How To Use IRAC on the Bar Exam
How to use IRAC on the bar exam: IRAC, which stands for issue – rule – analysis – conclusion, is the format law students learn when completing legal writing projects. Legal writing is concise and to the point – IRAC helps you keep it that way! Using IRAC on the bar exam can also help you keep your bar exam essays organized as well! You don’t want to waste time by straying off on some irrelevant tangent, so using IRAC on the bar exam will make sure you stay on track! It will also make it easier for graders to grade your essays and quickly see that you have addressed all the key components of the bar exam!
How To Use IRAC on the Bar Exam
Here’s how to use IRAC on the bar exam:
To incorporate the issue component of IRAC on the bar exam, we recommend using headings! Headings should be just a brief statement (it doesn’t even have to be a sentence!) that indicates to the grader the topic you are about to discuss. Organize your headings around the call of the question. Thus, if the call asks multiple individual questions, then your essay should be organized around these questions, ideally one heading (and one IRAC) for each. For example, you could just say “negligence” as a heading. You can also use sub-headings to further break up your discussion (e.g., “duty” “breach” “cause” and “harm” could be sub-headings). Using subheadings is important in states like California that have “racehorse” bar exam essays and expect you to approach each issue methodically. It is less important in Uniform Bar Exam jurisdictions, where you will have less time to answer a question and less issues to address.
Make sure you stay on track – don’t stray off the topic of your heading!
Sometimes we see students take the issue component of IRAC on the bar exam quite literally. Some students craft actual issue statements: “The issue to be discussed is…” While there isn’t anything wrong with this approach per se, we do find that some students waste time this way. They will spend too much time trying to craft the perfect issue statement. They could better spend their time drafting quality rule statements and analyses. A brief heading gets your point across in much less time!
The rule component of IRAC on the bar exam is where you are going to start picking up points. Under your heading, we advise that you begin your first paragraph with something like “Under XX law,…” with XX being replaced by the state law you are applying (if you’re applying a specific state’s law) or by phrasing it in a way that references the law of a majority of jurisdictions (if you’re taking the MEE). Then go on to state the rule that will be applied under this heading.
Again, be concise and to the point. You don’t need a ton of background information or discuss the theory behind the rule. And you don’t need to present rules irrelevant to the analysis. You also don’t need to dump every rule used in the essay at once. The headings will help you break things up so that you present and apply individual rules one step at a time. Be sure to use the legal “buzzwords” that make up the rule! Graders will be looking for this specific language to make sure you understand the rule.
The third component of IRAC on the bar exam is the analysis section. After you present your rule statements, drop down to a new paragraph and immediately apply them. We advise that you completely separate your rule, analysis, and conclusion into separate paragraphs. The analysis paragraph can begin with a phrase like “In this case…” You don’t want to make the grader go looking for a specific component of your essay. You also don’t want to have your rule and analysis run together. Make them distinct so that the grader doesn’t have to guess. The goal is to make the grader’s job as easy as possible. Apply the rule, making sure to bring in the relevant facts from the fact pattern. This is where you can pick up a ton of points!
The final step to complete your IRAC on the bar exam is your conclusion! We strongly advise that you put your conclusion at the end – the CRAC format does not work well on the bar exam! Leading with your conclusion creates the risk that you are leading with an incorrect conclusion. You don’t want to take the risk! This would start your essay off on a terrible tone, and the grader would most certainly doubt your abilities the rest of the way (if the grader continues to read it at all!).
Accordingly, it is better to save your conclusion for the end. After you finish your analysis, drop down a line and begin with something like “Thus…” You can then state your conclusion! While reaching an incorrect conclusion won’t destroy your score if you made some good statements in your rule and analysis section, you can still pick up a few points here! The graders love to see correct conclusions!
After you’ve completed one IRAC, you can then move on to another if your essay has multiple issues to discuss! Begin the process all over again with a new heading, rule paragraph, analysis paragraph, and conclusion! Continue following this pattern until you’ve completed the essay!
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