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Life of a Law Student, University of Houston Law Center

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By: Luke Gilman | Other Posts by
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I will be flexing my ethical muscles today. It won’t be pretty. Anonymous girlfriend duped me into signing up for the MPRE since she enjoys sharing misery. It didn’t occur to me at the time that with my second-half summer course final looming in a week I would be in no mood to brush up on the finer points of conflicts of interest and fee division. That final I can’t retake in November, the MPRE I can. So the extent of my preparation has been flipping through my professional responsibility outline and doing some practice questions I bummed off someone with it enough to do the BarBri session. So off to reap the fruits of my lack of labor…

I have a feeling I’m not alone. Law Ingenue is hallucinating about it. Nontraditional Law Student seems to be taking a healthy approach of fear and motivation. Namby Pamby has an even more active imagination than I do (and reinforces my secret hope that there is such a thing minimally sufficient studying). Jeremy Blachman (anonymous lawyer guy) lays seige to the MPRE with irony (but see Raffi Melkonian). Peanut Butter Burrito has no worries. Western Justice proffers the What Would Jesus Do? method, but doing the opposite, because we’re, you know, thinking like lawyers.

Susan M. Case, the Director of Testing for the National Conference of Bar Examiners, gives us the straight dope in the article The Testing Column: Standards on the MPRE (.pdf) (via the Legal Profession Blog)>, noting that many people believe the standard for passing is higher than it actually is, providing the nugget of hope that “even in the toughest states, one would only need to answer 27 of 50 right on that exam.”

For the November 2005 MPRE, these standards required the following percent correct scores:

75 48% (lowest standard jurisdiction)
77 50%
79 51%
80 52%
85 53% (Texas)
86 54% (highest standard jurisdiction)

A discussion of statistical basis for the scaling model ensues here and here, noting that even the examining boards “don’t really know what score, if any, predicts a career of ethical practice” and that the numbers equate to little more concrete predictors than failure rates – for instance “a score of 85 passes roughly 75% of the takers, a score of 80 passes a little more than 85%, and a score of 75 passes about 90% of all takers.”

Does anyone else find it odd that each state picks its own passing rate to set the baseline for professional ethics? Apparently the appropriate response to arbitrariness is … arbitrariness.

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Category: professional irresponsibility


17 Responses

  1. Ana says:

    You’ll be fine. I did about 30 practice questions and walked out thinking I’d failed – but when the results came back I was way above 85. A friend of mine didn’t do any practice questions and scored higher than I did. It’s a pointless test in that you know the rules, but the questions are written to be near incomprehensible – kinda like the MBE. You get down to the two options you know could be right and then blindly pick one. Those odds coupled with the fact that you can actually figure out about ten questions puts you above 53%.

  2. lukegilman says:

    I hope so. I finished about an hour early, but I felt pretty good about it. Passing given this level of preparation would set bad precedent for the bar though. must …. fight… 3L… malaise…….

  3. Johnny Rocketscience says:

    How could finish a 2 hour exam an hour early and feel pretty good about it?

    I was in there until 10 minutes left, as were most of the people in the room.

    Dude that was a tricky-ass exam!

  4. Sherry says:

    I took it yesterday and felt like a complete idiot coming out. The exam was nothing like the questions on the BarBri practice exams. I sure hope they do a better job with the MBE.

    I normally ace standardized tests, but these questions were nearly incomprehensible.

  5. Ana says:

    Don’t worry about that. The bar will sufficiently scare you enough to study.

  6. lukegilman says:

    We’ll see if I still feel good about it in five weeks, but I approached this one as a bonus round since I’ve still got a while before graduation.

    Oddly, I felt like the answers were trickier than the questions; I could eliminate one or two, and the answer I really wanted was missing.

    Really glad I had PR last semester though. I’ve heard a lot of students say the class and the test have have nothing in common, but I would have been totally lost without it and doubt a half day BarBri class would have done much for me.

  7. Sherry says:

    I’m not sure my Pro Resp class helped at all. The professor was more focused on touchy-feely liberal issues than on the Rules. The class was pretty useless.

  8. Tanya says:

    I took the test on Friday too, I thought it was SUPER tricky. I scored well on my practice questions. I took 3 complete practice exams and probably studied a total of 20 hours. (I know, some might say overkill, but failure is not an option since I won’t have time to re-take in November.) However, I agree with the prior poster that the ANSWERS were weirder than the questions. I also noticed a LOT of people with frowny faces in the exam, and overheard a lot of people saying that they hadn’t studied. Oh well, it’s a scaled test, right? I need 86 to pass for Utah…I’m just hoping I get that!

  9. Dave says:

    I sat last Friday and thought it was tricky enough now. Not many c answer choices which put me off. I did the NCBE sample IV questions and the Barbri practice tests and scored very high in these but they didn’t equate to the difficulty of the exam last Friday. I don’t get why we don’t get the results like then and there. They could surely put this on PC and we could walk out knowing the results. Sure it’s MCQs…

  10. Tanya says:

    Does anyone know when we are supposed to get the results? The score booklet says “within five weeks.” I’m guessing that they will be emailed to those who registered online (like the test ticket was) sometime during the week of September 8?

  11. lukegilman says:

    The five week number is as close as we can know – here’s the text from their FAQ

    When will I get my scores?
    MPRE score reports will be released approximately five weeks after the test date and are available until the late receipt deadline of the following test date.

    If you registered online and provided an email address, we will send an email message providing instructions and a link to access the printing of your score report.

    If you registered using the paper application, or if you registered online and did not provide an email address, your score report will be mailed to you. If you encounter difficulties with the online access, or if you do not receive your score report, contact the MPRE Records Department at 319/337-1304 or at

  12. lukegilman says:

    MPRE scores just came in. Proud to say I’m sufficiently ethical.

  13. Sherry says:

    Just got mine too. I am quite relieved to say that I’m sufficiently ethical to practice in any jurisdiction.

    I have no idea how I got the score I did. I left thinking that I didn’t get any questions right, yet I still got a 109. Go figure.

  14. Tanya says:

    Sherry, I felt the same way, and I got a 109 as well. Congrats to all who passed!

  15. Joey b says:

    Good god – I thought I failed and got a 124. Unreal.

  16. Steve says:

    I am more shocked about getting my 125 score today than I was about getting my 69 score after the March test. Unfortunately, no one told me the CJC was on it the first time. Congrats on maybe being ethical, or maybe not.

  17. [...] ethics game we play in law school as screw the lawyer. I have posted here previously on what it takes to pass the MPRE and it doesn’t involve much of a moral [...]

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