How are California Bar Exam Essays different than Uniform Bar Exam essays?
It is becoming increasingly common for California attorneys to take the Uniform Bar Exam (and for UBE takers to take the California Bar Exam). If you are in this position, you may wonder how California bar exam essays differ from Uniform Bar Exam essays. California bar exam essays are very different than Uniform Bar Exam essays. In some ways, they are harder and in other ways they are easier. Here, we compare how California bar exam essays are different from Uniform bar exam essays.
How are California Bar Exam essays different from Uniform Bar Exam essays?
You have more time to answer an essay question on California bar exam essays.
In California, you have one hour to answer each essay question and there are (as of July 2017) five essay questions total that you are expected to answer on essay day. You have three hours to answer three questions in the morning and two one-hour essays to answer in the afternoon (and additionally, you will have a 90-minute performance test).
The Uniform Bar Exam has six essays, which you have three hours to answer–or in other words, thirty minutes per question.
Unsurprisingly, answers to California bar exam essays should be longer and more detailed than Uniform Bar Exam essays, given that examinees are given twice as much time per question.
Issue-spotting is more important on California bar exam essays.
California bar exam essays can be described as “racehorse” essays. If a defendant in a fact pattern is charged with murder, for example, you may very well be expected to discuss first-degree murder, second-degree murder, felony murder, voluntary manslaughter, and involuntary manslaughter–even if not all are relevant. You want to connect every dot for the grader to show them you know what you are talking about. In this way, California essays are similar to law school exam answers.
Uniform bar exam essays, on the contrary, usually have limited issues that you are asked to discuss. Oftentimes the call of the question will tell you what to discuss. You will likely have 2-3 headings to signify issues (versus in California bar exam essay answers, you may have 5-10 headings).
The conclusion is not as important in California bar exam essays.
On most bar exams, including the Uniform Bar Exam, the examiners are often looking for a specific conclusion. You will be reduced points if you do not arrive at the conclusion they are looking for.
On California bar exam essays, there are often “right” or “better” conclusions. However, in many cases, examinees will receive full (or near-full) credit if they thoughtfully analyze the issues, even if they don’t arrive at the exact same conclusion as the examiners. And sometimes the conclusion is open-ended, just like on law school exams.
How are California Bar Exam essays similar to Uniform Bar Exam Essays?
In some ways, the California bar exam is similar to UBE essays. Here are some similarities:
- There are often certain “templates” you should follow for certain types of issues (e.g., briefly discuss whether common law or UCC applies in the beginning of a Contracts essay).
- Some topics are quite predictable and tested over and over again in both sets of essays.
- Further, in many subjects for the California bar exam (Torts, Criminal Law and Procedure, Constitutional Law, Real Property, Contracts, federal Evidence, and federal Civil Procedure questions) “general” law that you learn for the MBE is applied and California distinctions are not tested. This is similar to the UBE, where you are expected to apply general law. (But in the state-specific subjects and in California Evidence and California Civil Procedure questions, California distinctions are tested.)
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