An MBE Approach: A Blog Workshop

Are you struggling with MBE questions? Maybe you need to change your approach to them and get a new perspective. Let’s look at one effective way to approach MBE questions:

Take It One Step At A Time

  1. Read the call of the question first.
  2. Identify the subject of the question.
  3. Identify the sub-topic that the question is testing.
  4. Identify the specific issue the question is testing.
  5. Pull out the legal rule to resolve that issue.
  6. Analyze the facts according to that rule, and try to get to the correct answer BEFORE looking at the answer choices.
  7. Choose the answer that best corresponds with your analysis.

Let’s Practice It (Do The Question Yourself Before Looking At My Analysis!)

Upon a woman’s death, the woman’s will devised all of her real property to her best friend and all of her personal property to her lover. During the probate of the will, it was discovered that prior to her death, the woman had entered into a valid written agreement to sell a large parcel of land on which were located several residential properties to an investor for $20 million. The date set for closing in the agreement between the woman and the investor had not yet arrived. The best friend petitioned the probate court for an order directing the woman’s executor to transfer title to the large parcel of land to her. The lover opposed this petition, seeking an order directing the executor to proceed with the sale of the large parcel of land and to transfer the $20 million in proceeds to him.

How should the court decide?

A. The lover will take the purchase money as personalty because the best friend will have to honor the sale.

B. The court will sell the land pursuant to the contract and split the proceeds with the lover and the best friend.

C. The best friend will take the land because the contract became void upon the death of the seller.

D. The best friend will take the land because title to the land has become unmarketable.

  1. Read call of question: We read the call of the question. It doesn’t tell us the subject, but we know we are looking for the court to decide an issue.
  2. Determine subject: Real Property. Although the call of the question did not help us with this, a quick scan of the answer choices can tell you which subject you’re in.
  3. Determine sub-topic: Titles. After reading the fact pattern, we can see the sub-topic in property that is being tested is titles.
  4. Specific issue: Whether the doctrine of equitable conversion gives the best friend an interest in the land or the lover an interest in the proceeds from the sale. How do you know this? Well – it’s giving you facts that deal with someone arguing for real estate, and someone arguing for cash proceeds of the sale of real estate – this always triggers the issue of equitable conversion.
  5. Rule: With equitable conversion, equitable title passes to the buyer when a binding contract of purchase is signed. The seller then delivers legal title by deed on the closing date. If a seller dies after executing a valid contract for the sale of land, but before the closing date, legal title passes to the seller’s devisee but the devisee will have to honor the sale and the purchase money passes as personalty.
  6. Analysis (before looking at answer choices): Applying the rule we identified, the investor became the equitable owner when the woman contracted to sell the land to the investor for $20 million. Because of this, the investor can force the executor to complete the transaction and deliver legal title to him, in return for the $20 million. The $20 million then becomes personalty, which under the will goes to the lover.
  7. Choose the answer: (A) matches our analysis.

Why Does This Approach Help?

First, you have to train your brain to switch between subjects in the matter of minutes. So, quickly identifying the subject matter will help you be able to get focused in the subject you’re being tested on in the moment. Second, determining the sub-topic will help you determine what the legal issue is. Picking out the specific legal issue helps you get to the correct answer, as the correct answer choice will always address the central legal issue in the question. Third, pulling out the rule allows you to practice memory recall during your practice, and it allows you to apply the correct rules to the facts for your analysis. Trying to analyze the question and come up with the correct answer prior to looking at the answer choice is beneficial for a couple of reasons: (1) it minimizes opportunities to be tricked by enticing answer choices or red herrings; and (2) it gets you to answer the question at a faster pace.

Try this approach, and go through questions slowly at first using it. Then, once you get the hang of it, you can implement this approach in no time.

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