing your outlines? I would greatly appreciate that.


  15. Alison

    The latest edition of Strategies & Tactics is full of typos and errors in explanations and formatting. It’s as if the editor slept through the process. I have not found it to be helpful. Try the NCBE’s actual past exams, two of which are available online for only $26 each at

  16. sozlat

    my scores have vastly improved after making my own outlines in the subjects I was doing poorly in. I would greatly appreciate it if you could send me your outlines so I could tweak mines… exam is next week.

    If you still have the outlines, you can send at I have outlined even some Texas essay topics, let me know if you need any! 🙂

  17. lynn

    I am taking the bar for the 3rd time in KY. Passed essays first time, but 128, then 131 on MBE. I’m making my own outlines, but it would be great to have something to compare it too, do you mind sending me your outlines? Thanks!

  18. Buzoh

    Just registered for New York Bar for July 2011. Going for third attempt and need help in tackling the MBE which is my achilles hill. My last two MBE scores were poor and need help on how best to tackle the MBE.I have attended both BarBri and PMBR 3-day classes but all to know avail. May be because I don’t practise too many past questions could be the cause of my poor performances and I never finished the actual MBE questions each of those two times. Tell me the secret of finishing the questions and then worry less about whether I will get them correctly.

  19. Jess

    Can I get a copy of the outlines too. I am taking the CA bar in July for the third time.

  20. Eve1426

    I have been reading all your comments which I found really helpful. I want to take the MBE portion of the bar exam for the first time. As you suggested I ordered the Strategies & Tactics. Also, would you mind sharing your outlines?

  21. Jenny Kim

    Thank you for the post! I’m re-taking the CA bar in July, I didn’t do so well on the MBE in Feb. Could I get a copy of your outlines?

    I’m doing the S&T book and was wondering what other materials I should use to prepare for the MBEs. I am too a self-studier, and that’s why I was/am hesitant to sign-up for the big, expensive commercial bar prep courses. I have to find a way that works for me, but not taking the expensive courses creates insecurities and anxieties in my stomach. Any advice will be helpful. Thank you!

    1. T

      For the outlines, click on ‘Materials’ at the top of the site. An outline for each MBE subject is posted and can be downloaded!

    1. Nina

      on the other hand I just read the other posts on this site. It took me long to get these outlines while I do not need them. Click on the material in top of this page and outlines are there!!/ Ohhhh my how could I have missed it!?

  22. Nina

    I wrote in this side as well but never heard anything. But I passed. My advice, Kaplan red book (PMBR), Kaplan midterm, and final (200 mbe Kaplan). I utilized red book very well. Also, I had tutor for few hours just go over few essays which I wrote and he corrected mine and told me few hints. It was only 3 hours. I was writing MD and Shemer is famous for MD. I passed after 3rd time. I was very frustrated as well.

  23. Mohita Anand

    I just took Barbri’s stimulated MBE test and bombed. I got a 80/200. I’ve been working doing all questions Barbri assigns as well as the questions in the Strategies and Tactics book for each section. What would you recommend I do the last few weeks? My score needs to improve drastically and I don’t know what else to do!

    Thank you!

    1. Nina

      Use PMBR red book to study (it was great and helped me a lot I got 111, 109 raw at my first and 2nd try in Bar with using Barbri, then I sued these books and I end up with 129 raw)and the final 200 Kaplan instead! For me Barbri did not help. The first time I got 108 in Barbir stimulte but I failed. Barbri MBE is not for everyone. People study different and I believe Kaplan red book break it down very well for people like me. Good luck

    1. T Walters

      If you go to the top of the page, there’s a section titled Materials. Click ‘Materials ‘ and you can access the outlines.

  24. ali cor

    my assistant needed to fill out IRS 1120 – Schedule G some time ago and was informed about a company with lots of form templates . If you are requiring IRS 1120 – Schedule G too , here’s a


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