By Ashley Heidemann
When it comes to your bar essay score, it’s not enough to just spot the issues — you need to state and apply the law too. To get as many points as possible on the essay section, you’ll need to be smart with your bar prep. If the thought of writing bar essays sends you running for the hills, these five tips to improve your bar essay score will help!
- Did You Answer the Question?
Your goal on the essay portion of the bar exam is to get as many points as you can. To do so, you’ll need to fully answer the question without wasting valuable time on unnecessary things. If you’re asked to list the possible causes of action for three defendants, don’t accidentally skip one of the defendants. On the flip side, don’t bother addressing claims or parties that aren’t part of the question! Following directions – and answering the questions you are asked to answer – is critical!
- Self-Grading Is Key
Writing practice answers is important, but it’s not enough! Self-grading your responses is a great way to identify your strengths and weaknesses. After you practice writing an essay answer, spend some time comparing your answer to the model or sample answer. We recommend using a different color pen or different color font to mark up your answer as you go. It’ll put you in the mindset of a grader and help you learn to respond more efficiently to bar exam questions. It will also build your confidence for exam day!
- Organize Your Answer
During the bar exam, you’ll want to use every tool and strategy available to you to maximize your points. A well-structured essay response can help. Use headings to identify your issues and organize your response. Don’t be afraid to underline or highlight key phrases in your response to call the essay grader’s attention to certain things. Also, use the IRAC (Issue, Rule, Analysis, Conclusion) method. The grader will be looking for each of these elements in your answer.
- Don’t Forget the Facts
When bar essay responses don’t sufficiently use facts, they’re shorter and worth fewer points. If there are not enough facts, usually the analysis is lacking. A great way to remind yourself to incorporate facts is to highlight or mark what you use in the fact pattern. If you’ve made minimal marks by the end of your response, that’s a sign that you should incorporate more facts!
- Keep It Simple
The bar exam essay is not the time to flex your creative writing skills. Instead, keep your responses to a simple formula. Spot the issue, state the rule, apply it, and conclude. There’s no need to waste time coming up with the perfect issue statement — use a brief heading instead. Then, spend the bulk of your time on the rule, analysis, and conclusion.
Whether it’s your first time taking the bar or a repeat attempt, you’ll want to collect as many points as possible in your bar essay. These tips can help!
Ashley Heidemann is the owner and founder of JD Advising, a law school and bar exam prep company offering services ranging from LSAT tutoring and application assistance to bar exam tutoring, courses and seminars.