It’s a given that you must know the rules of law to have success on the essay component of the bar exam. Without a good understanding of the legal rules, you’ll struggle to spot issues or perform an accurate analysis. But substantive knowledge isn’t the only thing you need to compose a passing essay; you must also be a capable and efficient writer. Either because they are pressed for time, confused by the question, or just plain nervous, many students forget the basics when it comes to the essay component of the bar exam. Try to remember what you learned in your 1L legal writing class and be sure to use these simple strategies to help produce a solid essay exam answer:
Use IRAC or CRAC to organize your response.
Now is not the time to stray from this important legal writing convention. Using IRAC or CRAC, or some similar variant, will ensure that you’re hitting all the major areas you need to in order to earn points on the essay: spotting the key issue, reciting the correct legal rule, performing analysis, and reaching a logical conclusion. Exam graders want to see that you are a proficient legal writer, which means producing an organized, logical answer. Using IRAC or CRAC to structure your answer will help you achieve that goal.
Use labels, headings, and paragraphs to structure your response.
Examiners will be grading hundreds of essays and won’t have time to sift through confusing, messy, or disorganized material. Make it as easy as possible for them to understand your essay by writing in paragraph form and using headings to organize your answer. You’d be surprised at the number of students who fail to use complete sentences, proper paragraphs, or appropriate spacing throughout their essays. So, if there are multiple interrogatories, label your answer to correspond to the interrogatories. If you’re addressing multiple issues or elements, use headings or subheadings to make your transitions clear. Using headings, labels, and paragraphs to structure your response will make your essay easier to read, which in turn will make it easier for the examiner to spot the areas where you are earning points.
Answer every part of the question.
Failing to answer every section of a multi-part question is a common, but costly, mistake. You’re automatically forgoing a large number of points if you fail to put down any response to a particular part of the question. Fortunately, the fix for this is simple: re-read the call of the question, carefully, before you move on to the next question and make sure you’ve answered every single part. Pay particular attention to questions that have multiple parts but have not labeled the parts in separate interrogatories. You always want to double-check your work to make sure you’re answering the question asked and reaching a conclusion as to each part of the question.
These strategies may seem obvious, but failing to stick to the basics is a common mistake. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel on the bar exam – use the writing techniques you know so that your substantive knowledge and stylistic skills can show through.
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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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