Giving what the essay graders want to see on the California Bar Exam: Q&A with BarEssays founder Gil Peles

When I think of supplements for the essay portion of the California Bar Exam, the first one I think of is BarEssays.

You’ve probably heard of it. BarEssays is one of the most popular study supplements for the essay portion of the California Bar Exam. It’s a collection of more than 3,000 real graded high- and low-scoring essays and performance tests from past California bar exams.

If you’ve ever wondered what an actual good answer is supposed to look like, this is how you can improve your essays—by comparing your practice essay to a variety of real graded student examples. I also wrote an in-depth review of the site here.

But how can you make the best use of it?

I asked Gil Peles, the founder of BarEssays, if he would like to talk about that, and he agreed.

Here are some of the nuggets you’ll pick up from this Q&A:

  • How can you tell what the bar examiners want to see (and what you might be doing wrong)?
  • Formatting: What’s the difference about essay answers you want to write on the bar exam (as opposed to in law school)?
  • What kind of IRAC does Gil recommend for the bar essays? What should it look like?
  • How early should you start working on essays?
  • What can you do with your practice essays to get the most out of them?

Take it away, Gil:

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Coronavirus and Bar Exam Preparation

You’re probably getting a headache from all the news about the novel coronavirus, the contradictory posts in your news feed, and companies you forgot existed emailing you random thoughts about the coronavirus.

While I reserve the right as an introvert to smugly judge those who have cabin fever after ONE day of quarantine (what the hell’s wrong with you guys), I understand that this pandemic may be seriously impacting your livelihood—or even threatening your lives or those around you.

Bad news one minute, good news the next.

Despair and hope, rinse and repeat.

Look. Things have changed. Accept it.

We don’t have all the information. We don’t know what’s going to happen. We have to adapt to the new situation, but without panicking.

We’re all susceptible to panic. Panic causes regressive reasoning, which effectively turns us back into children. But we also have the ability to trigger a “circuit breaker” to go back to making rational and growth-oriented decisions.

Just like how we are “flattening the curve” of new infections through social distancing and lockdowns, we can “flatten the curve” of how we react to the situation.

Here are some “circuit breakers” to consider if you are preparing for the next bar exam (or just scared in general).

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Passing the California Bar Exam with the “Tripod Approach”?

A coaching client and I were on the phone discussing strategy for the upcoming California Bar Exam in July.

The good news was that his MBE scores from previous attempts were already on track to pass the bar exam in California. He consistently got scaled scores of over 1440.

(If you’re taking the exam elsewhere, you’re already halfway home free with a good MBE score according to the “tripod approach” I’ll describe in a bit.)

The issue was that he couldn’t consistently score well on the essays. The essays he thought were the best, he’d get a 55 on them. The essays he wrote fewer than 1,000 words and thought were his worst, he’d get a 65 or more.

BY THE WAY: You don’t “pass” the MBE, or an essay, or a performance test. You pass the EXAM with enough total points—all or nothing. I will throw my keyboard out the window and hope it falls on the next person who talks about “passing an essay with a 65.” How does grading work for the CBX? Read.

Given his situation, I suggested a couple of approaches that would focus on a few key areas that would easily bring him over the hump to pass the California bar in July, once things “clicked” for him…

One of these is the basis for the Tripod Approach, which is a minimally effective approach where you focus on a few key portions when preparing for the California Bar Exam to get the largest return.

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