Bar Exam Essays: Just Do It (Them)

Here is excellent advice from the Law School Academic Support Blog, about doing practice essays questions now, as part of your preparation for the bar exam in one month. I strongly advise doing practice essay questions now, if you have not yet done any, and turning them in ASAP for feedback if your commercial bar review course offers that service. Students sometimes avoid doing practice essay questions because they fear them. Here’s the thing: if essay questions scare you now, how do you think they’ll make you feel on the real bar exam? The good news: if you tackle that fear now and don’t avoid doing practice essays, you will be much less intimidated when you have to answer the real thing. Your first attempts may not be very good. That’s okay, you have time to practice and get better. None of this is based on aptitude or intuition.

  1. Just do it. If you wait until you are fully comfortable with the law to write an essay; you will never do it. You will never be fully comfortable with all aspects of each and every subject area but you can get better by writing.
  2. Build your muscles. You must dive in to build tough skin when it comes to critique/feedback. When you are faced with the unknown you will develop a strategy. You do not want to face your worse fear, the essay, on the day of the exam.  It just won’t work. “Remember that no one shows up for a marathon without preparation so why should you?” (Dean of Student Engagement quote)
  3. Keep it real. Be completely honest with yourself and the people who are trying to help you.  Complete timed questions, honestly critique your responses,and start to do it closed book.
  4. Close the book…or you will never get the timing right and you will never memorize the rules.  Only after you have made a good faith attempt and done your best should you look up rules you do not know or understand.

Another word of advice for Georgia bar exam takers (and it may be relevant in other jurisdictions too): the exam will almost always include an essay question that raises issues of professional ethics. It will likely appear as part of a question on a different, bigger topic — because that is how ethical issues arise in the legal profession, they emerge when you are trying to handle a specific matter of law. On the February bar exam, which you can see online here, Essay Question 1 mostly concerned Evidence. However, one of the questions asked whether or not a prosecutor should turn over certain evidence to the defense. This is a specific scenario where the Georgia rules are slightly different. To do well on all of this essay, examinees needed first to know to discuss the rules governing professional conduct as well as evidence, and the Georgia distinctions.

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