Graded Bar Exam Essay Answer Bank

Are you writing the way the graders want? Check your work against high- and low-scoring actual student answers.

To that end, you’ll find two things here:

  1. A small collection of actual graded essays and performance tests, along with their scores.
  2. Below the essay bank is a link to California bar essay issue charts by subject and year.
Seeking donations from any state and any year! If you want future generations of bar takers to benefit from your work (like you will with the below), please consider donating your returned essays and PT answers along with their scores, to brian [ ] makethisyourlasttime.com. Scans or photos are acceptable.

Real graded CA bar essays (some other states available)

2022 February2021 July2021 February2020 October2020 February2019 July2019 February2018 July2018 February2017 July2017 February2016 July2016 February2015 July2015 February2014 July2014 February2013 July

Essay 1 (Criminal Law and Procedure): 67.5 (70/65), 70 (65/75) , 67.5 (80/55), 65 (65/65), 50, 67.5 (60/75), 55

Essay 2 (Community Property): 72.5 (80/65), 57.5 (55/60), 65 (65/65), 65 (65/65), 60, 65 (70/60), 55

Essay 3 (Torts, Remedies): 62.5 (65/60), 52.5 (55/50), 55 (55/55), 57.5 (60/55), 55, 60 (60/60), 60

Essay 4 (Evidence, Professional Responsibility): 52.5 (55/50), 50 (50/50), 65 (65/65), 57.5 (60/55), 55, 62.5 (65/60), 55

Essay 5 (Business Associations, Remedies): 65 (60/70), 62.5 (65/60), 65 (70/60), 62.5 (60/65), 60, 57.5 (55/60), 55

California 90-minute PT (objective memo): 52.5 (55/50), 60 (65/55), 57.5 (55/60), 57.5 (55/60), 55, 60 (65/55), 55

Feedback on the 3rd set of essays

From the applicant:

Here are a few of my thoughts: 

  1. Essay #1 – The 25 point discrepancy between the first and second grader makes absolutely no sense to me.  When I read my response, I cannot understand how I possibly could have been given a 55 by the second grader.
  2. Essay #3 – I broke out all the elements for the equitable remedies (TROs, Preliminary Injunctions, Permanent Injunctions) because this was a remedies-heavy question.  So again, not sure what I did to receive only a 55 on this essay.
  3. PT – Because the bar exam was back in person in February, I had the ability to make a strategic decision to do my PT first (before Essay #4 and #5), which I did.  All I could hear anyone talking about after the afternoon session on the first day was how they did not finish the PT.  This made me feel even more confident because I did finish.  I even spent 5 extra minutes on the PT to make sure it was bulletproof to avoid what happened to me on the PT in July.  In July, I missed the infamous “Blue Pencil” issue and did not finish concluding.  Yet, I got the same exact score on the PT in February as I did in July.  When I walked out of the afternoon session on day 1, I thought I at least got a 65 on the PT, but I honestly was expecting a 70 or 75.  With how much the PT is worth, this dropped my raw writing score significantly.
  4. MBEs – my percentiles went up in most areas compared to the July bar, but my scaled score was lower.  I understand the scaling changes for each exam, but not quite sure what else I can do for the MBEs when I spent 90% of my time during bar prep preparing for the MBEs.

My feedback:

First, I have to say that this was one of the hardest CA exams, with a 33.9% pass rate as you know. Even with a higher raw written score, you received a lower scaled score. Unfortunately, that’s just the casualty of whatever statistical adjusting they do. Theoretically, scaled scores are equivalent to one another… Theoretically. 

Essay 1

I agree with you that the disparity in scores for Essay 1 is unusual. I don’t see how it deserves a 55. You pretty much did textbook IRAC, identified numerous issues, and organized and presented it all in a clean format. The only thing I can think of is that you didn’t actually connect the rules to the facts step by step. If you analogize it to an algebra problem, each line is a small step to the answer. Here’s an example:

Under the theory of accomplice liability, an accomplice can be charged with any crime that is reasonably foreseeable of the target offense if that person encouraged, aided, or abetted criminal activity.

Here, Jim and Fred both armed themselves with handguns and went to the store on Avonstreet. As an accomplice, Jim can be liable for any foreseeable crimes if he aided, encouraged, or abetted the crimes. Here, it can be inferred that Jim partook in these crimes and aided, encouraged, or abetted the target crimes and any foreseeable crimes.

Rule = perfect. (Note that I also had perfect rules on my first attempt.)

  • “Here, Jim and Fred both armed themselves with handguns and went to the store on Avon street.” Great.
  • “As an accomplice, Jim can be liable for any foreseeable crimes if he aided, encouraged, or abetted the crimes.” What made Jim an accomplice? The bridge is missing. One way to tell if you are bridging the rule to a relevant fact is if you can use the word “because.” The better thing to say here is to say what Jim did that would qualify as aiding, encouraging, or abetting. I don’t think the facts say such a thing.
  • “Here, it can be inferred that Jim partook in these crimes and aided, encouraged, or abetted the target crimes and any foreseeable crimes.” I disagree with the “inferred” part. You should cite a fact from the hypo to support this. You talk about conspiracy below this, which is closer to what happened in the fact pattern.

My guess is that the 2nd reader read the essay more carefully since it was a reread in the gray zone.

I didn’t read through the rest in the interest of time, but one thing that’s evident is that essay grading is subjective. Hence, any “best practices” you can do to make it easy for the grader to give you points will help. I think your formatting is nice and clean. I love how you break down the issues, and you know your rules. You’re in a great place in terms of knowledge. Perhaps better usage of the facts will help next time around. 

Essay 3

You did a great job on the remedies question. When the selected answers come out, take a look at what other torts there could have been. At first glance, you probably got the major ones.

PT

Without doing a deep dive, I can only say that it was hard to see where the application of the facts was. I saw a lot of statutes being recited, and noticed your usage of facts in the middle of one of the paragraphs.

Raw written score:

Your average written score is 61.8 (432.5 / 7). You needed a 62.78 for this exam. That’s just 7 more raw points (~439.5 vs. 432.5). Can’t help but think that you would have “passed” the essay portion if they’d kept your first read.

Essay 1 (Civil Procedure): 65, 55, 55, 55, 62.5, 50, 50, 65

Essay 2 (Professional Responsibility): 60, 65, 50, 50, 57.5, 50, 75, 62.5

Essay 3 (Torts): 55, 55, 51 (adjusted for ExamSoft issue), 65, 62.5, 55, 55, 65

Essay 4 (Criminal Procedure): 50, 60, 50, 60, 62.5, 65, 65, 65

Essay 5 (Wills, Community Property): 70, 55, 50, 65, 72.5, 60, 60, 57.5

California 90-minute PT: 55, 55, 55, 55, 60, 45, 55, 55

  • PT-only donation: 65
Some QUICK thoughts on the 4th column of essays and PT
1. Great job on identifying a good number of issues. Some of the issues, however, are not really “issues.” 

For example, in your PR essay, you state:

“using improper means or improper influence to gain a favorable out come in a matter

Both the ABA rules and California rules prohibit a lawyer of using or even infering the use ofimproper means to gain an advatage in a case.”

I don’t believe this is a legal issue tested in PR, and it appears sort of “made up.” “Improper means” could be anything.

2. Incorrect analysis? More careful reading of facts will help. Let me know if I’m mistaken, as I’m going thru this quickly… Your Civ Pro essay says:

“In the facts we are aware that Shearer the plaintiff in this matter is a Nevada citizen , the fact pattern however is silent on jiff (the defendants state citizenship or where he resides).As such the element of Shearers state citizenship is irrelevant as it is not a ground inwhich venue is determined.”

However, the facts mention “Jiff, a California citizen who resides in Truckee, California.” Isn’t California Jiff’s resident state?

I believe this led to insufficient and unclear resolution of the question asked.

3. In general, keeping a mechanical IRAC format will work to your advantage. Try to state the premise (rule) every time you analyze an issue, even if it’s a small one.

4. The PT was a closing argument, but it read more like a legal memo. It would have been better to make it sound like a speech. PTs typically ask for a memo or brief, so I think your next PT score will be better if you keep this format. I haven’t looked at the PT assignment, but there may be more legal authorities and law to apply.

Essay 1 (Evidence): 55, 45, 52.5

Essay 2 (Contracts & Remedies): 60, 50, 60

Essay 3 (Community Property): 55, 65, 80

Essay 4 (Professional Responsibility): 50, 60, 62.5

Essay 5 (Real Property): 50, 50, 52.5

California 90-minute PT: 60, 45, 55

Second column of essays has some of my annotations in bubble comments.

Essay 1 (Professional Responsibility): 57.5, 50

Essay 2 (Business Associations – Corporations): 52.5, 50

Essay 3 (Real Property): 57.5, 55

Essay 4 (Criminal Law & Procedure): 62.5, 55

Essay 5 (Remedies – Contracts): 55, 55

California 90-minute PT: 52.5, 50

Second column of essays has some of my annotations in bubble comments.

Essay 1 (Torts): 607057.56050 

Essay 2 (Professional Responsibility): 657557.557.560 

Essay 3 (Contracts Remedies): 606552.56060 

Essay 4 (CA Evidence): 656057.57065 

Essay 5 (Business Associations): 6555656555 

California 90-minute PT: 57.560605570

My quick assessment of the 5th set of essays (in bold)

The recurring theme I see in your essays (nice job on the PT) is that issues are missing. I think your IRACing is good. However, you can’t do the IRACs if you don’t bring up the I (issue) in the first place.

To this end, Approsheets may be helpful. In addition, I’ve heard good things about Mary Basick’s blue book (2nd ed.) 

Sample answers aren’t out yet, but I’d suggest looking at the higher-scoring answers in the essay answer bank for reference

Examples of things you could have discussed:

Q1. NIED. What recovery is possible (part of the questions)

Q2. PR essays typically have general calls (what violations or obligations are there)… Issue identification is especially important.

Q3. Valid contract formation. Could have discussed more specific sub-rules and corresponding facts for the elements for specific performance (final call of the question)

Lesser point: Since you’re handwriting, presentation becomes more important. Try to leave enough spacing between issues and discussions so that it’s easier for the grader to see where discussions end and begin.


Essay 1 (Civil Procedure): 5555555062.565605565 

Essay 2 (Remedies, Con Law): 6062.5705562.552.55572.55060 

Essay 3 (Criminal Law and Procedure): 5560556057.565555570 

Essay 4 (Prof Resp): 605550505552.555655555 

Essay 5 (Contracts): 6057.5605557.55565706055 

California 90-minute PT: 5560606562.555706060 

My assessment of essays in the 5th column of essays above (in bold).

Essay and PT set 1 (scores: Q1 55, Q2 57.5, Q3 62.5, Q4 55, Q5 57.5, PT 70) 

Essay and PT set 2 (scores: Q1 55, Q2 62.5, Q3 60, Q4 60, Q5 62.5, PT 62.5)

Essay 1 (Wills, Trusts, Community Property): 70605565 

Essay 2 (Torts): 57.56565 

Essay 3 (Real Property): 52.562.56065/70 

Essay 4 (Civil Procedure, Evidence): 655560 

Essay 5 (Prof Resp): 5552.560 

California 90-minute PT: 57.5606065/60

Essay 1 (Contracts): 6055 

Essay 2 (Evidence): 6565 

Essay 3 (Prof Resp): 75 (sample from BarEssays), 55 

Essay 4 (CA Comm Prop): 6055 

Essay 5 (Con Law): 5550 

California 90-minute PT: 5555 

Essay and PT answers set 1 (scores: Q1 60, Q2 50, Q3 50, Q4 55, Q5 50, PT 55) 

Essay and PT answers set 2 (scores: Q1 65, Q2 57.5, Q3 55, Q4 65, Q5 55, PT 60)

New York2018 July New York (UBE) MEE and MPT set (MEE 1-6 scores in order 57.06, 44.55, 55.46, 41.42, 53.79, 40.09; MPT scores in order 49.42, 52.44; total 137.7)

Essay 1: 55 (Brian’s Annotations)

Essay 2: 60 

Essay 3: 60 

Essay 4: 65 (Brian’s Annotations)

Essay 5: 65 

California 90-minute PT: 65 

Essay and PT answers set 1 (scores: Q1 55, Q2 55, Q3 65, Q4 50, Q5 60, PT 60) 

Essay and PT answers set 2 (scores: Q1 55, Q2 60, Q3 55, Q4 70, Q5 60, PT 50)

Essay 1: 6072.56065606560 

Essay 2: 6062.56060555565 

Essay 3: 6562.56555555050 

Essay 4: 60656570606065 

Essay 5: 6562.56060555560 

California 90-minute PT: 6557.575, –, –, 5545

Essay 1: –, 62.5605550 

Essay 2: –, 57.5556050 

Essay 3: –, 65557065 

Essay 4: –, 60606050 

Essay 5: –, 65605565 

Essay 6: –, 65606060 

PT A: 57.570557065 

PT B: 6060706560

Essay 1: 5565655555 

Essay 2: 5555605545 

Essay 3: 6050605555 

Essay 4: 5565555550 

Essay 5: 5560756055 

Essay 6: 5060505555 

PT A: –, –, 505055 

PT B: 50, –, 606055 

Essay and PT answers set 1 (scores: Q1 55, Q2 60, Q3 45, Q4 60, Q5 65, Q6 60, PT A 50, PT B 55) 

Essay and PT answers set 2 (scores: Q1 55, Q2 50, Q3 50, Q4 50, Q5 55, Q6 50, PT A 55, PT B 60) 

Essay and PT answers set 3 (scores: Q1 60, Q2 57.5, Q3 65, Q4 52.5, Q5 65, Q6 60, PT A 60, PT B 57.5)

NevadaEssays Day 1 (scores in order: 63.32, 90.06, 71.40 / 75.00 passing), MPTs (score in order: 67.50, 51.91 / 75.00 passing), Essays Day 3 (scores in order: 61.52, 93.47, 76.43, 78.82 / 75.00 passing)

Essay 1: 606562.5 

Essay 2: 506060 

Essay 3: 505560 

Essay 4: 607055 

Essay 5: 505557.5 

Essay 6: 506057.5 

PT A: 5555 

PT B: 6570 

My analysis of the first column of essays and PTs above (in bold) (my estimated scores before actual scores were sent to me + my evaluation of the answers and suggestions)

Essay and PT answers set 1 (scores: Q1 55, Q2 60, Q3 65, Q4 50, Q5 60, Q6 50, PT A 60, PT B 70) 

Essay and PT answers set 2 (ZIP file with images; scores: Q1 55, Q2 75, Q3 65, Q4 55, Q5 50, Q6 50, PT A 55, PT B 60) 

Essay and PT answers set 3 (scores: Q1 50, Q2 50, Q3 50, Q4 60, Q5 55, Q6 55, PT A 55, PT B 55)

Essay 1: 60 

Essay 2: 65 

Essay 3: 60 

Essay 4: 55 

Essay 5: 55 

Essay 6: 60 

PT A: 60 

PT B: 55

Essay and PT answers set 1 (scores in order: Q1 60, Q2 55, Q3 55, Q4 60, Q5 55, Q6 55; PT A 50, PT B 50) 

Essay and PT answers set 2 (scores in order: Q1 60/55, Q2 75/85, Q3 60/55, Q4 65/65, Q5 65/60, Q6 60/60; PT A 55/55, PT B 60/60)

Essay 1: 65 

Essay 2: 60 

Essay 3: 55 

Essay 4: 55 

Essay 5: 55 

Essay 6: 55 

PT A: 60 

PT B: 70 

New York2014 July New York essay answers set (scaled scores in order: 60.82, 44.77, 43.83, 40.62, 45.01, 31.66)

Essay and PT answers set 1 (scores in order: Q1-6 55, 55, 55, 55, 55, 55; PTs 55, 60)

Essay 1: 6560 

Essay 2: 5550 

Essay 3: 5550 

Essay 4: 5055 

Essay 5: 5055 

Essay 6: 6060 

PT A: 556570 

PT B: 6055 

Issue Outlines

Sample legacy (3-hour) CA PT answers by Brian

PT 2008 FEB B (Dr. Snyder) — with grader commentary
PT 2006 FEB B (Estate of Small) — with grader commentary and self-analysis
PT 2012 FEB B (State v. Dolan) — self-graded
PT 2009 JULY A (Farley) — self-graded
PT 2010 JULY A (Vasquez CC&Rs) — self-graded with notes, comments, and questions
Snow King Mountain Resort answer, notes
Pearson



California essay and issue charts by subject

Anonymous donor’s how-to-use: Barbri has a different chart that has the subjects in the left column, the month and year of the test along the top row, and the question number where the subject and test date intersect, but creating the chart this way made me focus on my weakest subjects instead of trying to predict which topics would be tested. There were certain subjects where I missed a lot of issues, e.g., constitutional law and community property, because I didn’t take ConLaw II or CP in law school.

Instead of doing the same amount of essays for each subject, I’d only outline the subjects that I’d spotted most of the issues for and use my extra time reviewing how the essays were organized in my weakest subjects for as many essays as I could.  Having a chart allowed me to find those essays faster, compare how they were written from year to year, and create a template for how to approach issues that I hadn’t learned in law school.