Sunday, December 30, 2012

Individual Subjects or Mixed Questions?

A very common question that I'm asked, especially as students begin to feel the MBE creeping up, is at what point is it best to transition from practice questions in individual subjects to mixed questions when preparing for the MBE.

As I've written previously, studying for the MBE is a process that occurs in stages. The initial stage is one of foundation building, and should be spent entirely focused on individual subjects. You'll continue to refine your knowledge in each individual subject once you move on to mixed questions, but the best opportunity to learn, for example, Contracts, is if your focus is entirely on Contracts.

Ideally, you'll move on to mixed questions when you are consistently scoring between 60-70% on practice sets within each individual subject. But usually when I am asked the question that is the subject of this thread, it's because a student is not yet scoring that highly and does not know whether to continue studying the individual subjects, or instead to move on to mixed questions.

My answer is that if you are scoring well below the percentage threshold stated above, it's best to continue to refine your knowledge in that subject because working through mixed questions will not expose you to the same number of issues you'll encounter if you are focused only on a particular subject. The one qualification to the above advice is that at about 3-4 weeks before the exam, you’ll need to move on to mixed questions, regardless as to how you are scoring in the individual subjects. At that point, there are reasons to move on that outweigh the need to work through individual subjects.

First, one difficulty of the MBE is ascertaining which subject each individual question is testing. If you don't practice mixed questions, you will not develop the important skill of making this determination quickly. In addition, the test itself will present you with mixed questions, and you’ll want to give yourself sufficient time to practice with material that replicates the exam as closely as possible. Finally, the full length exams that many test-prep companies provide all consist of mixed questions, and these exams are essential in order to build endurance, which is nearly as important as building your content knowledge.

Consequently, there are a few things to consider when addressing the question of when to transition to mixed questions. Ideally, you’ll spend sufficient time on both individual subjects and mixed questions. The combination of the two is a very effective method for preparing to score highly on the MBE.

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