Bar Exam Psychology

The MBE is an endurance exam. It can easily mess with your mind and your emotions. These tips will help you stay calm and focused:

Pass bar exam critical pass MBE flashcards bar exam flashcardsTough Questions

The MBE is certainly difficult, but most questions are actually manageable. But some questions are harder, and others can be brutal. It might be that none of the answer choices seem correct. Or perhaps you are convinced more than one answer choice has to be right. Maybe you just don't understand the question.

Regardless, don't freak out when you stumble upon these tough questions. Some questions are designed to be brutal, which means everyone else is as stumped as you. Stay calm and move on or take a quick breather (see below on "Streaks").

Either way, more time won't help if you're already stumped. Just remember: you pass the MBE by nailing down the questions you should know, not the ones you shouldn't.

Pass bar exam critical pass MBE flashcards bar exam flashcardsTiming

Before you start the exam, make notes on the MBE score sheet of specific questions that will be benchmarks for time. You have three hours for 100 questions, so approximately one hour for every 33 questions, or 30 minutes for every 16 or so questions. Try circling question 33 and 66 before you start, knowing that you should hit these at one and two hours, respectively. You can put in additional benchmarks between these numbers as well. Just be sure to erase the circles around the question numbers before you turn in your score sheet.


You should generally try to take a break every hour, or even more frequently if possible. Your brain will get tired unless you give it a very short amount of rest time. So at least every hour or so, sit back in your chair and just breathe for a good 10 or 20 seconds. Even better, take a quick bathroom break. As mentioned below, one of the best times to do this is when you hit one or two really tough questions.

Pass bar exam critical pass MBE flashcards bar exam flashcardsStreaks

When doing practice MBE exams, many people notice how "streaky" they are. They'll get seven or eight straight questions correct, and then get eight or nine in a row wrong. Some people think the NCBE designs the MBE to have blocks of hard questions. We've found no evidence to support this. The problem of streakiness isn't the exam – it's you.

If this is happening to you on practice exams, just remember: the bad streaks almost always start somewhere around a tough question that irks you. Your frustration carries over to subsequent questions, impacting your ability to answer them correctly.

The way to beat this is to be aware of tough questions. When you hit a question that stumps you, answer it as best you can, then stop for a second. Put your pencil down and lean back in your chair. Take a deep breath. This is a perfect time for a bathroom break if you need one. Once you've rested for a moment, even if it's just 10 seconds, then start again.

This may sound silly, and it probably goes against your common sense (which will tell you to move on quickly). Moving on is important. But moving on without clearing your head will hurt you.

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