How Long Should My MEE Answers Be?
Students often ask how long an answer to an MEE question should be to obtain full credit. While the answer might not be the same for every essay, in this post we will give you some tips on how to craft an MEE that is an appropriate length!
How Long Should My MEE Answers Be?
To discuss this question, we will refer to a sample MEE for Torts from July 2015. This MEE is available for free on the NCBE’s website.
1. Your issue statements can be sentence fragments.
You do not need to craft extravagant issue statements for each issue you discuss. For instance, in the July 2015 Torts question, the first issue is whether the friend negligently operated the snowmobile. Rather than stating, “The first issue is whether the 10-year-old child was negligent for operating the snowmobile with no prior snowmobiling experience” you could simply identify the issue as “Negligence of the child”.
We also recommend using bolded, underlined headings to identify the various issues. If the call of the question includes multiple numbered parts, make sure that your headings are numbered to line up with each part so that the grader can see which part of the question you are answering.
2. In your rule statement, start with the general rule, but don’t provide excess background information.
This first issue in the July 2015 question involves the negligence of a 10-year-old child who is operating a snowmobile. Because this issue triggers the specific rule regarding children engaged in adult activities, it might be tempting to jump right in and state:
“A child engaged in an adult activity will be held to the same standard as a reasonable adult engaged in that activity.”
However, before stating the specific rule applicable to these facts, it is better to start with the general rule. Then, get to the specific rule. So, in this case, you could state:
“In a negligence case, the duty that one owes is generally that of a reasonable person engaged in a similar activity. However, children are held to a lower standard: the child is expected to act as a reasonable child of similar age, intelligence, and experience. But, if the child is engaged in an adult activity, then the child will be held to the same standard as an adult engaged in a similar activity.”
The latter example shows a full understanding of how the rule for children engaged in adult activities fits into the larger scheme of the rule.
Also, note that the rule does not provide excess information on all of the elements of negligence. In this question, it is so clear that there is actual cause, proximate cause, and damages that it is not necessary to discuss those elements in detail. That would be considered unnecessary extraneous information.
3. Make sure you incorporate all of the relevant facts into your analysis.
As you are writing an answer to an MEE, use a highlighter to highlight each fact as you incorporate it into your analysis. If you finish your essay and notice lots of facts that are not highlighted, that is an indication that you did not include enough factual detail in your analysis. The examiners include each and every fact in the fact pattern for a reason, and it is likely that you should incorporate each fact somewhere in your analysis.
In the July 2015 Torts question, here are some key facts that you can incorporate into the analysis of this first issue:
- The boy is only 10 years old.
- He is operating a snowmobile capable of speeds up to 60 mph, which suggests that this is an adult activity.
- The terrain bordering the trail was forested and rocky.
- The friend turned off the marked trail impulsively onto an unmarked trail.
- They had never used this trail before.
- Trails in this area often have hidden hazards – rocks, fallen tree limbs, stumps
If you find that your analysis is very short (1-2 sentences) try to incorporate more facts into the analysis. Think about the elements identified in the rule statement, and try to use as many facts as possible to explain whether the elements are met.
4. Only state your conclusion once.
On the MEE, you will usually receive points for reaching the correct conclusion. So, it is important to conclude your answer to each part of the question. However, some students make the mistake of re-stating their conclusions unnecessarily throughout their answer.
We recommend that you state the conclusion once at the end of your discussion. So, rather than organizing your answer using CRAC (conclusion, rule, analysis, conclusion) or CIRAC (conclusion, issue, rule, analysis, conclusion), we recommend that you use IRAC to answer the question, and simply state your conclusion once after your analysis. There are two reasons for this: first, if you happen to reach the incorrect conclusion, that is the first thing the graders read, and they will read your rule and analysis knowing that you are about to reach the incorrect conclusion. They might not pay as close attention to your rule and analysis, and may not award as many points as they would if they didn’t read your conclusion first. The other reason to only state your conclusion once is because sometimes, after getting through the analysis, students change their minds about the conclusion. So, they start their discussion concluding one way, and then end the discussion concluding the opposite. This looks like you aren’t sure of the conclusion and can be very confusing. So, just state your conclusion once. And you don’t need to include an “overall conclusion” of all of the issues at the end of your essay for the same reasons.
5. Separate your rule, analysis, and conclusion paragraphs.
If your answers seem too short, one way that you can make them longer is to include breaks between your rule, analysis, and conclusion paragraphs. We recommend that you structure your essay as follows:
There are two benefits to separating your rule, analysis, and conclusion into separate paragraphs: first, it makes your answer look longer. What might have been half of a page can turn into three-quarters to a full page by breaking up the paragraphs. Second, this organization will make it much easier for the grader to read and grade your answer. They will quickly see the distinction between the rule, analysis, and conclusion for each issue.
As you are practicing writing MEEs, if you use this organization for your answer, a good answer should be about one typed page if you are using 12-point font and single spacing (but with double spacing between paragraphs). Some answers will be a little longer, and some a little shorter.
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