Outlining provides the substance for the essays. However, the best way (for me) to learn how to answer bar exam essay questions was to read the bar exam essay questions and answers in the books they provide for your state(s). Bar exam essays must be answered as you would answer a first year law school exam – but with the polish of a third year law student who can cut to the chase. I think TRRAC (Topic sentence, Rule, Rule Proof, Application, and Conclusion) is the most effective method. In a pinch, I would fall back on IRAC (Issue, Rule, Application, and Conclusion.
If you find yourself on a bar exam essay question and you just don’t know the rule of law, make one up. I don’t care what it is. What’s important is that you stick with that rule and argue the hell out of it in your Rule Proof, Application, and Conclusion. I’ll just bet you will do better with your made up rule than you would otherwise have done if you wrote nothing. Show the grader that you know how to argue. Chances are the person grading the essay might not know the rule either.
I found it helpful to highlight the rule of law in the essay answers in the BARBRI state essay book. I kept a word processing file for each essay subject. As I read and highlighted an answer, I typed those rules of law in that document. After a while, the rules repeated themselves but I typed them again nonetheless. Why? Because a quick glance at this document I created gave me a pretty good idea of the specific rules the examiners like to test. Those are the rules I wanted to spend my time with. I’ve included a sample of those rules int he Outlines section.
As for taking the practice essay questions that BARBRI graded and returned to you with a “grade” from one of their staff graders, I would do them but caution you not to be too concerned with the “grade.” I sometimes wondered who was grading these practice essays. Hmmm. I did not pay for any extra practice essays nor would I attend any extra weekend sessions.
- Laying The Foundation
- Days 1-6
- Days 7-12
- Day 13 to Finish
- As the Exam Approaches