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Michigan Bar Exam Essays: How Far Back Should I Go?

If you are studying for the Michigan bar exam, you may wonder how far back you should be reviewing essays.  Here are our tips on how far back you should review essays and where you should start!

The more the merrier!

The basic idea is – the more essays you are able to do, the merrier. Most students practice way too few essays!

Start with the most recent essay exams.

The best essays are the most recent essays, posted on the Michigan Board of Law Examiners’ website.

The more recent the essays are, the better. Why? Because the more recent essays (i.e. from the past few years) were written by, more or less, the same Board members.

A little background: The Michigan Board of Law Examiners is composed of five members (attorneys or judges) who are each responsible for writing three bar exam questions. A board member is appointed for a term of five years (but can be re-appointed). Many of the current Michigan Board members have already served for a few years. So, reviewing the most recent essays is the best way to get exposed to the format and the issues you may see tested on the bar exam. In other words, we recommend starting with the most recent exam and going backward to answering questions from earlier exams.

One note: the board doesn’t typically test the exact same issues twice in a row so doing the most recent exam (i.e. completing the entire February 2020 exam when you are studying for July 2020) is not going to likely expose you to the issues you are likely to see on your exam. It is not a bad source of practice, of course, but don’t expect to see several of the same issues tested on your exam.

Review essay exams going back to 2009 for the best practice.

In addition to reviewing the most recent exams, it is helpful to also review the exams on the Michigan Board of Law Examiners’ website. Why? It is apparent that Board members will often review these essays for ideas on what to test next! So reviewing these exams (from 2009 up!) will be helpful to you. Not only will it get you used to the format of the bar exam, you may also see several of the same issues tested in the same way!

Really old questions will not be as helpful as the more recent questions.

Some students answer questions from the 1990’s. This is fine, because it is an extra source of practice, but we don’t recommend starting with these. Why not?

Up until 1997, questions were written by out of state law professors. So some of the questions before then do not at all reflect the kinds of questions that the Board writes now (see, for example, the Evidence questions, which are very law-school-y in comparison with the questions tested now).

1997 – 2009 are a better source of practice questions than questions pre-1997. However, keep in mind that these questions were not written by the same Board members so will not be quite as useful as questions written after then.

It is definitely not a bad idea to answer older questions – it is more practice! But prioritize what you focus on and where you start. Start with the more recent questions!  

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