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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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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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, 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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Quick and Simple Ways to Improve Your Bar Essays

A big complaint about essays: “Essays are so freaking subjective!”

Sure, the MBE is more “objective.” There’s only one right answer on the MBE.

But it depends on your interpretation of the question, the hypo, and most important, the answer choices. Yes because X? Yes because Y? Where’s the option for “yes because Z”? FML!

That’s a question for another day.

This is to say, let’s not agonize too much over the essays just because the MBE has objective answer choices and you think that’s somehow advantageous.

Let’s instead use the subjectivity of essays to your advantage. We’re going to take advantage of the impatience of a human who has thousands of shitty essays to read.

This is great because if you know how to write better on one, you’ll know how to write better on ALL of them. How many points is that worth to you?

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How to Systematically Identify All the Relevant Issues in a Bar Essay (Without “Issue Spotting”)

Be honest now. Imagine you’re mentoring a starry-eyed 1L starting law school. How would you explain how to “spot issues” in an essay? How exact and specific can you get?

Is it just a mystical process where the crystal ball in your head somehow divines issues from the heavens?

The MBE isn’t the only section you gotta worry about. Every fellow repeater who retook the bar exam with me had to improve on their essays. Unlike multiple choice with an objectively correct answer, essays are subject to the whims of the grader.

On its surface, an essay is simply a string of IRACs (easier said than done of course). Prep companies and law school tend to focus on the “R” and “A” and assume that you already know how to find the “I” naturally.

That’s funny (not really) because an issue that’s never raised, or an irrelevant issue, is completely worthless.

But has anyone actually taught you how to identify those issues? They give you the IRAC framework and leave you to figure it out.

That’s why I’m going to explain it to you in more detail than this:

issue spotting

To spot issues, try your best.

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