“I loved how you framed approaching the essays as finding fact triggers. That was different than how Barbri suggested, and I could see a big improvement in my approach to the essays after thinking of them in that way. I also liked your flowcharts.”
“I was always missing issues . . . I wanted to create a system for finding the issue instead of hopefully spotting them. I bought the Approsheets and the checklists you have are amazing. Thank you”
“I really wasn’t pulling together essays until after I spent a lot of time specifically with your Approsheets. . . . I really saw myself picking up a lot more issues that way and scoring a lot higher. After that, I think that’s when I finally, finally started to feel like there’s a chance I was gonna pull it off.”
What if you had roadmaps to simplify how to approach the essays for each subject — saving time during bar prep and gaining an unfair (but totally legal) advantage on the exam?
You don’t need to be a creative writer (or even a good writer) to pass the essays. Just make it mechanical, robotic, and systematic:
Bar takers who added Approsheets to their study arsenal were able to put those essays (and the bar exam) behind them — for good:
Ever have “Blank Page Syndrome”?
In front of you, a blank canvas stares back, ready to be filled but only reflecting a harsh stillness.
The cursor blinks at you, urging you for your next order.
Cold sweat squeezes out of pores you didn’t even realize you had on your body.
You decide to hit the books and videos again. Maybe you just need to know more… Maybe you’ll get ’em next time…
You’re mostly grasping the material, but then when you take a practice exam it’s like everything you know is out the window. If you can’t start (or finish) an essay, you may be struggling with this Blank Page Syndrome.
WTF? Why didn’t it work?
Even if you know all the law, you still need to present all the relevant issues.
Two biggest fears and obsessions of a bar taker: lectures and memorization. But notice that these heavily focus on the RULES, the “black letter law.”
That’s all fine and dandy. Rules are important. But how are you going to know where to put down what you memorized?
“I need to know all the law first!”
What were those three years of law school for? Never mind.
There’s this strange concern floating around… A concern that you need to know it all, or else you won’t be prepared to write that essay. The thought that all you need to do well in practice and the bar exam itself is to “get your ducks in a row first”…
So you sit there, fold your arms, and wait for videos and words to osmosis into your brain. Maybe your soulmate will fall out of the sky, too. And then when you finally flip open that bar essay after weeks of becoming a know-it-all…
You end up staring at a blank page.
Write like a bar taker. Not like a lawyer.
No doubt the essays are the bane of bar takers’ existence. It can feel overwhelming to have to come up with words and create something under pressure.
If writing like in law school is still stuck in your head, you’ve been out of school for years, or you just aren’t used to that kind of writing, essay questions on the bar exam can be tough to figure out.
Like with a new cat you just met, maybe you’ve noticed that they need a different approach because they’re a bit different from law school essays or real-life briefs.
Somehow you find yourself brain dumping a soup of words, anything you remember about the subject… silently hoping for a miracle (and screaming internally).
(Ernest Hemingway said that “the first draft of anything is shit,” but this is ridiculous!)
But what gets you that passing score? How do you organize your answer? Where do you begin, and what do you write?
The real question: What really grabs the grader’s attention?
Issues are where it all begins.
No issues = no IRAC = no points.
You may think you know the rules, but you still struggle to write the essay because you don’t know the corresponding issues.
You want to score high on the essays, but the grading process is so subjective, and there are often no guidelines as to what will earn you points or how much time should be spent writing different parts of your paper—making essays like taking shots in the dark.
Clear issues make it EASY for the grader to check it off as they skim your essay. This makes the grading process more objective and more in your favor.
Having the right issues can make or break your essay. They’re your anchors for the ship you’re going to ride to fish points out of the water.
This is super counterintuitive to bar takers! In law school, they were taught that they need to write a giant analysis and look at all the angles. In fact, some bar tutors still advocate for this approach.
I don’t disagree.
But essays on the bar exam are like an inverted pyramid, where issues are the most important, then the rules, then the application. (No deep “analysis” required except where appropriate (to discuss opposing legal theories or narrow calls of the question), not as a default!)
So what should you do if you’re struggling with bar essays?
The best thing is not to throw them out randomly, hopefully “spotting” them…
But rather, systematically “check” for them using a finite list of issues.
It can even become a “robotic” process where you stop panicking and you don’t even have to think about it (much)…
Explain like I’m five… how to “issue spot”
Ask a law student how to “spot issues” and see how long it takes to get a coherent answer.
“Issue spotting” has no process to it, and therefore is a less reliable method of getting the points you deserve on the essays. Spotting implies that “you’ll know it when you see it.”
Instead, I recommend checking for issues instead of spotting issues. Here’s a step-by-step, issue-by-issue walkthrough:
This robotic, routine approach is more reliable than randomly spotting issues. It’ll help you develop muscle memory—a bar intuition—so that when you see similar fact patterns later, you’ll know what to do. This will make sure that you cover what they’re trying to test you on, and not miss anything important.
You might get tired of discussing the same issues over and over. But that’s actually a good thing!
Approsheets are roadmaps for navigating (or starting) the essays, in 2 pages per subject.
These essay approach sheets include checklists and flowcharts that guide you through structuring your essay or outline in a sequential manner, focusing on the most frequently tested issues.
It’s like having your own personal tutor whispering into an earpiece as you set up the essay:
*radio crackle* Psst… If you see X fact, talk about Y issue.
One major pitfall of answering an essay is discussing some issues but not others. A checklist or flowchart approach ensures that you don’t forget the related issues — to not have them come to you after the exam.
What do you get with Approsheets?
(+ summary of characterization of property)
(+ 4th Amendment supplement)
(+ Prop 8 supplement)
(+ ABA/CA distinction table supplement)
(+ injunctive remedies supplement)
If you’re studying for a state that isn’t California or a UBE jurisdiction, please review the subjects below and select the closest version.
(+ 4th Amendment supplement)
(+ injunctive remedies supplement)
Some of these are not tested on the UBE, but non-UBE jurisdictions may benefit from the extra subjects.
Why use Approsheets?
You don’t even have to be sure if you want them right now:
Ready to get Approsheets?
Even if you know all the law, you still need to present all the right ones in an essay.
These short checklists and flowcharts are designed to guide you through structuring your essays and outlines in a sequential manner.
If essays are the bane of your existence, don’t just wing them or hope for a miracle… Make them predictable.
Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
The only condensed attack outlines you need for bar prep.
Magicsheets organize rules and issues to know in just a few pages per subject so that you can grab points on the MBE and essays without wasting time, panicking, or getting overwhelmed.
You’ll get two emails:
If you aren’t subscribed to my weekly newsletters already, including Strategy Saturday, MBE Q&A Wednesday, and Fire-up Friday, you’ll be automatically added and get another welcome email. So you’ll be getting study strategies, exercises, motivation, and inspiration every week! I want you to get the most value from your investment. (No worries, you can unsubscribe anytime.)
Approsheets are tailored for practicing or solving a bar exam essay.
Use Approsheets to get an overview of how to approach different issues within a given subject, practice with essays with the checklist next to you, and visualize the flowcharts during closed-book essay practice or (as some bar takers reported) even during the exam
See the welcome guide for some more ideas! You can see a sample of the welcome guide here.
Yep, they’re ready to use!
I tweak and improve them and send out updates a few times a year. Since the issues generally don’t change unless there’s a major update to the tested subject matter, most updates are editorial or for organization purposes. Magicsheets receive more updates than Approsheets.
Beside the subjects included, you’ll notice that CA version includes distinctions and terminology used in CA, while the UBE version doesn’t include any issues tested in CA.
Both versions have links to example essays from the California Bar Exam to illustrate select issues.
Email: brian [at] makethisyourlasttime.com
Ready to get Approsheets?