How To Write Higher Scoring Bar Exam Essays
The essay portion of the Bar Exam is a scary place to be for a lot of examinees. MBE questions limit you to only four answer choices and provide a relatively short set of facts. In comparison, the essay portion of the Bar Exam leaves you to fend for yourself. Examinees are required to draft answers based purely on analysis, evaluation, and knowledge of the law. While that might sound intimidating, the essay portion of the Bar Exam can be conquered. Read further to see our tips on how to write higher scoring bar exam essays.
How To Write Higher Scoring Bar Exam Essays
Have A Formula To Tackle Each Subject Area
Having a formulated plan on how to structure essay answers based on subject area is key. Approaching a Bar Exam essay should be like approaching a math equation, just with less focus on what X equals. You need to have an attack strategy on how to structure each answer depending on the subject area. Each answer will include a statement of certain indispensable concepts or rules.
For example, a constitutional law essay answer must generally include a discussion of standing, ripeness, and mootness. A contract essay answer will almost always discuss offer, acceptance, and consideration. A negligence essay answer will usually cover duty, breach, causation, and damages. You get the idea.
Once you start writing your answer, the first couple of paragraphs should be an almost automatic regurgitation of legal language. The easiest way to accomplish this? Memorize, memorize, memorize!
Memorize The Law
Memorization of the law is one of the most important aspects of successfully answering a Bar Exam essay question. Take time early on in your bar prep to make a habit of memorizing certain concepts in highly tested subject areas. Stating the law in a clear and concise manner is a direct product of memorization. How are you supposed to state elements of a crime if you didn’t take the time to memorize them?
Focus On Key Concepts And Highly Tested Areas
Don’t waste time trying to memorize rules that show up on an exam every 100 years. Case in point – The Rule Against Perpetuities. Your goal in taking the Bar Exam is not to know every piece of law out there. The goal is to know enough law to pass the exam. With that being said, focus on highly tested areas that frequently appear. Looking at essay questions from previously administered exams to see frequently tested topics is always a good start. Make sure to check out our essay exam frequency chart here!
Organize Answers Clearly
You want to make it as easy as possible for graders to give you points. Nobody grading a Bar Exam essay wants to hunt for reasons to hand out points. Therefore, the way you present your answer is important to maximizing your score. IRAC, the use of headers, clear and concise rule statements, and the use of keywords are all important.
What To Do If You Blank
You studied, memorized, and even wore your lucky socks to the Bar Exam. You turn the page to begin the essay portion and all of a sudden…mind blank. It happens more often than you think. Although you may panic, remember this important piece of advice. If you don’t know a rule statement or relevant law – Make it up. Seriously. Essay graders want to see how well you can restate the law, but they also care about analysis. How you work through an issue is important.
For example, on Essay 6 of the July 2013 MEE, piercing the veil was raised. However, it wasn’t piercing the veil of a corporation, but rather an LLC. This was one of the first times that piercing the veil of an LLC was ever tested. As a result, examinees were startled and had to adapt to circumstances. Many thought that they had forgotten to study a key piece of law. Panic at the thought of writing nothing down quickly sank in. What did many test-takers do? They simply used the rule for piercing the corporate veil and adapted it to an LLC. After results had been released, many high scoring answers utilized this strategy.
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