How To Recover On A Bar Exam Essay
Every bar exam student has “blanked out” on the answer to a question. We have all been there! Blanking out on an MBE question is one thing—there are four options from which to choose. However, blanking out on a bar exam essay is more daunting because there are no options from which to choose. In this scenario, you can make up a few (probably incorrect) sentences and move on to the other bar exam essays, or you can take your time, follow these suggestions, and provide a full-length answer to try to recover on a bar exam essay.
How To Recover On A Bar Exam Essay
Phase One: Stay Calm, Reread, Investigate
First, if you’re going to make up a bar exam essay, you still need to have a good understanding of the fact pattern. To do this, stay calm. Do not panic about blanking out on the law—remember this happens to everyone! Once you realize that you can still produce a quality essay, reread the fact pattern. The bar examiners write fact-patterns in fairly obvious ways, and sometimes the pressure of the bar exam can make you feel like you need to speed through your reading. Take a breath and carefully reread the fact-pattern
Next, investigate! What stands out to you? Is it an obvious case of a tort, where one party is grossly negligent in their duties to another party? Does the question ask about a town that severely limits its residents’ protesting rights on government property? Is it about a wild teenager who prepares to rob a store but then backs out of the act?
Critically and carefully reading the fact pattern can help you focus on the clues that the bar examiners provide you about the topic of the bar exam essay. Use this information to decide which topic the bar examiners are testing. Choosing to make a firm decision on which topic the bar examiners are testing will allow you to actually begin to make up a bar exam essay.
Phase Two: Organization And Background
We advise bar exam students to use the IRAC structure in their essays. Generally, using the CRAC structure can be risky. Sometimes an incorrect conclusion at the beginning of the bar exam essay can bias the essay grader not to give the remainder of your essay its due consideration. This rule doubly applies when you’re making up a bar exam essay! Do not begin with the conclusion.
Further, do not worry too much about the organization of your made-up bar exam essay. Yes, you want it to be coherent and understandable, but it is not as relevant to separate the rule and analysis into separate paragraphs. When you are unsure of the answer, you do not want to make these sections stand out. You do, however, want to include as much information as you can when you make up a bar exam essay.
Because you determined the general topic that the bar examiners are testing during Phase One, now it is time to write. Begin by writing every material thing you know about that topic. If there is a certain standard (i.e., beyond a reasonable doubt) or procedure related to the topic, write it down. Do you remember a general principle related to this topic but do not remember its name? Describe it! Outline dumping some information here will give your made-up bar exam essay more substance and may earn it more points.
Phase Three: Draft—Make-Up (Logical) law
Usually, when students blank out on a bar exam essay, they are really just forgetting the rule that applies to a specific situation. Regardless of whether you blanked entirely or just on the rule, you should make up a law. Now, this is not a creative writing exercise, so your made-up law should not be unreasonable or illogical. It should be a rational law that makes sense in your fact pattern.
Once you have written a rule statement based on your made-up law, you will analyze the facts based on your law. Here, you are essentially mimicking how you would write a bar exam essay for which you knew the topic and the correct rule. This may sound silly, but making up a law and then thoughtfully applying it to your fact pattern to build your analysis can earn you points. Though the law may be wrong, the bar examiner will see your ability to write an analysis based on that law.
Finally, come to a sound concussion based on your made-up law. Bar examiners are looking for you to conclude! Just imagine this is one of many hypotheticals that you experienced in law school, where the professor would change relevant facts from a case you read, and ask you what the conclusion is, given the different facts. This will further show the bar examiners that you can take a rule, apply it to relevant facts to create an analysis, and take that analysis to its logical conclusion—a lawyerly skill! Once you add a conclusion to your essay, go back to the call of the question and make sure you answered all of the bar examiner’s questions. If you have not addressed all questions, continue to make up your bar exam essay and try to get as many points as possible.
Prepare and Practice
How can you learn to easily apply these three phases? Practice—practice lots of MEEs! If you think your bar exam program has not provided sufficient MEE practice, or if you would like more MEE practice, JD Advising offers an MEE Seminar, an MEE Course, and MEE One-Sheets, which can be helpful tools with which to practice.
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