Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Multiple Choice Conundrum: When You Can Only Narrow it Down to Four Choices

It Has Been Said that there are questions on the MBE that have clawed their way into our world from the nightmarish morass of darkness and kitten death that is the collective consciousness of the question writers for the sole purpose of causing fear and chaos.  Here's an example:
  • Farmer Apple keeps bees on his property.  The bees want nothing more than to serve the will of their queen, make honey, and aggressively sting children.  Timmy the Trespassing Tot is on Farmer Apple's land because in addition to all the bees, Farmer Apple collects carnival rides, rides he inexplicably keeps running at all times.  Timmy's mother, Christine Boxo-Wine, is looking for Timmy when the tilt-a-whirl malfunctions and launches angry bees everywhere.  What rule of Evidence best applies to Timmy's testimony in the susbsequent criminal trial?
    • A)  Rule 601
    • B)  The rules do not apply in these circumstances.
    • C)  Ja Rule
    • D)  The Laws of 8
This was a real question.  It appeared on the February 2000 MBE (the one everyone walked out of; look it up).  So what do you do when you're stuck?
Popular lore is that when a question  can't be winnowed down to two choices, you should just pick "C."  But why?  The reasoning is that if enough people get the question wrong, the graders will assume that there was a flaw and nullify that particular question.  This was actual avice given to me while I was taking a prep course.

Let's unpack this - about 60,000 people took the July '13 MBE.  Now lets say of the 60k, one quarter of them used the same prep company.  And in May of '13, a big wig at that prep company says enough with Torts.  The guys who teach it are all a pain in the ass and the robots are going to be handling those suits pretty soon, anyway.  "When a Torts question comes up,  just tell people to pick C" is the order he gives to administrators.  And all of the sudden, 15,000 people get every torts question that isn't answer choice C wrong.  Huzzah!  Doc Review jobs for all!*

This is an example of the kind of reasoning you get sucked into while studying for the bar - the "there must be an easier way around this" thinking.  Now, I'm not here to tell you to avoid short-cuts.  I love short cuts.  This might actually work.  If you've ever taken an ADR class, you know there's merit in the idea behind collective action.  BUT... this might also be bullshit.  So this is a strategy that is known and exists, one that depends on a bunch of people also knowing about it.  It also requires the NCBE graders to not know about it.  It also assumes that the policy of nullifying flawed questions is real and not some kind of nerdy urban legend. 

So that's it - the "Chose C" strategy.  Apply at your own peril.

*jk; nobody will get these jobs without three months experience, and three months experience cannot be acquired without a job

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