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California Bar Exam Essay Mistakes

Six California Bar Exam Essay Mistakes To Avoid

Racking up points on a California Bar Exam Essay does not require perfection, but there are writing mistakes that you should avoid on the California Bar Exam that may derail your chances of passing the essay or getting that high score you are shooting for. This blog looks at six California Bar Exam essay mistakes that applicants make, and how to avoid them.

Six California Bar Exam Essay Mistakes To Avoid

1. No Spaghetti Walling

Many applicants fall into a habit of providing everything they know about a certain area of law, whether the content is relevant or not.  Some refer to this as “giving the bar grader your outline” or “Spaghetti Walling” which is analogous to throwing everything you have at the wall (like a bowl of spaghetti) hoping something will stick.

Successful essay writing for the California Bar Exam relies heavily on relevant analysis based on the facts and reasonable inferences. As an example, if you have a long rule, and a portion of that rule is not relevant based on the facts, do not feel compelled to write out the entire rule to include exceptions to the exceptions. Use the relevant portion of the rule and apply it to the facts and conclude. Otherwise, the bar grader will assume that you are unable to discern what is relevant and what is not.

If your rule is longer than your analysis, stop and go back to the facts to see what you are missing.  If you draw a blank while practicing soaking in our blog, How To Recover On A Bar Exam Essay can get you back on track.

2. Do Not Write in Outline Form

As explained above, the bar grader will expect to see your entire essay written in IRAC.  This includes using headings and full sentences. While it may be tempting to take shortcuts and present a rule or your analysis in bullet form, remember that your writing and organization are evaluated on the bar exam. Unless you’re in a rush and just need to get something down on paper, we encourage you to organize your essay according to IRAC and write in essay form.

3. Do Not Just Read the Essay Once

The clock is ticking, and time is of the essence, but skimping on reading the essay question will not result in a well-organized essay with a strong analysis.  Review the essay question carefully. Do it several times if needed to ensure you understand the call(s) of the question and are able to organize your essay as explained above.  The more preparation time you spend upfront will save you time in drafting your essay. It will also help to avoid unnecessary errors.

4. Do Not Discuss More Than One Issue in A Paragraph

Each issue should have its own IRAC.  Thnk of your essay as a series of IRACs, where you have one overarching IRAC anchoring your essay with smaller IRACs for each sub-issue you address. If you address multiple issues in a paragraph, it is highly likely that the bar grader will miss an issue. As well, two issues in one paragraph would not follow IRAC form.

If you have questions on how to do this, check out How to Use IRAC on the Bar Exam.

5. Avoid Long Blocks of Text

An essay with long blocks of text with no break lines, or “white space” may be difficult to read. It is possible that content could get lost as the bar grader scans your essay.   As discussed above, leave enough space between your Issue Heading, Rule, Analysis, and Conclusion such that each can be quickly spotted.

Remember that your job on the bar exam is to make the grader’s job of awarding you points as easy as possible. Part of that includes organization (IRAC) and making sure it’s easily readable and digestible by avoiding long blocks of text. You want all the points you can get! Don’t bury your point-worthy answers on top of each other.

6. Do Not Forget About Grammar

Presentation matters on the bar exam. While perfection is not the goal, your essay should be readable and free of excessive errors that will cause the reader to become distracted.  Make sure grammar is addressed in your bar preparation.

Writing a passing score and avoiding common mistakes will take lots of practice, and possibly messing up at times! It is all a part of the learning process. During your bar studies, utilize any tip that will help maximize your chances of passing your essays. To see more helpful tips on Essay Writing for the California Bar Exam check out California Bar Exam Essay Tips.

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