- Multiple-choice questions test more than your ability to recall a rule, they require legal analysis—applying rules to facts.
- The best way to improve your multiple-choice-questions is to practice
Law students face multiple-choice questions numerous times before they emerge as practicing attorneys. Multiple-choice questions appear on law school finals, the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE), and the bar exam. If you’re underperforming on multiple-choice questions, this guide is for you. Discover why you’re picking wrong answers, and nail down a successful plan of attack.
Let’s start with the basics. Multiple-choice questions typically contain a fact pattern, a question prompt, and four answer options. As you’ve probably realized, knowing the substantive law tested is a must for succeeding on any exam. But multiple-choice questions test more than your ability to recall a rule. To select the right answer option, you must do legal analysis—applying rules to facts.
In substance, multiple-choice questions are like mini-essays, but many law students who perform well on the written portion of an exam still struggle with multiple-choice questions. Read on to diagnose why you bomb the multiple-choice section.
Multiple-choice-question writers intentionally design wrong answers that appeal to students who understand the material incompletely or harbor predictable misconceptions. If you answer questions based on instinct, your performance suffers.
Try examining why you’re attracted to the answer option. Many law students fall for legal vocabulary that seems correct at first glance. For example, if a question tests the causation aspect of a negligence claim, watch to see whether you are immediately attracted to an answer option that uses the words “proximate cause” or “foreseeable.”
It’s not enough for the answer option to use the right legal vocabulary. The correct option will properly apply the law to fact. Methodically examine all the choices and ensure your selection reflects the correct analysis.
Some students see difficult questions and give up. One daunting type of question features a series of statements and asks which are true. The answer choices appear as Roman numerals:
(A) I and II only
(B) I and III only
(C) II and III only
(D) I, II, and III
Lengthy fact patterns also cause students to throw in the towel. Sorting through facts takes mental energy. At the end of a challenging exam, the last thing anyone wants to see is a meaty question.
If you tend to give up on hard questions, try reframing your mentality. On your path to law school, you succeeded on many hard tests. This is just one more. Prepare yourself to accept short-term pain for long-term gain.
Use practice sessions to scale up your ability to focus. Begin with shorter sets of practice questions, and steadily increase the length to develop the stamina needed for exam day.
Does your anxiety spike when the exam begins? A bit of nervous energy can sharpen mental focus, but too much anxiety interferes with performance. It shortcuts your thinking: a racing mind can’t analyze multiple-choice questions methodically.
What helps? Some strategies include positive self-talk, following the same approach to each question, and intentionally slowing your reading speed. Use your pen or finger to track each word and focus on creating a mental image of the words on the page.
Don’t be afraid to see a professional counselor if necessary. A mental health professional can help you develop a plan to overcome test anxiety.
Misconceptions about multiple-choice questions can lead you astray. It’s a myth that the answer cannot be “C” three times in a row. It’s also a myth that “all of the above” or “none of the above” is never the correct answer. Leave the myths aside and trust your ability to analyze the question.
Develop a multiple-choice strategy, and use it for every question, even if you think you know the answer right away. Try this plan of attack:
Wrong answer options often fall into predictable patterns. If you’re wise to the patterns, you’ll have an easier time selecting the correct answer.
Question drafters love to incorporate inapplicable principles of law in wrong answer options.
Because the legal principle given is true, the answer option is appealing. There are several ways to write wrong answer options using inapplicable principles of law. Watch out for these tricks:
Question drafters also mischaracterize the facts in wrong answer options. If there is a contradiction between the fact pattern and the answer option, the answer choice cannot be correct.
In addition, watch out for options framed in absolute terms, such as those using language like “always” or “never.” Most legal rules have exceptions and qualifications. Answer options presented in absolute terms are often incorrect.
Finally, watch out for options that state fake rules. Be wary of doctrines you’ve never heard of and fancy Latin terms. This is a favorite tactic of law professors.
The best way to hone your multiple-choice-question skills is to practice. Make practice questions part of your preparation for any multiple-choice exam. Start small. Do one question at a time, pausing after each one to read the answer explanation. You’ll be amazed at how much you learn.
Past struggle with multiple-choice tests doesn’t dictate your future. For just about every student, learning the law is a journey with ups and downs. When failures come your way, meet them with a growth mindset. Analyze what went wrong, and use struggle as a springboard to success.
Ready to ace your next multiple-choice exam? Quimbee has your back. Find practice questions designed for law school success, a free MPRE course, and a bar review course featuring 1,450 real, licensed questions from past bar exams.