In order to pass a bar exam, you need to collect as many points as possible on your bar essay exams. In order to maximize the points you receive, you need to make it as easy as possible for the bar exam grader to give you points.
Bar exam graders want to know if you spotted the issues and if you understand how to analyze that issue given the facts in the essay exam (i.e., can you do a complete IRAC analysis). Avoiding the four common mistakes listed below will help you maximize your score on bar essay exams.
Don’t Start Writing Immediately
We have all seen law students and fellow bar candidates who open their essay exams and immediately or almost immediately start writing down their answer. This approach almost guarantees a failing score on that essay exam for two reasons. First, you may write an answer to a question that the bar examiners did not ask. Most bar essay exams list one or more questions that they want you to focus on at the end of the essay exam. If you do not read and think about that list of questions before you start writing, you do not know which issues you should focus on in your essay answer. Some bar examiners will deliberately include irrelevant facts or even irrelevant issues to see if you can correctly identify what is relevant and what is not. If you spend time writing on irrelevant issues you will miss points you could have gotten writing on relevant issues. You need to make sure that you have a good strategy in place for identifying the relevant facts.
Don’t Write a Monologue
A big part of making it easy to grade your bar essay exam answer is making it easy for the bar exam grader to see when you have spotted an issue and confirm that you have done a complete legal analysis. If your essay exam answer is one long uninterrupted paragraph that goes on for pages and pages, the bar exam grader will assume that your answer is disorganized. In addition, the bar exam grader is really going to have to hunt around to find the issues you have spotted, and may inadvertently miss an issue or your analysis of an issue. If a bar exam grader misses an issue or your analysis of an issue, you are going to be missing points and earning a low score on your essay exam.
You essay exam needs to contain the equivalent of numerous big fluorescent neon signs announcing “Here it is! I spotted this issue!” “Here is the rule that goes with the issue!” “Here is the analysis that goes with the issue!” “Here is my conclusion!” In a bar essay exam answer, headings, multiple paragraphs and skipping lines are your neon signs. Each issue you spot should have its own heading. You can then use paragraphs and/or skipped lines to separate each part of the IRAC analysis you do for that issue.
Another important thing you can do to help the bar grader give you points is to write your rules and analysis succinctly and avoid run on sentences. Long run on sentences make it difficult for the bar exam grader to keep track of whether you did a complete legal analysis of each element of a rule. Short sentences, using a simple noun + verb sentence structure, will make it easier for the bar exam grader to follow your analysis and give you more points.
Don’t Write a Treatise
Avoid writing every rule you know in your essay exam answer. It makes the bar grader think you don’t know what you are talking about. If you write a mini-treatise consisting of tons of rules, the bar grader will think that you do not know which rules apply in the hypothetical situation presented in the essay exam question. If the bar exam grader thinks you don’t know which rules apply, that easily leads the bar grader to a slippery slope of negative assumptions about you. If you don’t know which rules apply, that means you are unable to spot issues. If you are unable to spot issues, that means that you cannot do a complete IRAC legal analysis. If you cannot do a complete IRAC legal analysis, that means you should not be a practicing attorney and the bar grader is likely to fail you on that particular essay.
Don’t Be Conclusionary
If you have ever gotten the criticism that your essays exams are conclusory, it means that you have skipped some steps in the IRAC process of legal analysis. It is common for bar candidates to spot an issue and write down only the rule and conclusion part of IRAC on their exam answer. Some bar candidates craft an issue statement in their heads but fail to write it down in the exam answer. You will not receive points for an issue statement that you write only in your head. Similarly, other bar candidates write down the rule, do the analysis in their heads, and then write down a conclusion. Again, you will not receive points for a legal analysis that you write only in your head.
In sum, if you take time at the beginning of the exam to read the whole exam and fully think through and organize your exam answer, you will be able to get a good score on your essay exams.
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Did you find this post helpful? Check out some other great articles:
- Steps to Making Your Own Bar Exam Schedule
- Why Really Wanting to Pass the Bar Exam Isn’t Enough
- What You Can Do Now to Prepare for the Bar Exam
- Train Like an Athlete for the Bar Exam
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