Should I write or type the bar exam?
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Should I Write or Type the Bar Exam?  

This is a question that must be seriously considered by all bar examinees. You will hear some bar exam tutors or advisers say “You must type it!” It is dangerous, however, to make such a broad statement as there are pros and cons to both options.

If you are debating whether to write or type your exam, consider the following factors when you decide what the best option is for you.

Below, we list four factors to consider when making the decision to type or write the bar exam:

(1) Consider the Advantages and Disadvantages of Writing the Exam

Advantages of Writing:
(1) You do not have to worry about your computer crashing or malfunctioning during the exam. This is a huge source of anxiety for some; others hardly think about it.
(2) Misspellings, poor grammar, and perhaps not-totally-accurate rules of law do not stand out as much in handwritten responses as they do in typed responses.
(3) Your response will look longer. A couple of pages of handwriting could be a half page typed (of course this could backfire if you have large handwriting and only a few pages to respond to a question).

Disadvantages of Writing:
(1) Most people cannot write as fast as they can type. If this is true for you, you will not be able to say as much if you write the exam.
(2) Writing may not be as neat or legible as typing, especially after writing for several hours. Truly consider whether your handwriting is neat enough to write the entire exam.(3) Some writers complain of their hand “cramping up” or being really sore when writing their exam. This can affect both how much you are able to write and the legibility of your handwriting.
(4) A handwritten response is not as easy to organize. If you are typing, you can likely cut and paste and organize your response once you are finished typing your answer. However, if you are writing your option is to draw arrows, cross out paragraphs, or simply have an unorganized response.

(2) Consider the Advantages and Disadvantages of Typing the Exam

Advantages of Typing:
(1) It is easier to organize a type-written response. You can move paragraphs or cut and paste without a problem.
(2) You do not have to worry about illegible or messy handwriting.
(3) Most people can write faster than they can type. If this is true for you, you will be able to say more and perhaps earn more points.
(4) Most people are used to typing for long periods of time. If you fall into this category, you will not have to worry about your hand cramping up during the exam.

Disadvantages of Typing:
(1) You may have (or worry about) computer issues. This is especially the case if your laptop is not new or if it has had problems in the past.
(2) If your state divides writers and typers into different rooms, the environment may not be as favorable for typers. See Factor No. 3 below.

(3) Consider the Testing Environment You will Be In:

Do writers and typers take the exam in different rooms in your state? Do you get easily affected or distracted by your working environment? If so, find out whether the room for writers is smaller or more comfortable. Would the sound of a thousand typers drive you crazy or could this be remedied with some good ear plugs? Ask past bar examinees what they thought about their room environments and whether this affected their experience.

(4) Consider Your Preference and Comfort Level:

What are you used to? Did you write or type all of your law school exams? Do you like writing or typing better? Is the thought of your laptop crashing going to keep you up at night (even if it is a remote possibility)? Will you get irritable in a room full of typers? Or if you hand-write, will you worry about your hand cramping up? Decide what you will be more comfortable with.

Ultimate Issues to Consider when Deciding to Write or Type the Bar Exam:

If you are leaning toward typing, ask yourself these questions:
Do you have a laptop that is up for the job? If you have a laptop with a bunch of viruses or battery issues (or worse, one that randomly crashes!), you may want to reconsider typing the exam or you may want to borrow or buy a new laptop. If you choose the latter, then make sure you practice typing a few exams on the laptop you buy or borrow so that you are used to it and you know it is up for the job.

If you are leaning toward handwriting, ask yourself the following questions:
Is your handwriting legible? Can you write quickly enough? More importantly, can you hand-write for three hours in a row for a couple of sessions (or more, depending on your state)? Will your hand cramp up? If you decide to hand-write your exam, make sure you practice writing for lengthy periods of time that mimic the bar exam before the actual exam.

Ultimately, there is no decision that will be “right” for everyone.  Consider all of the factors mentioned above, and then decide what is best for you. Good luck!