In this post, we discuss some common bar exam essay mistakes that we see examinees make. We have been reviewing student answers from the February 2018 multistate essay exam (MEE) and we have seen the same mistakes being made repeatedly. We see these mistakes made every administration! So, we will discuss some of these common bar exam essay mistakes and how to avoid them.
Common Bar Exam Essay Mistakes – and How to Avoid Them!
1. Lack of a good essay structure!
Many students start with a conclusion and use a “CRAC” analysis. In most states, including MEE states, we don’t recommend this. Instead, we recommend:
- Having an issue heading (which does not need to be an issue statement, but can simply be a word – e.g., “Assault” or “Battery”)
- Stating the rule
- Applying it
- Arriving at a conclusion.
Having a good essay structure can go a long way in making sure that you are approaching your essay exam in a logical, efficient manner. By using an “IRAC” format, you will connect all the dots so that the grader can see you know what you are doing.
Also, by putting your conclusion last, you will not draw attention to it if it is incorrect. I hate to see an examinee start their essay answer with a confident incorrect conclusion! It is much better to put your conclusion at the end of your “IRAC” paragraph if you are not sure it is correct.
2. Not identifying arguments that the parties make.
Pay close attention to the arguments that the parties make. For example, on the February 2018 MEE, the call of the question asked which party would have custody of the child. The dad’s argument (which was stated in the fact pattern) was that because the mother had an affair she should not have custody. This is not a good argument, but it needs to be addressed in your answer to the question. Make sure you pay close attention to the arguments that parties make!
3. Not knowing the highly tested issues.
There will always be some sort of “wacky” curveball essay question on the bar exam. And you cannot prepare for every question that you could possibly be given. (On the February 2018 MEE, this was the Civil Procedure question, which was not impossible, but was an issue that proved difficult for many examinees.)
However, you can prepare for the highly tested MEE topics or essay topics that your state tests. Make sure to review the highly tested areas of law. If you are in an MEE state, use the link above. If you are not in an MEE state, carefully review past essays so that you get a feel for the highly tested areas of law.
One of the most common bar exam essay mistakes we see is that students simply don’t know the highly tested rules well enough. Learning the highly tested rules will allow you to confidently answer some of the questions correctly, earn high scores, and write answers quickly so you don’t run out of time (see the next point…)
4. Running out of time.
This is another one of the most common bar exam essay mistakes we see. We frequently note that an examinee’s answer to the first question they write is quite long, and that an examinee’s answer to the last question they write is oftentimes quite short!
Pay attention to the clock. If you have 30 minutes per essay, as you do in an MEE state, then make sure to not go over 30 minutes. If you spend 35 minutes on the first five essays, for example, you will only have 5 minutes for the last essay. Every minute counts!
It is also helpful to practicing timing yourself well before the exam. Not only will this help ensure you don’t run out of time, but it will also give you confidence going into the bar exam.
5. Writing answers that are hard to read.
Another one of the common bar exam essay mistakes we see students make is that they write bar exam essay answers that are difficult to read. For example, if your answer is one long paragraph with hardly any paragraph breaks, or if you don’t use headings, or if you don’t bold/emphasize key words, you may want to consider incorporating these stylistic elements into your answer.
- Using paragraph breaks makes it easier on the grader’s eyes. It also makes your answer appear longer.
- Using headings will quickly show the grader you’ve addressed all of the issues. It also makes it easier for the grader to follow what you are saying.
- Bolding and emphasizing key words will draw the grader’s attention to them and makes it easier for the grader to give you points. They will quickly see that you know what you are talking about.
These are some of the common bar exam essay mistakes that we see. Good luck studying for the bar exam and avoiding these mistakes!
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