Common Michigan Essay Mistakes – By a JD Advising Grader
Below are a few of the most common mistakes that a JD Advising essay grader sees on the Michigan bar exam. Keep reading to learn what they are and how to fix these simple Michigan essay mistakes!
Common Michigan Essay Mistakes – By a JD Advising Grader
Mistake #1: Beginning with a conclusion.
CRAC (Conclusion – Rule – Analysis – Conclusion) and IRAC (Issue – Rule – Analysis – Conclusion) are both great methods for organizing legal writing. Your goal should be to make the answer easy for the grader to read. When you organize your answer in a logical manner, the grader will easily see that your answer includes the key points and you will not miss anything that should otherwise earn you points. If your conclusion happens to be wrong, this could unnecessarily taint the grader’s view of the rest of your answer in a more damaging way than an answer that has not yet concluded incorrectly.
Fix #1: Use IRAC.
For the bar exam, IRAC is our recommended approach. When your discussion begins by merely identifying the issue, it is more likely that the grader—or really anyone—will read your answer more open-mindedly. You stand less of a chance of having the other components of your answer disregarded, even if the conclusion you reach is incorrect.
Mistake #2: Restating the facts and not providing any analysis.
Most students may not even realize they are making this mistake. I notice that this mistake occurs when the rest of the answer is unorganized, which makes it clear to the grader that the student has not memorized the law and thus does not understand why certain facts have been given. What’s worse, the grader cannot award the student points when they’ve copied down the fact pattern. And it likely took the student a couple of valuable minutes to type up those facts.
Fix #2 (three of them!): Take notes on fact patterns, memorize black letter law, and review past exams.
The best advice I was given when I struggled with this mistake at the beginning of my bar prep journey was to go through the question, line by line, and write in the margins why you think each fact has been included. You will quickly discover that there is almost always something to say about each fact.
There is no sugar-coating the second ‘fix’ because it requires you to memorize your rule statements. Take the Bar Exam Learning Style Quiz to find out if you are a visual, aesthetic, or kinesthetic learner. From there, you can figure out how to memorize your rule statements in the most efficient way. The quicker you memorize your rule statements, the earlier you will find that you can apply the factual scenarios to the law.
Another excellent piece of advice we recommend is to review past bar exam questions and answers to determine what sort of things the examiners are looking for you to say about the facts. There is a huge advantage to be gained by reading model answers and understanding exactly what sort of discussion the examiners want you to engage in with the facts.
Mistake #3: Failing to self-grade.
Many students do not take self-grading seriously. For those that do, they will likely tell you it was the best thing they did during their bar prep. “Self-grading” is a method of studying where you read a bar exam essay fact pattern then write or bullet point your answer and compare what you wrote with the model answer. When you compare what you wrote with the model answer, use a different color pen (or font) to write out anything you missed and to give yourself tips like an actual grader would.
Fix #3: Learn how to self-grade, and understand the specific questions to ask yourself in order to use this highly effective study approach.
To start, review this post on how and why you need to self-grade for further details on the process. Here are some of the benefits you can expect once you learn how to self-grade:
- You will learn the rules better if you are forced to write out what you didn’t know.
- You will become well acquainted with how to structure your essay.
- You will become better at picking out material facts in the fact pattern.
- You will start to “think like a bar exam grader.”
- You will find yourself improving quickly.
You are most invested in your success so you will provide yourself with quality feedback, perhaps even better than a commercial course grader. (Note: Commercial graders are incredibly beneficial as they may see things you miss and help you understand how to write an essay. However, the person most invested in your success is YOU so take the time to provide yourself with quality feedback and really analyze what you missed and could have done better!)
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