Four Tips on How To Write A Great Bar Exam Essay

Whether you are taking the Uniform Bar Exam, the Multistate Essay Exam, or a state-specific bar exam, you’re going to be writing lots of bar exam essays.  The essay portion is a critical component of every jurisdiction’s bar exam.  Doing well can be a big boost to your score.  Thus, it is important to learn how to write a great bar exam essay!  In this post we present four tips on how to write a bar exam essay that will keep you on track to succeed!

Four Tips on How To Write A Great Bar Exam Essay

1. Learn the basic structure.

Bar exam essays are far more concise and efficient than essays you may have written in law school.  You won’t be writing long, flowery responses, arguing every possible outcome on each tiny nuisance.  On the bar exam, you will have a very narrow focus and will answer exactly what the call of the question asks – nothing more!

The best bar exam essays follow the IRAC structure for each issue that you are asked to discuss.  It is important to separate your issues for clear organization so that the grader can follow exactly what you are discussing.  For each issue, create a bolded heading briefly stating the issue (an individual issue statement isn’t necessary).  Then begin with your rule statement, focusing only on the law applicable to that issue.  Then drop down to a new paragraph and compose your analysis.  Finally, state your conclusion, and move on to the next issue.  It’s that simple!

2. Utilize strong and precise rule statements.

Memorizing the law is critical to writing a good bar exam essay.  You need to be able to call up the proper rule and then replicate it on the page when required.  Try to keep your rule statement precisely tailored to the issue without going off on unnecessary tangents.  You want to avoid the “outline dumping” you might have done in law school (unless you are just completely stumped as to the issue, then try to pick up points however you can).  The graders will specifically be looking for the key terms and legal language that indicate you understand the rule.

Thus, one great strategy is to bold/underline these terms in your rule statement!  Graders read hundreds of bar exam essays, and they certainly get tired while doing so.  Bolding the most important parts ensures that the graders see this language and that you get the points you deserve, regardless how fast they are reading.

If you need tips on memorization, see this post on how to memorize your bar exam outlines.

3. Support your analysis with facts.

The analysis is one of the most valuable portions of a bar exam essay in terms of picking up points.  The questions are designed to test not only how well you know the law, but how well you can apply it to the facts. Almost everything in the fact pattern is there for a reason.  Thus, it is likely that most of the facts can be utilized in some way to help you work toward a conclusion.  Make sure you are clearly walking the grader step by step through to your conclusion.  Explicitly bring in the facts from the pattern, apply the law, and clearly state how this leads to your conclusion.  A well-supported analysis will gain you many points on a bar exam essay!

4. Save the conclusion for the end.

We tend to advise our students that it is most beneficial to save your conclusion for the end.  We see some students who like to begin their bar exam essay with a conclusion.  This is very risky, as it sets a bad tone for your essay if you are wrong.  The grader will immediately doubt you and start looking for your errors.  That is, if the grader continues reading at all!  You don’t want to take the chance of biasing the grader against your bar exam essay when you’ve barely begun!  It’s better to wait until after you’ve gone through your rule and analysis before you state your conclusion.  That way, at least if you’re wrong, hopefully, you’ve picked up a decent number of points along the way first!

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