Should my essay answer look just like the Michigan bar exam model answer?

book pictureMany students get nervous when they start comparing their relatively short and sparse essay answers to the lengthy and detailed Michigan bar exam model answers that are promulgated by the Board of Law Examiners.

At least once a week, someone asks us, “Should my essay answer look just like the Michigan bar exam model answer? “

The short answer is no.  Your answer will not generally be as lengthy as the Michigan bar exam model answer. It will not generally include citations, case names, or rule numbers.

In fact, the “Michigan bar exam model answer” is not even called a model answer by the Board of Law Examiner’s (the entity that writes the questions and the answers). Rather, it is called an Examiner’s Analysis.  

This is an important (and often-overlooked) distinction. (In fact, I am guilty of saying “model answer” more often than not!)  Basically, the answer promulgated by the Michigan Board of Law Examiners is not a “model answer” of what you are supposed to write. It is an analysis of how the person who wrote the question analyzes the issues presented.

However, the Examiner’s Analysis is a great tool to compare your own answer to in order to see how well you answer the question. We always recommend that students write their answer, read the Examiner’s Analysis, then compare their answer to the Examiner’s Analysis. When you compare your answer to the Examiner’s Analysis, write (in a different colored pen or different colored font) any important issues, rule statements, analyses, or conclusions that you missed. Reading the Examiner’s Analysis (as well as the case names, policy reasons, etc.) may help you get a better idea of why the answer turns out the way it does. But for the most part,  you will not be expected to cite cases or list rule numbers in your answer.

In short, when you are comparing your answer to the Examiner’s Analysis, do not focus on the following:

  • Citations
  • Case names
  • Rule numbers (for the most part)
  • Lengthy discussions about the cases or policy reasons behind them
  • The length of the answer in general (some of the Examiner’s Analyses are very long!)

Instead, when you are comparing your answer to the Examiner’s Analysis, focus on the following questions:

  • Did I recognize the issues that are in the Examiner’s Analysis?
  • Did I state the rules accurately?
  • Did I apply the law to the facts in the same way (and pick out the same key facts)?
  • Did I arrive at an accurate conclusion for each issue presented?

These are what you should truly be paying attention to!

If you are wondering how essay answers are truly scored, click here to see some excerpts from How to Pass the Michigan Bar Exam Book. The last excerpt, at Exhibit 5, is an excerpt of the July 2014 Evidence question, Examiner’s Analysis, two actual graded student answers, as well as our commentary on each answer. (If you are looking to see several graded student answers from the July 2014 bar exam, please check out our book, How to Pass the Michigan Bar Exam.)

Ms. Ashley Heidemann scored over a 180 on the Michigan Bar Exam in February of 2011. She offers private one-on-one tutoring for bar exam students nationwide as well as Michigan bar exam courses and seminars . For any questions about her bar exam services, please click here to contact us. We are happy to assist you in any way we can.