If you are taking the Michigan bar exam, you should be aware that timing is extremely important on the essay portion of the exam! We cannot tell you how many examinees fail the bar exam for the sole reason that they did not properly time themselves. In this post, we cover timing tips for the essay portion of the Michigan bar exam.
Timing Tips for the Essay Portion of the Michigan Bar Exam
To begin with, here is the structure for the essay portion of the Michigan bar exam: you will have nine questions to answer in the three-hour morning exam and six questions to answer in the two-hour afternoon exam. So, you should aim to spend about twenty minutes per question. Even going a little over that time will add up. For example, if you spend 21 minutes on the first eight questions in the morning portion, you will only have 12 minutes to answer the remaining question. Here we tell you our Michigan bar exam essay timing tips to make sure you stay within these time constraints!
1. Learn the highly tested areas of law — and learn them well!
This tip is so important if you are looking to improve your timing! One of the reasons that examinees run out of time is because they spend too much time trying to think of (or invent) a rule statement. So, it is imperative to make sure that you know the highly tested areas of law.
There are a few ways you can learn the highly tested areas of law and we will give you two free ways and two additional non-free ways to accomplish this. All are effective!
- First, go through past Michigan bar exam essays, bullet-point them, and determine the highly tested rule statements. You can even invent a “rules sheet” where you keep track of these. This takes time but will help you learn the highly tested areas of law.
- Second, we have a free video and PDF which you can watch here. We highly recommend this if you want a leg up on the bar exam. We cover the Michigan bar exam essay “favorites” in this video and PDF.
- Third, if you have money to spend, consider purchasing our How to Pass the Michigan Bar Exam book or signing up for our Michigan bar exam seminar. The book has the highly tested areas of law in one sheet each (“one-sheets”) along with a lot of other helpful advice. The seminar covers highly tested areas of law and predictions in a half-day before the bar exam. It is very helpful!
2. Make sure you are responding to the questions posed.
A lot of students spend a lot of time explaining a background of the law (e.g., they will go into a detailed discussion of contract formation in response to a Contracts question, but the question tells you to assume a contract was formed, so the discussion is not necessary).
Other students will offer additional rule statements or tidbits of law not asked for by the question (e.g., the question will ask specifically about second-degree murder, and examinees will discuss other levels of murder).
Make sure to respond to the questions posed and stick to what is asked of you. You only have twenty minutes so you want to make each minute count!
3. Structure your answer using a “RAC” format.
The Michigan bar exam is formulaic. You should have an issue heading (e.g. “battery”) and then state the rule, apply it, and conclude.
There is no need to waste time trying to write an eloquent issue statement, especially when in most cases the issues are given to you explicitly. There is also no need to “argue both sides” in 90% of the questions posed, as the question is seeking an application of the law to the facts. It is often awkward to argue both sides when there is clearly a “correct” argument and it takes time. So get out of this law school habit when you write bar exam essay answers! Instead, focus on:
- Briefly stating the issue in a heading
- Stating the rule
- Applying the rule to the facts
- Having a strong conclusion
4. Practicing timing yourself every week.
This is one of the most important timing tips for the essay portion of the Michigan bar exam! You should incorporate regular timed exams into your schedule. I used to take a timed exam every Friday morning. In the beginning, I would time myself with just three questions and take an hour to answer them. Then I would take time to review the answers and self-grade my answers.
The next Friday, I would answer six questions in two hours. And soon, I would start answering nine questions in three hours.
Incorporating timed exams into your routine will help you to do everything you can to ensure you don’t run out of time on the exam day. Also, it will give you confidence going into the exam!
5. Try answering the questions in less time!
Some examinees find it helpful to answer essay questions in fifteen minutes, rather than twenty. If they can go through an exam in fifteen minutes per question, rather than twenty, then they will feel like twenty minutes is a long time! This is especially helpful if you are trying to “cut down” on including excessive background information or unnecessary arguments. It forces you to be concise. I would recommend trying this out at least once before the exam!
We hope you found these timing tips for the essay portion of the Michigan bar exam helpful!
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