Prioritizing Rules to Know on the Bar Exam (and How to Dominate the Essays)

Ever wonder how you’re supposed to juggle everything in your head? How do you prioritize the rules to know for the bar exam?

If you’re a bar taker, that’s CONSTANTLY on your mind. There are just so many rules to know.

You’d love to start practicing essays but feel like you just haven’t learned enough law yet.

How are you supposed to learn all this when time is tight? How do you tackle the massive body of rules to know?

Key takeaways:

  • Learn not just the rules but also how to present and organize the issues
  • Highest-priority issues and rules are those that have appeared in the past (there are two other categories)
  • There are efficient and effective ways to hit both of the above at once
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101 Rules for Bar Exam Preparation

Here’s a list of 101 quick bullets on preparing for the bar exam.

Your answer is probably somewhere in here if you ever feel like asking the worst questions in the world:

  • “Do you have any advice?” (only if there’s enough context)
  • “Can you help?” (can you help?)
  • “Thoughts?” (a minimalist reply seems rude but tempting)
  • “HELP!” “Let’s connect” (?)
  • Anything with more than one question mark in a row unironically

If you have the Magicsheets & Approsheets suite, you already have access to the exclusive pocket guide “17 Strategies to Get Un-stuck and Un-frustrated by the Bar Exam.”

I tried something even more straight to the point.

Why 101? I wanted to do something contrived like 100 and ended up with 1 more (say hi to your OCD for me). I’ll probably update this in the future. This is an amorphous and evolving draft. Nothing is set in stone. Things change. Things get better. Same with your bar prep.

Feel free to disagree with any point. Advice is autobiography. Advice is never one-size-fits-all. Take what you like and leave the rest.

If some rules seem contradictory, that’s where interesting things happen.

Let me know which parts you agree with, parts you disagree with, or contradictions you thought about on your own and resolved.

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Write Essays as If You’re Preparing Your Essay Grader “Client”

When writing essays on the bar exam, it’s important to use good presentation to make it as easy as possible for the graders to consume.

It’s a test of empathy.

In fact, you should treat the graders as your “clients.”

I received an email from Max, a reader who took this perspective at least a step further. I particularly love that Max phrased it as preparing someone else for a presentation, because in the “real world,” your job is indeed to make your boss (a “client”) look good to their boss (whether their own superior or client).

Max mentions that he started doing better on the essays when thinking about essays in this “preparing” manner, rather than a more self-centric approach where you’re showing off your knowledge. He categorizes three different levels of preparing your client.

I felt that his insights were wasted to be archived in my inbox, so here it is (edited only to generalize for non-California readers).

I hope this gives you a helpful perspective on how to treat essay writing:

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Good Essays Are the Easiest to Grade: How to Get the Big Points on Your Bar Exam Essays

Here’s a pop quiz:

Can you tell which of these essays scored higher than the other? Take a look at these excerpts, and take a guess. Why did you pick your answer?

Essay A
Essay B
(Here’s the essay question for context)

Before I reveal the winner, can I just say how this shows how subjective essay grading is?

Graders are people. They have biases like we do. They get tired. They’re not consistent. (Yeah, they’re actually not reptilian robots 😲)

The winner is…

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Not Passing Hurts MORE than Struggling Now! How Drew Used Pain to Efficiently Pass the CA Bar Exam (While Working Full Time)

I collect every bar exam success story. Sometimes I post unique stories in a small vault of success stories. Other times, I screenshot and put them in a big folder.

Once in a while, I get a reflection that I want to feature front and center.

Drew passed the 2021 February California Bar Exam (Attorneys’ Exam with essays and PT only) on his second attempt while working full time and as a father to young children.

He really hit the nail on the head about the experience of a repeater—and what first timers should heed—from the initial underestimation of the exam, the uncomfortable resistance to actually trying to solve the problems, to his essay answers evolving into a more organized format. 

I didn’t want to waste Drew’s very organized thoughts (and lessons for new bar takers) by letting them archive in my inbox like the many other reflections I get. His message had a lot of parallels to what I and many other repeaters have gone through, and what I encourage my readers to do.

Here’s what he did differently…

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