Four Valuable Uniform Bar Exam Essay Tips
The essay portion of the Uniform Bar Exam is worth 30% of your final score. Excelling here can be a great way to ensure you still pass even if something goes wrong on one of the other portions! In this post, we give you four valuable Uniform Bar Exam essay tips that will help you improve your writing and boost your score! Even if you were a good writer in law school, you should still incorporate these tips into your practice as the UBE will challenge you in new ways!
Four Valuable Uniform Bar Exam Essay Tips
1. Follow the modified IRAC format.
Maintaining proper organization is one of the most important Uniform Bar Exam essay tips. In law school you were likely introduced to the IRAC format: issue, rule, analysis, conclusion. You should use a modified version of that format on the bar exam. We advise students that instead of writing full-length issue statements, you should begin each portion of your essay with a brief heading. This gives the grader enough of an idea of what topic you will be discussing without forcing you to take time to craft a few sentences. Your headings serve as a roadmap for the grader, and this will suffice! The body of your essay under your heading should be your rule statement, analysis, and the conclusion.
Another of our favorite Uniform Bar Exam essay tips is to avoid beginning with the conclusion. It is just not worth the risk if you are wrong! The grader is then just looking for your mistakes. If you state a conclusion first – and it is incorrect – you risk them not even reviewing the rest of your answer to that issue. We see students get docked a lot of points for incorrect conclusions. So it is best to avoid the “CRAC” method! Instead, keep your conclusion at the end.
After you identify the issue, begin with laying out the rule, and focus exactly on what is relevant to answering the question posed. Avoid going off on tangents or engaging in “outline dumping” unless you have no idea what to talk about. Then apply the law to the facts (more on this to follow), and finally conclude! Following this format will ensure you present exactly what the Examiners are looking for – no more and no less.
Bar Exam Tip: When you state the rule, remember to state the general rule before stating an exception. Some students dive right into the exception without stating the rule first. It is better to connect the dots for the grader and state the general rule first.
2. Make your answer easy to read.
Bar exam graders have to read a lot of essays, and they don’t have a lot of time to do so. That means that their review of each essay might not always be as thorough as desired. Thus, another of our Uniform Bar Exam essay tips is to make your essay easy for the grader to read, and make it easy for the grader to award you points. The use of headings is one great way to do this, as it makes it immediately apparent you know what the issues are. You should also separate your rule, analysis, and conclusion into separate paragraphs. When you have large blocks of text, important words tend to get lost. The tendency to skim these long paragraphs is much greater. If you make separate, shorter paragraphs, you make your entire essay easier to read.
Finally, get in the habit of bolding and/or underlining key terms and phrases. Instead of reading every word of your rule statement, the grader may just be looking for certain legal words to make sure you’ve got the correct elements. When you bold the important parts of your essay, you make sure the grader sees them immediately and they won’t get lost!
Bar Exam Tip: Making your answer easy to read is one of the fastest ways to make a grader “like” you. As soon as they see a spaced out answer, with headings, and clear rule/analysis/conclusion paragraphs, they will be happy to review your answer.
3. Thoroughly utilize the facts.
The analysis portion of your essay is where you can pick up a lot of points. As the goal of these Uniform Bar Exam essay tips is to help you earn more points, the analysis section needs to be a focus. The vast majority of the sentences in the fact pattern are there for a reason. In order to support your legal argument and conclusion, you need to be able to identify which facts are relevant to which issue.
Glossing over the analysis is one of the worst things you can do. If a party makes a legal argument in the pattern and you are asked to discuss it, look for and then write about the facts that either support or contradict the argument. When you want to argue one conclusion is more likely under the law, support it with facts from the fact pattern. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to pick up points!
Bar Exam Tip: If you are not sure if you are using enough facts, read your answer and see if it is possible to tell what the fact pattern is about simply by reading your answer. If it is not, that is a sign you may need more facts!
4. Don’t neglect to practice timing.
The last of our Uniform Bar Exam essay tips is to make sure you practice writing essays in a timed setting. Start small and make sure you can complete a quality essay in 30 minutes. Work your way up to trying two essays in 1 hour, and so on until you can complete six essays in 3 hours.
Before the day of the exam, you want to be confident in your ability to complete an entire set of essays in the required time. You don’t want your first experience with bar exam timing conditions to be on test day! It is one thing to be able to complete one essay in a good amount of time. You also need to practice how you compensate when one essay might go over and how you will adjust. The more timed practice under exam conditions you do, the better prepared you’ll be to take the Uniform Bar Exam!
Bar Exam Tip: Practicing timing ahead of time will also help boost your confidence on exam day!
Laura Sigler, a JD Advising researcher and essay grader, wrote this post.
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