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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3 Strategies I Used as a Repeater to Study for the Bar Exam: Fight for Simplicity!

I went on a Zoom call to discuss how to study for the bar exam. If you’re just starting out, you may be lost on what the right way to do this all is.

So I distilled three key strategies from what I did differently to pass the California Bar Exam on my second attempt. These are applicable to all jurisdictions and whether you’re taking a bar exam for the first time or you’re a repeater.

Here’s the recording (volume/quality warning):

Slides (with links and coupons)

Giveaway link (enter by 11:59 PM PT on Thurs, May 20, 2021)

Writeup & timestamps below…

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The Value of Redoing Problems (You’ll See Them Again on the Bar Exam)

Am I the only one who keeps a list of cringeworthy things they’ve done in the past? Anyone?

*crickets and random cough*

We learn our lessons by doing something and getting embarrassed and trying again.

In fact, embarrassment is the best way I found to learn a lesson: actually doing things, realizing you did something wrong, feeling the pain, and using the pain to change course in the future.

I’m not saying we should “make bad decisions” on purpose (#yolo). Life is already a constant stream of embarrassment anyway.

We simply need a willingness to endure embarrassment as fodder for our growth. Opening ourselves up to the possibility that we’re wrong.

Reprinted without permission

We don’t know what we don’t know. That’s why we can’t really be too quick to judge our own proficiency. That’s why we get on the bike and try to apply the theory as we go so that we find out.

If we don’t—if we simply try things once and stop—we end up thinking we “get it” with a generalized and incomplete understanding. There’s a difference between awareness and experience.

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How Stan Finally Passed the Bar Exam Using Proven Bar Preparation Strategies (Anyone Can Do This!)

I recently had a back-and-forth with Stan, yet another reader who passed the (online/remote) 2020 October California Bar Exam on this 5th try.

When I asked to showcase his incredible personal journey, Stan offered to rewrite his emails into a more comprehensive story with approaches he discovered, his realizations, and specific study tips to help others join him beyond the bar.

Some of my favorite impressions among many:

Respecting the exam is important but so is enjoying the process

Practice as if it were the real thing. Do the real thing as if it were practice—with confidence

Bar prep doesn’t have to be expensive

Enough about my impressions. It’s time for yours. Here’s Stan’s story on what he did to finally pass the bar exam. No substantive edits made except adding relevant links and [comments in brackets] and writing out some abbreviations.

One for Five: How I Finally Passed the Bar Exam

After I told Brian about my journey to passing the Oct 2020 California bar exam, he was gracious enough to offer me a chance to share my story on his blog.  I discovered Brian’s website by searching stories on how people passed the exam.  I’d bet that’s pretty common.

Before we get into my story, please know my only intent is to show you if I can pass, you absolutely can too.  I’m not special, nor am I looking for credit or praise of any kind.  I’m just an ordinary guy from LA who took the bar exam five times, dealing with life along the way.

Everyone’s journey to passing the bar is unique.  What worked for me might not necessarily work for you.  But I would bet a quality everyone needs is discipline.  My story is a cautionary tale of why discipline should always be where bar prep starts and ends.

The October 2020 California bar exam was my fifth attempt, but I was finally ready to pass.  Let me tell you why you should never think you’re not smart enough or good enough to pass, or that it must not be meant for you.

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