Bar Exam Essay Tips
Bar Exam Essay Tips: If you are looking for tips on how to improve your bar exam essays, look no more! We find that if you implement these few, easy bar exam essay tips into your practice, you will make your essays much stronger. Note that this post was written by Meagan Jabbori, who scored in the 99th percentile on the essay portion of the Uniform Bar Exam.
Bar Exam Essay Tips
1. First, work on your structure!
To implement this tip, you should think like a grader. We find that if you make your essay easy to read, it will likely get more points. You should structure your essay in such a way that it makes it easy on the grader to give you points. This is the easiest way to substantially improve your essays.
So, what structure should you follow? You should break your essay up into easy to read paragraphs. For instance, if the essay asks three questions, organize your response around three bolded and underlined headings. This quickly tells the grader that you answered each part of the question. Next, under each heading, break your answer up into small paragraphs. Put your rule in a paragraph. Put your analysis in a paragraph. Lastly, put your conclusion at the end. Make it easy for the grader to see you have connected every dot.
2. Secondly, don’t waste your time on issue statements.
Remember that your bar exam essays do not need to be set up or written like a law school essay exam. They are completely different animals. With that said, while you may have historically used fancy issue statements in law school—they tend to not be nearly as important on the bar exam. Many students waste valuable time trying to formulate an eloquent issue statement–and then they never get to their analysis and they lose out on a lot of points.
Instead of wasting time formulating an issue statement, use a short heading that you bold and underline. You will find that you save tons of time and your essays become easier to read!
3. Next, be sure you only conclude once.
Many bar exam takers start their essay off with a conclusion. Then, they work through the rest of their analysis. Then, they conclude again. Except this time they reach the opposite conclusion. Yikes!!! When this happens, it communicates something very clear to the grader—you do not know the answer! However, this can be easily fixed! Conclude once and only once. Save your conclusion for its natural place—at the end of your analysis of that issue.
Do you still need another reason why you shouldn’t conclude at the beginning of your essay? Remember that the person reading your essay is a human. So, if you start off your essay with the incorrect conclusion, they are already predisposed to discounting everything else you write. You could have a perfect rule statement or perfect analysis, but if you start off on the wrong foot, everything becomes infected. I am in no way insinuating that the graders are unfair—just reminding everyone that they are human!
4. Be sure to memorize rule statements.
This is so important. If you have a strong rule statement you communicate very clearly to the grader that you know what you are talking about. Plus, your strong rule statement will help guide and shape your analysis. You may be wondering how to memorize rule statements? This becomes easier if you are actively reviewing your outline. You are far more likely to remember what you study when you actively review, rather than if you passively review. Some of our favorite ways to actively review include re-writing parts of the outline, making charts, diagrams and lists. Check out how to memorize your bar exam outlines here.
5. Use facts in your analysis!
After your rule statement on, say, battery, do not just conclude that the defendant is liable for battery and then move on. Instead, use facts in your analysis. Go back to the fact pattern and closely tie in the reasons that the defendant is liable for battery. Not only are you more likely to answer the question correctly if you pay attention to the facts, but you are also likely to have a longer, more lawyerly answer — and get a higher score!
6. Lastly, be sure you self-grade your essays.
Much of the value in practicing essays is lost if you simply write the essay and then read the answer. Instead, be sure to carve out enough time so that you can compare your response to the model answer. When you compare answers, you should go through your essay and make any necessary edits. If your rule statement is weak, fix it. Or if your analysis is wrong, re-write it. If you missed an imperative fact, add it to your analysis. This will take some time, but you are much more likely to know how to handle an issue after you have practiced and self-graded, than if you simply write the essay and then read the answer. In our opinion, what is the point of practicing if you will continue to make the same mistakes over and over again? Self-grading will help correct these mistakes.
Meagan Jabbori, a JD Advising bar exam tutor and course instructor, wrote this post. Meagan scored in the 96th percentile on the Uniform Bar Exam and has helped hundreds of students pass the bar exam.
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Ashley Heidemann is the owner and founder of JD Advising. Ms. Heidemann scored over a 180 on the Michigan Bar Exam in February of 2011 after graduating as the #1 student in her law school class of over 200 students in 2011. She, as well as a team of others, offer bar exam courses, seminars, and private tutoring for bar exam students nationwide. This includes services for the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE) and Michigan bar exam. Please click here to contact her company, with any questions.