How To Structure Michigan Bar Exam Essay Answers
One key to a high essay score, no matter what bar exam you take, is to make your essay answer easy to give points to. This is most definitely true in Michigan too. We read a lot of high, middle and low scoring essays every single administration in Michigan and these tips all come from this experience. While the questions change every exam, all of the scoring has something in common—the easier the answer is to read, the higher the score is. So, if you are wondering how to structure Michigan Bar Exam essay answers keep reading! If you are looking for general bar exam essay tips click here.
How To Structure Michigan Bar Exam Essay Answers
1. Avoid Issue Statements!
Yes, you read that right—issue statements are not something that will lead to a high scoring essay. Remember to keep in mind that the bar exam is different than law school. In law school it was impressive to issue spot and tell your professor that you identified the issues. On the Michigan Bar Exam, the questions are very pointed. In other words, it is far less impressive to restate the question in your own words. Plus, restating the question in your own words is a waste of time. This is important to keep in mind because recently the Michigan Bar Exam tends to ask long questions. You don’t want to find yourself wasting time on thing that will not yield a high score.
So, the first thing that you should stop doing is writing issue statements. If you have noticed that some of Michigan’s Examiners’ Analysis have issue statements you should remember that your essay answer should not look like the Examiners’ Analysis for many reasons. To see a post on this issue click here.
What should you do if you do not include issue statements? Keep reading!
2. Instead of Issue Statements Use Headings.
You likely read our first tip and thought, “Well how am I supposed to structure Michigan Bar Exam essay answers if I don’t start with an issue statement?” The answer is simple—use headings. The beautiful thing about headings is that they are quick. If you notice that your exam question asks three specific questions, you likely need three separate headings. You also don’t have to worry about being articulate or wasting time trying to figure out how to re-word the question. Instead, just pick a word or words that describe the issue being tested and use that for your heading. Be sure to bold and underline the headings too, so that way they stand out.
For example, if the essay fact pattern poses two questions (e.g. (1) Will the worker recover medical benefits for his injury? (2) Will the worker recover weekly wage loss benefits?) simply write two headings “(1) medical benefits” and “(2) weekly wage loss benefits.”
Another great thing about headings is that it makes your essay easier to grade. What does that really mean? The easier your essay is to read, the easier it is to give points to, which means it will likely score higher than it otherwise would. Ok, so we lied, there are lots of beautiful things about headings, not just one. The take away—stop using detailed issue statements and instead craft headings.
3. Treat Your Essay Answer Like a Formula.
Our third tip on how to structure Michigan bar exam essay answers is to use a formula. Formula? Yep. You may be sitting there thinking to yourself that you went to law school because you don’t like math. But, this “formula” that we speak of is much easier than any math formula. You should structure Michigan Bar Exam essay answers like a formula so that you don’t forget any important parts. So, under your heading (see points 1 and 2) you should start with something like, “Under Michigan law…” and finish the sentence with the applicable law. Then start a new paragraph and state something like, “In this case…” and insert the relevant application. Then finally, in a separate paragraph, start with, “Therefore,…” and conclude on the issue.
Many of the students that we work with read the essay question and then immediately craft their headings and insert the above “formula” under each heading, so that way they don’t forget any important part. We highly recommend this! Here is an example of what that would look like:
Under Michigan law….
In this case…
Under Michigan law…
In this case…
It is that simple!
4. Use Separate Paragraphs.
Going back to a point that is important enough to repeat, multiple times, is that you should strive to make your essay easy to read. The easier your essay is to read, the more likely it is that you will receive more points. If your essay is hard to read and you make the grader work to give you points, you are likely missing out! So, in order to make sure that your essay is easy to read, you should not only practice implementing tip number 3 (above) but be sure to use paragraph breaks. We specifically encourage that students give each portion of the formula its own paragraph. That means if your rule statement is two sentences, let it be a stand-alone “paragraph.”
Similarly, if your analysis is brief, let that be in its own paragraph. If it is really long, use separate paragraphs within the analysis. Same rule of thumb with your conclusion. The main reason for this, is so that the grader can quickly look at your essay answer, and without having to read much of anything, can identify that you answered all of the questions posed, that you have a rule, analysis and conclusion for each issue.
5. Be Sure to Conclude Only Once—and Save it for the End.
This tip is SO important! It might be the best advice we have on how to structure Michigan bar exam essay answers. We can’t count how many times we read an essay answer that started out with a conclusion and then re-concluded at the end—except this time concluded the opposite way! Yikes! When an examinee does this they have communicated one thing to the grader—they do not know the right answer! This is a very avoidable error. So, how do you ensure that you never make this mistake? Follow the formula from tip 3 above. You should conclude on each issue ONCE and that conclusion belongs at the end of the response.
If you still need more convincing about how to structure your Michigan Bar Exam essay answer, think of it like this—remember that your grader is human. If the grader starts reading your essay and it opens with an incorrect conclusion, that has just predisposed them to thinking that everything that comes after that incorrect conclusion is also incorrect in some way. Whereas, if you start out with the rule, then move into the analysis and then finally conclude—even if you conclude incorrectly, you are still likely to get more points because they read your rule and analysis without assuming everything was wrong. Now, we are in no way implying or stating that the graders are not careful or fair. Not at all. Instead, we are simply noting that they are human. We have had the opportunity to review hundreds of graded bar exam essays and we can’t stress this enough.
If you are looking for more Michigan Bar Exam essay tips check out this post.
Meagan Jabbori, a JD Advising bar exam tutor and course instructor, wrote this post on how to structure Michigan bar exam essay answers. Meagan scored in the 96th percentile on the Uniform Bar Exam. She has helped hundreds of students pass the bar exam and the MPRE.
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