The Uniform Bar Exam (UBE) is comprised of multiple choice questions, subject essays, and performance tests. Today we’re going to talk about how to approach a subject essay, also known as the Multistate Essay Exam (MEE). It is absolutely critical to have a method for thinking through and writing a subject essay on the UBE because thirty minutes per essay goes by quickly. The end goal is to plug in each of the parts of IRAC as quickly and efficiently as possible.
1. Read the Fact Pattern and Question Prompt
The first thing you need to do is read the fact pattern and question prompt. Take this time to internalize the story presented by the question and consider why the question mentions particular facts. Underline these key facts because you’ll want to make sure to use them in your analysis.
After reading through the fact pattern and question prompt, you’ll want to outline your answer. If you find that using scratch paper helps you, then jot down the key arguments and facts that you want to use (we are big fans of using scratch paper to outline). Make sure to transfer these arguments and key facts to your essay. You’d be surprised how often I read student essays that miss particular issues only to find that those issues are identified on the scratch paper.
Note: if you’re not really the outlining type, then you need to find another way to think through your answer. Here’s what I do: after reading the question, I type out headers that correspond to each of the specific questions asked since this is the structure that the graders want you to use. Then I figure out the answer to each question and think backwards about how to get there. Under the header, I write down each of the rules that I used to reach my answer in the order that I need to apply them. Thus, I’m left with a rule statement that also serves as a roadmap for my analysis.
3. Write the Header
The first things that you need to write down on your exam answer are the headers to each part of the question. The good news about the UBE’s subject essays is that they almost always give you the headers that they want you to use. Each of your headers should give the grader an answer to the part of the question that it is addressing. For example, a two-part question will have two headers corresponding to each of the two parts of the question. A three-part question will have three headers corresponding to each of the three parts. Practically the only time you’ll have to think through how to structure your essay is when you’re dealing with a one-part question, but these are rare.
4. Rule Statement
After the header, you need to write the rule statement in its own paragraph. You should only mention the rules that are essential to reaching your answer. For example, if you have a question about the First Amendment, and you’re dealing with an obviously content-based restriction, don’t give the grader the rule for content-neutral time, place, and manner restrictions. You should write the rules in the order that you plan to apply them, so they serve as a road map to your analysis.
5. Write the Analysis
Following the rule paragraph, you’ll write your analysis paragraph. Analyze each of the rules that you wrote in the order that you wrote them. (If you wrote your rules in an order that doesn’t make sense, then you need to reorganize them). Make sure to use all of the facts from the fact pattern at least once in your answer. Explain to the grader how each side would argue the point, and specifically mention the facts that each side would use to make its argument.
6. Summarize with a Conclusion
Finally, you need to summarize what you wrote with a single-sentence conclusion in its own paragraph. The purpose of the conclusion is to tell the grader your answer to the question asked and what law and facts you think were key. The most important thing that your conclusion does is tell the grader why you reached your conclusion. Avoid introducing any new law, facts, or arguments in your conclusion. If you find yourself wanting to state anything that you haven’t already written, go back to your rule statement or analysis and edit accordingly.
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Did you find this post helpful? Check out some other great articles:
- Deciding Whether to Take the UBE or California Bar Exam?
- Steps to Making Your Own Bar Exam Schedule
- Are You Wasting Time Studying for the Bar Exam
- What are You Waiting For? It’s Time to Study for the Bar Exam
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