Thursday, December 08, 2005


A "right" answer, but not the "best" answer

The Multi-State Bar Exam consists of several hundred questions, each of which begins with a very short fact pattern and followed by five multiple choice answers. Perhaps because it's lawyers who are taking the test, and perhaps too because it's lawyers who wrote the test, there isn't necessarily a clear right answer -- you can often make a good argument for two or even three of the choices, and of course, the lawyer test-takers are trained to make such arguments.

Adapting to this problem, the Board of Bar Examiners some years ago came up with the expedient of instructing test takers that they shouldn't necessarily look for the "right" answer, but rather choose the "best" answer.

Here's an example, with a fact pattern arising from a marital, rather than legal, situation.

Question. Wife wakes up from a bad dream. "Let me tell you about my bad dream," Wife says to Husband. "I dreamt that you moved to an adobe house in the desert without me. Basically, you'd left me and went there to go 'find yourself.' You're not going to leave me, are you?" In this situation, Husband should answer:
a) Well, I'm not planning to leave you, but how can I make an absolute promise? Who knows what life will bring?

b) Probably not, but what if you did something really horrible or fell out of love with me? Wouldn't I be entitled to leave you then?

c) Yes, because you're kind of fat.

d) Nooooo, of course not! You know I would never leave you.

e) Noooo, of course not! You know I don't even like the desert.

[Analysis for future exam takers: (a) and (b) , which are essentially the same, are bad answers, because Husband mistakes the question as an occasion to reserve his future rights rather than to reassure Wife, and he thus ends up in a screaming fight. (c) is plainly wrong, since the "F" word can never be spoken by husband as a matter of law. (e) is a "right" answer, since it correctly states "Noooo." But it is not the "best" answer, which is (d).]

For some reason, this morning, I chose (e).

offense is the best defense:

(f) does this dream mean that you are *hoping* i'll go off and leave you?

at which point, it is *wife's* turn to use answer (d)
Oscar, you crack me up. And Warren p.k., you are a husbandly genius.

And I still count the day of the multi-state as one of those days of my life I would never, ever want to repeat.
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Sorry for the multiple deletions! My now deleted comments prompted a discussion with my husband. He clarified for me what his response would be:

(g) Oh, so you want to leave me. Great.
d) Nooooo, of course not! You know I would never leave you.

e) Noooo, of course not! You know I don't even like the desert.

Here's the PMBR approach:

Choice (d) is the best answer because it has a "Nooooo" with five O's.

Choice (e) is a good answer, but is not the best answer because there are only four O's in its use of "Noooo".

You have to answer these questions quickly. There's no time for logic or reason.
Can't you just pretend you're still asleep (snore) till she comes to her senses?
I like choice (f):

(f) "That's so freaky! I had a dream where I went off to live in the desert in an adobe house, and then you were there with a huge friut basket. I was very very glad because I missed you so much, and we spent 4 days making love like crazed weasels."
What happened to Existential Friday?
Perhaps Existential Friday was superseded today as Oscar found real-life meaning in the consequences of choice (e).
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