If you think back to final exam time in law school, what comes to mind? Stress probably! But other than that?
Law School Analogy
One of the facts of law school that many non-lawyers do not know is how grading works. Because I went to law school years after undergraduate school, I was floored by how different grading operated. As an undergraduate student, we all had several attempts at obtaining a good grade in most classes. We had assignments, midterms, more assignments, and then the final exam. All of the grades we got on our work throughout the semester was factored into our final grade for the class.
I, for one, was shocked when I discovered that it was very different in law school. For the vast majority of classes, there were no assignments except to read case law and outlines until we couldn’t see straight. But there was nothing to turn in. Nothing was graded all semester. Zip. Zero. Nada.
Then came final exam time. Up until this point, we were all on a level playing field. No one in the class had received a single grade on a single thing yet. It all rested on one, three-hour exam.
That was it. One exam. That was your grade. Period. No second chances. No makeup work. No averaging of anything done throughout the semester. You took a class for about 4 months – and it all rested on one exam. So what did we do?
We prodded the professors to give us a clue as to what we should focus on, right?! Every area of law is so vast, we needed some direction. What is important? What will be on the exam? Give us a clue. We can’t study it all – not when we have 6 classes to cram for – please help!
Key to the Mint
At least we are accustomed to that once we head into the Bar Exam. However, there is no kindly professor (or not so kindly, as the case may be) who holds the key to the mint. There is no one who has created the exam to clue us in on what may or may not be important to know. So what do we do for the Bar? How do we get a clue as to what will get us a great score on the MEE?
WE STUDY SAMPLE QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Especially the answers.
The answers and analysis for the essay portion of the Bar Exam is your key to the mint. It is your professor telling you exactly what she wants, and how she wants it delivered.
Don’t Drop the Key
Far too many students studying for the Bar skip this critical step in studying. Particularly for essays. You know who you are, don’t you? If you are the type that is, or will likely be, tempted to skip over the in-depth analysis at your fingertips – you might want to reconsider.
Let’s take a look at why issue spotting, as a means of studying for the MEE, is simply not enough. Say you are practicing a Torts essay question. You read the question and sketch out the issues you think are important to address in your answer. You spot a potential battery and negligence issue against Bruno in the question. So you jot those down. Then you jot down the elements you know you need to prove for battery and negligence. Then you find the facts that tend to prove or disprove that the elements are met. Easy-peasy.
You figure you’ve got that one covered and move on. But what have you missed?
There are two places you will find the answer to that question. In the analysis of the question, and in sample answers. The NCBE puts out both of these, and of course, you can find them in many study aids. The analysis and sample answer are different, and both are important to not only read over, but actually study.
Analysis of Essay Questions
When looking at the analysis of an essay question from past exams, you will see it all nicely broken down for you. You will be given all of the legal issues that are present in the question in a simple list. That in itself can be very enlightening. For instance, you may learn that although you saw that you needed to address the issues of battery and negligence in regards to Bruno, you may find that you completely missed the fact that he was operating as an employee at the time. If so, you failed to address two very important legal issues. Is there any cause of action against Acme, Inc., Bruno’s employer, based on their relationship with Bruno? And if so, what must Arnold (the victim) establish in order to prove a negligence action against Acme, Inc.?
Furthermore, you may find you missed the issue of damages altogether. Or if you did catch the issue of damages and whether or not they were recoverable, you may have missed that Arnold’s preexisting condition complicates the issue of damages.
All of this can come from a quick glance at the issues as outlined in the analysis of the question. But there’s more.
The NCBE does a great job of breaking down each of these issues so you fully understand how each issue relates to the facts. They also will tell you what percentage of your score on that question rested on your ability to identify each issue, and properly discuss it.
This is gold.
Sample answers vary from the analysis of a question in that they are typically answers that real students have written. They are answers that the bar examiners feel are of such high quality, that they are distributed as examples.
So while the analysis of an essay is gold, so is the sample answer. On the essay exam you are not only being tested on your ability to spot issues and apply IRAC, but you are being tested on your ability to clearly and concisely communicate your analysis. This is a skill. They are showing you exactly how to carry out this skill to grab the most points.
It is a wise person who listens! Take the time to not only read, but study both the analysis of the essay, and the sample answers. After writing out your full answer, do the comparison. Repeatedly following this procedure as you study for the MEE, greatly improves your chances of scooping up the maximum amount of points possible – and passing the Bar!
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