The Smart Guide to the MPT
A Guide to Mastering the Multistate Performance Test (MPT)
MPT Grading & Scoring
What You’ll Learn:
- How the MPT is Graded & Scored
- How an MPT Score is Determined – Raw Scores & Scaled Scores
- The Total Percentage Weight of an MPT Score (in each jurisdiction)
- MPT Grading Standards… with MPT Grading Key
- Additional Resources on MPT Grading & Scaling
What You REALLY Need to Know About MPT Grading and Scoring
Each jurisdiction grades MPT answers using their own set of grading standards. Each answer is graded on a numbered scale based on the quality of the answer. The grading scale varies per jurisdiction (e.g. 0-6, 1-10).
All written scores are combined, and then scaled using a complex formula. For UBE jurisdictions, the written portions of the exam (MEE + MPT) are combined and scaled to a number between 1-200.
Other than that, you shouldn’t really worry about the specifics of grading and scoring. Your main focus should be on MPT practice so you write an excellent answer on exam day.
We have included more grading specifics below if you’re really interested, but feel free to skip the rest of this chapter, especially if you’re short on time.
The specifics on grading and scoring (reviewed below) get very detailed. Feel free to skip the rest of this chapter if you’re not interested or short on time.
How an MPT Score is Determined (Raw Scores ➔ Scaled Scores)
Outlined below is the entire process of how an examinee’s MPT score is calculated:
- Step # 1: Each MPT answer is graded and given a “raw score” using relative grading. The score given is based on the quality of the answer, and the grading scale varies per jurisdiction (e.g. 0-6, 1-5, 1-10). “Relative grading” (also called “rank ordering”) means scoring and ranking each answer “relative” to other examinee answers in that jurisdiction.
- Graders use a process called Calibration to ensure fairness when grading and rank-ordering papers. Calibration is achieved by test-grading “calibration packets” of 30 student papers to see what the range of answers is, and then resolving any differences in grading among those graders and/or papers. This process ensures graders are using the same criteria so grading judgments are consistent for rank-ordering.16
- Step # 2: The written raw scores are combined, and then scaled to the MBE. This is the examinee’s “scaled score”. Specifically, the combined “raw score” is scaled to the mean and standard deviation of the Scaled MBE Scores for that examination. Scaling adjusts for possible differences in average question difficulty and grader performance across different administrations of the exam.
- For UBE Jurisdictions, an examinee’s scores for the MPT and MEE are combined, which comprises the examinee’s combined written “raw score” for the exam. This combined written “raw score” is then scaled putting the written raw score on a 200-point scale. Specifically, the combined “raw score” is scaled to the mean and standard deviation of the Scaled MBE Scores for all examinees of the examinee’s respective jurisdiction (the state in which you take the bar exam). This means that an examinee’s written portion is scaled “relative” to the other examinee answers in that jurisdiction.
- Step # 3: The total written “scaled score” is weighted accordingly, depending on how much the written component is worth for that jurisdiction’s bar exam. For UBE jurisdictions, the total written “scaled score” is 50% of the total exam score (20% for the MPT + 30% for the MEE).
*Note: South Dakota and Palau do not scale the written component to the MBE. Instead, each jurisdiction requires a separate minimum passing score for each component.
Total Weight of MPT Score
The MPT is worth 20% of your total exam score in most states – including all UBE jurisdictions, such as New York.
In other jurisdictions, the MPT is normally worth between 10% and 20%. Some jurisdictions have additional state written components and/or have a minimum passing score for the MPT/written portion.
Below is a chart showing how much the MPT is worth in each jurisdiction.
|D.C. – District of Colombia||20%|
|Hawaii||see note||The 2 MPT tasks, 6 MEE questions, and 15 Hawaii ethics multiple choice questions are equally weighted to 50% of the exam score.|
|Mississippi||15%||Uses only 1 MPT question.|
|Nevada||10.5%||Uses only 1 MPT question.|
|South Dakota||see note||Avg. score of 75% required for written component. Written component includes 2 MPT’s, 5 MEE essays, & 1 South Dakota essay.|
|Wisconsin||see note||Administers varying combinations of MPT, MEE, and local essays. The weight of each component varies per exam.|
|Guam||11.1%||Uses only 1 MPT question.|
|Northern Mariana Islands||20%|
|Palau||see note||Must score 65 or higher on each component to pass, including the MPT component.|
MPT Grading Standards
Many jurisdictions do not release their grading standards or grading scale, but a few states do.
|Score||MPT Grading Key / Scale|
A 6 answer is a very good answer. A 6 answer usually indicates that the applicant has a thorough comprehension of the practical and academic aspects of the task, understands and synthesizes the relevant factual and legal materials, and uses them to write a legally supported, well-written, responsive product in the time allotted.
|A 5 answer is an above average answer. A 5 answer usually indicates that the applicant has a fairly complete understanding of the practical and academic aspects of the task, understands and synthesizes most of the relevant factual and legal materials, and uses them to write a legally supported, reasonably well-written, mostly responsive product in the time allotted.|
|A 4 answer demonstrates an average answer. A 4 answer usually indicates that the applicant has a fair understanding of the practical and academic aspects of the task and understands enough of the relevant factual and legal materials to incorporate them into a relatively satisfactory, albeit less than completely responsive, product in the time allotted.|
|A 3 answer demonstrates a somewhat below average answer. A 3 answer usually indicates that it is, on balance, inadequate. It shows that the applicant has a limited understanding of the practical and academic aspects of the task, does not understand or synthesize some of the key factual and legal materials, and thus is unable to incorporate them into a satisfactorily responsive product in the time allotted.|
|A 2 answer demonstrates a below average answer. A 2 answer usually indicates that it is, on balance, significantly flawed. It shows that the applicant has only a rudimentary understanding of the practical and academic aspects of the task, has failed to grasp and synthesize most of the relevant factual and legal materials, and thus has not produced a useful written product in the time allotted.|
|A 1 answer is among the worst answers. A 1 answer usually indicates a failure to understand the task or how to accomplish it, and an inability to understand and synthesize the factual and legal materials and incorporate them into a minimally acceptable written product.|
|A 0 answer indicates that there is no response to the question or that it is completely unresponsive to the question.|
As seen above, the MPT has specific criteria for assessing the quality of an examinee’s writing. This is because: “MPT examinees are instructed on the proper tone for the assignment (e.g., persuasive, objective), the proper audience (e.g., court, client, opposing counsel), and sometimes the desired formatting (e.g., the use of headings, statement of facts, case citations). Thus, in general, it can be easier for graders to make distinctions on the quality of writing when grading MPTs.”17
Additionally, the quality of your writing matters! New York has even explained how the quality of writing counts towards grading as follows:
“The ability to effectively communicate is essential to competent legal practice. In grading, consideration is given to whether the answer is appropriately organized; whether the analysis is expressed with precision, clarity, logic and economy; whether relevant facts are cited and analyzed in support of a stated conclusion; whether appropriate legal terms are incorporated into the analysis; and whether overall the answer reflects an ability to communicate in an effective manner.”18
|Arkansas||Scale ranging from 65 to 85|
|Colorado||1 to 6 point scale|
|Illinois||0 to 6 point scale|
|Massachusetts||0 to 7 point scale|
|New Jersey||0 to 6 point scale|
|New York||0 to 10 point scale|
|Vermont||0 to 6 point scale|
|Washington State||0 to 6 point scale|
Even if you are taking the bar exam in another jurisdiction that uses a slightly different raw grading scale, you can still use the Washington State example above as a guidepost for what is considered a high scoring MPT answer.
Additional Resources on MPT Grading & Scaling
If you’re interested in more details on MPT grading and scaling, please see the following articles:
- 13 Best Practices for Grading Essays and Performance Tests by Sonja Olson, The Bar Examiner, Winter 2019-2020 (Vol. 88, No. 4).
- Essay Grading Fundamentals by Judith A. Gundersen, The Testing Column, The Bar Examiner, March 2015. This article discusses both MPT and MEE grading fundamentals.
- Q&A: NCBE Testing and Research Department Staff Members Answer Your Questions by NCBE Testing and Research Department, The Testing Column, The Bar Examiner, Winter 2017-2018.
- It’s All Relative—MEE and MPT Grading, That Is by Judith A. Gundersen, The Testing Column, The Bar Examiner, June 2016.
- Procedure for Grading Essays and Performance Tests by Susan M. Case, Ph.D., The Testing Column, The Bar Examiner, November 2010.
- Scaling: It’s Not Just for Fish or Mountains by Mark A. Albanese, Ph.D., The Testing Column, The Bar Examiner, December 2014.
- What Everyone Needs to Know About Testing, Whether They Like It or Not by Susan M. Case, Ph.D., The Testing Column, The Bar Examiner, June 2012.
- Quality Control for Developing and Grading Written Bar Exam Components by Susan M. Case, Ph.D., The Testing Column, The Bar Examiner, June 2013.
- The MPT: Assessment Opportunities Beyond the Traditional Essay by Diane F. Bosse, The Bar Examiner, December 2011.
- Frequently Asked Questions About Scaling Written Test Scores to the MBE by Susan M. Case, Ph.D., The Testing Column, The Bar Examiner, Nov. 2006.
- Demystifying Scaling to the MBE: How’d You Do That? by Susan M. Case, Ph.D., The Testing Column, The Bar Examiner, May 2005.
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17 Essay Grading Fundamentals by Judith A. Gundersen, The Testing Column, The Bar Examiner, March 2015, at pg. 56.
18 The MPT: Assessment Opportunities Beyond the Traditional Essay by Diane F. Bosse, The Bar Examiner, December 2011, at pg. 21.
19 See, 13 Best Practices for Grading Essays and Performance Tests by Sonja Olson, The Bar Examiner, Winter 2019-2020 (Vol. 88, No. 4), at Item 3.