Law School Academic Support Blog

Editor: Amy Jarmon
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Winning Bar Exam Answers: Writing for Points or Writing to Impress?

Just the title of this blog might seem sacrilegious.  But, in the midst of the daily work in bar exam preparations this summer, I've come across an interesting trend.  It seems like no one preparing for the bar is convinced that they can write a passing essay answer, particularly when comparing practice answers to the multi-page point sheet or the line-by-line perfect answers often provided by commercial bar review companies.  

In short, bar exam studiers often feel like they missed the mark (and aren't even close to earning a passing score).  That can lead to a frustrating cycle of trying the next time to write an answer that resembles the massive point sheet, only to learn once again that one didn't quite get all of the points (or even half of the points).  Unfortunately, over time, essay answers start to look like point sheets rather than the written work of professional attorneys, and, no wonder.

But, in most states in which graders assess answers based on holistic relative grading, point sheets miss the mark, too. That's because in holistic grading the Supreme Court graders are not looking for points but rather are reading answers for the substantive quality of your writing and legal problem-solving.  So, here's a tip.  

Instead of practicing to write for points on your bar exam this summer, try to write to substantively impress your reader with the qualities of your professional writing and the substance of your well-thought out argument. In other words, write to impress...because...in holistic grading, that's exactly what the graders are looking for.  Of course, the impressions must have substance, i.e., demonstrating the work of an attorney.  So, with that in mind, here's a technique to assess and perfect your essay writing.   Instead of calculating whether your practice answer got all of the points, take a look at the much-shorter outline rubric provided by many bar review companies.  Then, glance through your answer to see if you hit the major issues and if your writing professionally flows.  In holistic grading jurisdictions, that's really meeting the mark, and meeting it well.  (Scott Johns).

 

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/academic_support/2017/06/writing-winning-bar-exam-answers-writing-for-points-or-writing-to-impress.html

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