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Passing California Bar Exam Essay

How To Write A Passing California Bar Exam Essay Answer

It is likely you have been engulfed with tips and tools on how to write a passing California Bar Exam essay answer. Tips are always helpful, but a well-planned strategy will put you on the path to writing a stellar answer.

How To Write A Passing California Bar Exam Essay Answer


Before you begin writing your essay, it is most effective to outline your essay first.  For example, if you are writing a Torts Essay or a Contracts Essay, you will want to include “DEFENSES” in your outline so that you will remember to include them in your essay. Write out all the possible Defenses that could be used and quickly run through the list as you draft your essay to see which ones apply.


To rack up points from the bar grader, you will need to signal to them that you have spotted an issue. Succinct issue headings will get the job done. For example, if your essay focuses on Intentional Torts, and you have facts to support Assault and Battery, you will write an issue heading for ASSAULT, and a separate issue heading for BATTERY.  Make sure that your major issue heading stands out by either bolding or underlining.  It will be hard for the bar grader to miss those issues, thus granting you points for spotting the issues, which will go towards passing the California Bar Exam Essay Answer.


The same rules discussed above apply to sub-issue headings.  You must signal to the bar grader that you have spotted those as well to stay on the path of passing the California Bar Exam Essay Answer.  Staying in the Torts family, Negligence is a perfect example.  In California, a Negligence essay is much more detailed than in other jurisdictions.  We know that a prima facie case for Negligence requires Duty, Breach, Causation, and Damages.  However, there can be many sub-issues heading in this analysis, specifically Standard of Care which must be determined before you can move on to Breach.   As with major issue headings, make sure your sub-issue headings stand out by italicizing or underlining.


While issue headings grab attention, you must focus on spotting all relevant issues in the essay.  Each fact is placed in a California bar essay for a reason.  An easy way to train yourself not to miss relevant issues is to mark up a hard copy of the essay. While the California Bar Exam is currently computerized due to Covid-19, this experiment will still help you to make sure you are not leaving any facts behind.  Using a hard copy of the essay, cross out each fact every time you use it. If you are left with any facts not crossed out, you have missed an issue, affecting your ability to write a passing California Bar Exam Essay Answer.

Pay close attention to DATES, NUMBERS, NAMES, TITLES, and any possible red herrings. If the Bar Examiners give you these facts, you are expected to use them in your analysis. Doing the above exercise with a hard copy of an essay will train you to have “eagle eyes” and grab relevant facts.


In California, your entire essay must be in IRAC form to write a passing California Bar Exam Answer.  The bar graders in California will expect to see your essay in this order: Issue Heading, Rule Statement, Analysis, and Conclusion. While some Applicants may deviate and start with a conclusion, be careful when using this format. The bar grader will want to see your analysis first, and how you reached the conclusion. As to rules, they are not expected to reach perfection, but you should include enough “buzz” or legal words such that the bar grader can see that you know the gist of the rule.  When in doubt IRAC it out! For more on formatting your essay properly, review our blog on Four Tips  on How To Write A Great Bar Exam Essay


Your analysis is vital to passing a California Bar Exam Answer.  Every issue should have its own IRAC, applying the relevant facts to the rule. This means that you must use facts in the actual essay.  If possible, use “quotes” from the essay, to show the bar grader that you have paid attention to the facts. While you may find yourself repeating facts, this is acceptable as you may use one fact several times.  Do not expect the bar grader to recall an analysis you may have done previously. Refrain from saying “See Above” for any analysis. If the analysis calls for you to repeat the facts, you should do so, such that the bar grader can see that you have followed the IRAC format.

Where appropriate, you may also use reasonable inferences, if they make sense based on the facts. For example, if the facts tell you that “Jane hit Mary as she was crossing the intersection,” you may make a reasonable inference that Jane knew how to drive or had a driver’s license. Use reasonable inferences to “beef up” your analysis.  If you notice that your analysis is shorter than your rule statement, go back to the facts to see what you may have missed.


Before you hit the submit button to upload your essay, double-check to make sure you have answered every call of the question. It is advisable to read the call of the question more than once to make sure you understand what the bar graders are asking you to do.  As well, the call of the question can also serve as the “outline” for your essay.


The best way to pass a California Bar Exam Essay is to practice, not once, not twice, but religiously.  Do not wait until you have memorized rules before you began writing practice essays.  The more you write the better you will get. By the time you reach the bar exam, your confidence will be strong enough to tackle any essay you encounter.   Find out more about writing a passing California Bar Exam Essay by reviewing California Bar Essay Exam Tips.

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