One thing that I hear from students on a regular basis is that they become frustrated and disillusioned when reading sample exam answers. Sometimes, these answers are real student answers, as they are in California. Sometimes, they may be drafted by your bar exam review company. Wherever the sample answers come from, often they may leave you feeling that a passing answer is out of your reach. Does this sound familiar?
Sample answers are just that, samples.
Students often think that a sample answer, especially one written by a student under exam conditions, is the perfect answer or the only answer. That just isn’t the case. Take, for example, what is done in California. Two answers are released for each question. Sometimes these answers are the same, but sometimes they are different. So, which one is the best? It really doesn’t matter! Each one is just a sample of a very high-scoring answer. Your job is not to worry about how the answers differ but, instead, notice how they are the same. Those are the issues that absolutely needed to be addressed. The differences between the answers can serve as a guide for what other students saw as issues. But this does not mean that to pass you had to come up with all of the issues in the two samples combined. The sample answers are just guidelines for evaluating your work.
Just because these are sample answers does not mean they are perfect or model answers. There may be errors in the law or the analysis. They are answers written in timed conditions just as your answer will be. So learn from them, but don’t look at every word as though it is perfect. There may be less-than-perfect parts in the sample answers and you need to account for that while you study.
Model answers are just that, models.
Often bar review companies will supply you with model answers written by bar review staff. These answers are often written with outlines and without any time constraints. They may even be edited! They can be helpful because they can provide what a close-to-perfect essay might look like. But when comparing your work with a model answer, it is important to keep in mind that it is impossible for most of us to create such a pristine and complete answer in the time allowed. Your goal is not to recreate the model in the time allowed but, instead, just get as close as possible. Don’t convince yourself that the model answers are your goal—it is entirely possible that the folks working for the bar review course couldn’t write that answer from memory under time pressure!
Released student answers often received scores much higher than you would ever need to pass.
To keep everything in perspective, when studying real student answers, remember that they were the best answers picked from the mountains of answers submitted to the bar during that testing cycle. You are not required to write a similar answer to pass. Most of us couldn’t. And that is okay! You don’t need to write the best answer in the state to pass—you only need to write a passing answer!
Your goal is to learn from these sample answers, not just get frustrated and down on yourself.
Often students get frustrated when reviewing sample or model answers, because doing so makes them feel defeated, as if it is going to be impossible for them to write a passing exam answer. This is just not the case. Sample answers are an opportunity for learning. They should not, however, be an opportunity to criticize or be hard on yourself. That is counterproductive. You don’t need to write the best answer in the state, just a solid passing answer.
If you aren’t sure what that looks like, you should try to review real student answers that have received passing scores. Depending on your state, there are various resources. There are the What Not to Write books, which have a few different versions (including California). Also for California bar studiers, there is BarEssays.com (which you can read about here and also receive a discount code). Sometimes, students find reading real student answers validates for them that their work can pass. Or in the alternative, it can show where their work needs to be in order to pass.
Keep up the good work studying, everyone!
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Did you find this post helpful? Check out some other great articles:
- Why Do We Have to Write Out Sample Answers?
- What are the Magic Outlines to Help Pass the Bar?
- Please DO NOT Spend All Your Time Studying the Law!
- Warning, Burnout Ahead! Take a Pre Bar Exam Study Break