There are similarities between your law school exams and the bar exam. Professors are trying to prepare you for what is to come. However, there are some key differences that all prepared bar exam takers need to know to pass the bar exam.
1) Bar exam essays are generally shorter. Generally, there are fewer issues and sub-issues so you should have plenty of time. Each essay takes about 30-60 minutes depending on which state’s exam you’re taking. Given this, there’s an elevated need to be concise and organized in planning and executing your response to any question.
2) On the bar exam, the issues you need to address are often specified for you. That means there’s less issue-spotting than on law school exams. Law school exams often ask you to discuss general concepts, whereas on the bar exam they expect you to focus and elaborate on the issues in the question. As such, make sure you steer clear of lengthy discussions on the broader subject in your answers.
3) Law school professors spend a lot more time grading your answers than bar examiners. Bar examiners only take about 2-3 minutes for each question. What does that mean? Frankly, it means it’s easier to BS your way through a bar exam essay. So, even if you don’t know exactly how to answer a bar essay, you can make your answer seem more competent by utilizing a few strategies:
- Strong organization - make sure your essay flows naturally and is skimmable. Don’t have long, winding paragraphs. Stick with short paragraphs and sentences.
- Prominent headings - along the same lines, you want bold or underlined headings to guide the grader through the essay.
- Complete rule statements - this is what graders are looking for, i.e., that you know the issue you’re supposed to be discussing. Make sure your rule statements are at the beginning of paragraphs.