July 2019 Michigan Bar Exam Recap

In this post, we give you a recap of the July 2019 Michigan Bar Exam.

On the whole, this was a difficult exam. A lot of students had trouble with the exam because of the unexpected subjects (Creditors Rights, Negotiable Instruments!), strange topics tested (Constitutional Law), and the strange way in which other subjects were tested (e.g. Criminal Law, Corporations, Civil Procedure). However, if you prepared for the exam, you will pass!! 

A few notes on these subjects that students struggled with: 

  • A lot of students ignored Negotiable Instruments completely during bar prep and were surprised by the question! If you were not confident in your answer, you are not alone! (Note: you could have still picked up full credit for the first question if you knew Contracts principles regarding payment in full of a disputed debt and a decent amount of credit if you applied common sense to the fact pattern. But we know it is hard to apply common sense on bar exam day!)
  • Constitutional Law tested the right to a speedy trial. (You could also view this as Criminal Procedure but we suspect the Board classified it as Constitutional Law. Whether you called it “Criminal Procedure” or “Constitutional Law” should not make a difference in your score! Both are accurate.) Many students struggled with answering the very pointed questions posed. The Board has, yet again, tested a Constitutional Law issue that is not highly emphasized by courses and not highly tested. If you BS’ed your answer, we assure you, you were in the majority!
  • Corporations was tested in a strange way (the wording of the call of the question threw people off). And Criminal Law (the last question) led students through a maze of facts to finally get students to the question posed.
  • Creditors’ Rights was surprising to many since many commercial courses (to our knowledge) still do not teach the basics of garnishments and attachment so the majority of students struggled with this. Some of the issues were similar to recently tested Creditors’ Rights issues, however. So examinees that reviewed past essays shouldn’t be completely thrown off by this essay.

A few notes on the more straightforward subjects: 

Some of the exam was pretty straightforward — or at least, less surprising, though not necessarily easy. For example:

  • Personal Property tested gifts, which was predicted and relatively straightforward.
  • Wills tested semi-basic (predictable) issues of creation and distribution of assets.
  • Real Property tested retaliation and possession issues (predicted).
  • Contracts was difficult, as usual, testing the parol evidence rule, no oral modification clauses, etc., but the issues were given to students in a straightforward manner which did not require much issue-spotting, unlike many Contracts questions.
  • Conflict of Laws was expected to come up (at least we thought it would) and tested a Torts conflict, so it was not too surprising for examinees who had reviewed past essays.
  • Family Law tested child custody related issues.
  • Torts tested defamation (which we predicted).
  • Civil Procedure was pretty straightforward in testing subject matter jurisdiction/removal, venue, and related issues (though the fact pattern was lengthy/confusing to some)

A few other thoughts: 

A few other notes:

  • The Criminal Procedure question surprised us in that it tested a very recent Michigan Supreme Court decision.  The Board has not, in the recent past, tested cases that came down that recently.
  • Evidence was a lengthy question on lay witnesses v. expert witness testimony.
  • Many of the beginning questions (Wills, Real Property) were very short, making this first portion less lengthy than some other recent exams. However, given the difficulty of some of the questions above, students still had timing issues.
  • There seems to be a distinction among the essays that each of the Board members wrote. The first “book” of the exam (questions 1, 2, and 3) was much more straightforward and contained much shorter questions than, say, the second “book” (question 4, 5, and 6). It will be interesting to see how these trends develop in the future.

If you don’t feel good about the exam, you are not alone! 

Keep the following in mind:

  • You can miss entire issues — and entire essays — and still pass. We see it happen every time.
  • The harder a question is, the more generous the grading is. Oftentimes, students will score much higher on essays that they are sure they bombed! So if you are worrying about Constitutional Law, Negotiable Instruments, or any of the other trickier questions, remember the grading curve will be easier.
  • You are probably focusing on what you did not know rather than what you did know. It is only natural to do this after an exam. However, how you feel about your exam performance oftentimes does not reflect how you actually performed. Many students are surprised by the scores they receive on exam questions!
  • The grading curve will likely be very generous (see next point!)

We suspect a generous grading curve. 

The past few administrations, the Michigan bar exam grading curve has been generous and a score of 6.28 would have led to a passing bar exam essay score. We suspect there will be a generous curve this time, too, due to the nature of the exam.

Good luck on the MBE tomorrow!


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