Bar Exam Organization

Why Bar Exam Essay Organization Matters On The MEE

Perfecting your bar exam essay organization is one of the most efficient ways to raise your score on the Multistate Essay Exam (MEE) or the essay portion on any other bar exam.  You want to make sure you put all of the important pieces of your essay in the right place so that you can get all of the points you deserve!  In this post, we give you four reasons why strong bar exam essay organization matters.

Why Bar Exam Essay Organization Matters On The MEE

Graders use a rubric and are looking for key terms/phrases

Many MEE jurisdictions give their graders a rubric, telling them what they should be looking for in a correct answer for each essay.  This means that the graders are going to be looking for specific key terms and phrases that are identified in their rubric.  Your goal is to design your bar exam essay organization so that these key terms are easy to spot and jump out at the grader.  We often advise you underline and/or bold the most important points of law and facts so that your grader immediately sees you have included what is on their rubric.  They aren’t looking for a ton of background information or history.  Their rubric will get straight to the point, and thus you need to get straight to the point.

Graders skim to get through more, so don’t lump things together

Another feature of bar exam grading is that most MEE jurisdictions pay their graders by the essay.  This means that graders are incentivized to get through as many essays as quickly as possible.  While not ideal, this tends to lead to skimming on the part of the grader.  If your bar exam essay organization has everything lumped together in large paragraphs, the grader is much more likely to skim through those paragraphs.  This could cause them to miss the important details of what you are writing.  If you dump a ton of rule statements in one paragraph, it is more likely the grader will miss a crucial element you stated and dock you points.

You want your issues to be isolated from one another, and your rule/analysis/and conclusion within each issue to be distinct.  Don’t give the grader any opportunity to overlook what you wrote, or you might not get the points that your response deserves!

You want to make it as easy as possible for the grader to award points.

The strength of bar exam essay organization will determine how easy it is for the grader to award you points.  As mentioned above, graders tend to try to move very quickly through essays.  If you present them with a straightforward, accurate essay, they will be able to award you your high score in little time at all.  Present the grader with headings to indicate what issue you are about to discuss.  State the rule just for that issue, incorporating necessary exceptions but refraining from straying off on a tangent.  Utilize a new paragraph and directly apply the law you just stated to the facts you were presented with.  Don’t assume anything, talk about something that isn’t there, or waver back and forth between conclusions.  Be direct and demonstrate to the grader exactly what you know.

At the end, present your conclusion and then introduce a heading for the next issue you will discuss.  If you are asked multiple questions, organize your answer around those questions so that the grader knows you have addressed everything.  You never want the grader to doubt you or to think something is missing.  They probably won’t go looking for what they can’t immediately find.  Thus, strong and clear bar exam organization will make it very easy for the grader to award you points.

Beginning with an incorrect conclusion can prejudice your grader and the rest of your answer.

Some students begin their essays with their conclusion, taking the CRAC approach to bar exam essay organization.  We advocate more for the traditional IRAC approach, using headings to introduce the issue and saving your conclusion for last.  If you are 100% sure about your conclusion, then it should be fine.  But you are taking a risk if you aren’t sure.  By beginning with an incorrect conclusion, you are immediately indicating to the grader that you are about to say something that is wrong.  The grader will start looking for the errors and might overlook the things that you actually still did well!  Scores tend to be lower for those who begin with incorrect conclusion than for those who conclude incorrectly.

You don’t want to give the grader an immediate indication that you messed up.  Let the grader notice that you made a mistake either in your rule statement or the analysis.  Make sure that they still take note of everything that you said that was correct. It is possible they will miss some of the incorrect things!  Don’t let them know that they should be looking for something wrong.  An IRAC bar exam essay organization approach is the best way to conceal your errors and highlight your strengths!

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