How are bar exam essays different than law school essays? The short answer to this question is—they are very different. But, if you are looking for specifics read further.
How Are Bar Exam Essays Different Than Law School Essays?
1. Bar exam essays provide the issues.
One difference is the fact that bar exam essay questions generally give you the issues. Sometimes it is as straight forward as answering the enumerated questions in the call. Other times it is trickier and the call of the question simply says, “Discuss the issues.” But regardless of what the call of the questions states, there is far less guess work on bar exam essays. It is generally very clear what the issues are. Whereas on a law school essay question most professors do not ask pointed questions. Rather, the point of the exam is to “issue spot.”
2. Bar exam essays are shorter and more focused.
Another key difference is that bar exam essay questions are shorter and more focused. This is in large part due to the first main difference (above). Generally, you only have between 20-30 minutes to answer a bar exam essay question. This is plenty of time, assuming you are prepared, because you are likely only discussing 1-3 issues.
On a law school essay question, your response may be multiple pages long and may take you an hour to draft. There may even be “sub issues” to the “issues.” That is not the case with bar exam essay questions.
3. Bar Exam essays do not require both sides of an issue be presented.
The next main difference is in the “application” section. A good law school essay exam response will set forth arguments on both sides of issues, as well as responses to those arguments in response to most questions.
Bar exam essay responses will not look like that. Rather, your bar exam essay response can be more formulaic. The graders are usually looking for the correct statement of the law, application of the law to the facts and then a clear conclusion. On the bar exam you will likely not get points for going into lengthy policy arguments like you may have in law school. Your bar exam answers should be to the point and you should try your best to use the proper language.
4. Bar exam essays require clear conclusions.
The last main difference has to do with conclusions. In law school, it was important to show your professor that you had the ability to reason to a conclusion. However, depending on the issues and facts presented, there may not have been a clear conclusion—and that may have been the point. On most bar exams, conclusions matter! The graders want to see that you have the ability to logically reason to a conclusion, but they want to see that you reasoned to the correct conclusion. This means that you stated the correct law and applied it properly, keeping in mind the relevant facts. Stated differently, on the bar exam, if you reach the incorrect conclusion you will lose points.
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