Law School Academic Support Blog

Editor: Amy Jarmon
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Helping Colleagues Craft Bar Exam Conscious Syllabi

    Before the start of each new semester, I send an email to each colleague who will be teaching a bar exam tested subject that semester. I offer some general information about the bar exam and some targeted information about how their particular subject matter is tested on the bar exam—based on a compilation of details gleaned from NCBE outlines and a comprehensive MEE indexing project (Download MEE Pathfinder) performed by our dedicated library staff. Although the list is far from perfect, my colleagues have reported that they find the information useful as they prepare syllabi and select topics to cover within the course. Below is my email template. Feel free to use it, if you find it helpful.

Multiple Choice

    Your subject matter [is / is not] tested on the multiple-choice section of the bar exam.

     Generally speaking, the multiple-choice section consists of 200 multiple-choice questions: 175 scored questions and 25 unscored pretest questions. The 175 scored questions on the MBE are distributed evenly, with 25 questions from each of the seven subject areas: Civil Procedure, Constitutional Law, Contracts, Criminal Law and Procedure, Evidence, Real Property, and Torts. Students have 6 hours to complete this section of the exam (i.e. about 1.8 minutes per question).

     With regard to your course, [add the specifics for the multiple-choice topic from the master list below.]

Essays

    Your subject matter [is / is not] tested on the essay section of the bar exam.    

     Generally speaking, the essay section consists of six 30-minute questions. Areas of law that may be covered on the essay section include the following: Business Associations, Civil Procedure, Conflict of Laws, Constitutional Law, Contracts, Criminal Law and Procedure, Evidence, Family Law, Real Property, Torts, Trusts and Estates, and Sales & Secured Transactions. Some questions may include issues in more than one area of law, and the particular areas covered vary from exam to exam. The [local jurisdiction does / does not] test state-specific rules on the essays.

     With regard to your course, [add the specifics for the essay topic from the master list below.]

Master Subject List

Business Associations

    n/a

    The five most commonly tested subtopics on Business Association essays are: identifying which business association would suit the client’s needs, the requirements for formation of a partnership, liability to third parties, the fiduciary duties of officers/directors within a corporations, and agency issues.

Conflict of Laws

    n/a

     Conflict of Laws issues are embedded in the other essay topic areas. They do not appear as stand-alone questions. Historically, conflict of laws questions are most frequently paired with family law issues, especially child custody issues.

Civil Procedure

    Approximately two-thirds of the civil procedure multiple-choice questions are based on jurisdiction, venue, pretrial procedures, and motions practice. Other subtopics— such as conflict of laws, jury trials, verdicts, judgements, and the appeals process—account for the remaining one-third of questions.

     With regard to Federal Civil Procedure essays, the examiners ask questions about jurisdiction substantially more than they ask questions about the actual rules. The four most common Civil Procedure topics are personal jurisdiction long arm / minimum contacts statutes, federal question jurisdiction, diversity jurisdiction (especially the amount in controversy), and joinder of parties.

Constitutional Law

    Approximately half of the constitutional law multiple-choice questions are based on individual rights. The other half are based on judicial review, separation of powers, and federalism.

     The most commonly tested subtopic on the Constitutional Law essays is freedom of speech, followed closely by the equal protection clause.

 Contracts & Sales

     Approximately half of the contracts questions are based on contract formation and performance / breach. The other half of the questions are based on defenses, parol evidence, remedies, and third party rights. Of the 25 total questions, one-quarter are based on Article 2.

     The four most commonly tested subtopics on Contracts / Sales essays are: offer and acceptance, statute of frauds, accord and satisfaction, and anticipatory repudiation.

Criminal Law & Procedure

     Approximately half of the questions will be based on criminal procedure and half will be based on criminal law. Within criminal law, the examiners tend to distribute the questions equally across four categories: homicide, all other crimes, inchoate offenses, and general principles.

     The examiners rarely ask criminal law essay questions and only occasionally ask criminal procedure questions. The five most common topics are inchoate offenses, homicide, fourth amendment, Miranda, and the exclusionary rule.

Evidence

Evidence multiple-choice questions are typically divided up as follows:

Presentation of the evidence: 25%

Relevance: 33%

Hearsay: 33%

Privileges & Writings: 9%

The three most commonly tested subtopics on the Evidence essays are: relevance, character evidence, and use of prior inconsistent statements.

Family Law

     n/a

     The four most commonly tested subtopics on Family Law essays are: how to get divorced, property division, “best interests of the child” standard, and child support obligations.

Real Property

    The examiners divide the questions up equally among five categories: ownership interests, rights in real property, real estate contracts, mortgages, and titles.

     The four most commonly tested suptopics on the Real Property essays are: recording statutes (race, race-notice), easements, deed warranties, and landlord-tenant leases.

Secured Transactions

     n/a

     The five most common subtopics on the Secured Transactions essays are: collateral classification, purchase money security interests, debtor/creditor rights of attachment, perfection, and priorities.

Torts

    Half of the multiple-choice questions will be based on negligence. Intentional torts, strict liability, and “other” torts account for the other half of the questions.

     The most common subtopic on the Torts essays is negligence (duty, breach, and causation), followed by the doctrine of respondeat superior / vicarious liability.

Trusts & Estates

    n/a

     The six most commonly tested subtopics on the Trusts & Estates essays are: benefits of creating a trust/will, how to create a trust, modification of a trust, future interests / remainders in trusts, validity of a will, and intestate distribution.

(Kirsha Trychta)

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