By Steve Levin,
BARBRI Director of Essay Testing


When I ask students who scored lower on the bar exam or were just below the threshold of passing, whether they submitted practice essays during bar prep, often the answer is “no” or “not many.” I’ve heard from students, in the past, that they felt the need to know all the rules of the law before they could or should submit a practice essay during bar review.

As many of you know, the written portion of the bar exam is critical to your overall score in every state and in some states, there is greater weight on the written portion compared to the MBE. (Download the BARBRI Bar Exam Digest for details.) Essay writing for the bar exam is quite different than the final exam essays you took in law school – it’s an acquired skill you must strengthen during bar prep.

On the bar exam, you’ll need to know how to provide an answer to the call of the question in the format bar examiners want to see. The best way to achieve proficiency is to tackle practice essays multiple times during bar review and submit them for personal feedback – even while you are still learning the substantive material.

You’ll experience optimum results with BARBRI’s Directed Essay Grading.

This consists of, first, working with the BARBRI Essay Architect online tool to enhance your high-level essay writing skills. And then writing answers to the practice essays assigned throughout the BARBRI Bar Review course. You’ll be directed to submit some of those for feedback that will enable you to continue your essay writing skill development.

Note that I said, “skill development.” Do not hold back on submitting a practice essay just because you are still learning the black letter law. When reviewing your essays, we aren’t just looking at your substantive knowledge – we also focus on feedback that helps refine your essay writing skills.

With each submitted essay, you’ll benefit from personalized input from a trained bar exam writing expert. You’ll come away knowing where you will capture points and where you may lose points, as well as how to frame a better essay answer. Submitting essays as they are assigned during bar review, over time, will allow you to incorporate previous feedback into the next practice essay. You’ll move along an upward trajectory of continuous improvement and bar exam readiness.


BARBRI pioneered bar review and proudly celebrates over 50 years of helping more than 1.3 million students pass the bar exam. BARBRI’s constant innovation, leadership and depth of experience based on what will be 100 bar exams going back to 1967 influences all aspects of bar review – where it’s been, where it is today and the vast possibilities of where BARBRI will lead it next. Every year, the overwhelming majority of law students across the nation choose BARBRI Bar Review to prepare for the bar exam – and pass it the first time. Learn more about the nation’s #1 bar review at

#The1Llife: Enrollment Tips!

GUEST BLOG by Jackson Long,
1L at SMU Dedman School of Law

Only one month left fellow 1Ls!

And my goodness, I cannot wait for summer. This has been one of, if not the most grueling nine-month stretches of my life. I will be elated to turn in my final exam on May 10.

Until then, of course, we have more responsibilities. There’s outlining, our oral advocacy competition associated with our writing class, and now, fall enrollment!

Many of my upper-class mentors have stressed the importance of staying on top of your scheduling for the last two years. Being confined to the same courses for the entire 1L year may have lulled you to sleep, but now is the time to make sure you have a vision to finish school.

The first important break is leaning towards either litigation or transactional law. Depending on your preference, and the strength of your preference, you should begin allocating credit hours to skew towards that particular area.

It’s also important to be very aware of required courses, general hours limits and what extra-curricular activities will earn you credit hours and which ones will eat heavily into your free time.

I started my search by preparing a list of all the courses offered over the past academic year, and which semesters they would be offered in.

This allowed me to see where certain classes would will requirements and how many credit hours each class was.

Fortunately, I will be earning externship credit and five hours from studying abroad this summer, so my required total for graduation slips even lower!

Next, I asked around for advice on when to take certain classes and with which professor to take them with. This is a pretty huge step! Find a trusted source (or five) to seek advice on the best route for class selection.

After I had narrowed down my courses, I moved to setting them on a weekly schedule. This allowed me to see what conflicts would arise (including final exam dates!) as well as show a picture of what my daily routine will be like next fall.


As you can see (kind of, it’s a little sloppy admittedly), I’ve front loaded my schedule and potentially have Tuesday and Thursday completely free! This will allow me to work and interview on certain days. I may even be willing to skip a Friday class to create a SUPER long weekend.

Lots to handle right now, I know! But don’t forget to put a priority on your enrollment. You’ll be happy come next August… and beyond.

#The3Llife: Taking Advantage of Opportunities

GUEST BLOG Lauren Rose,
3L at University of Detroit Mercy

As many of the readers may know, I am big on taking advantage of all opportunities that are made available.

BARBRI Essay Advantage Workshop

This is my motto for law school and for life in general. The most recent opportunity that fell into my lap: BARBRI Essay Advantage. This opportunity was given to 3Ls at my law school. Naturally, I decided to sign up for the workshop.

The Essay Advantage workshop included watching a video lecture and writing an essay to be graded by a professor. The video lecture was given by BARBRI Professor, Steve Levin, Esq. He provided helpful tips and strategies on how to answer essay questions on the bar exam.

For example, I learned that I should read more than just the call of the question before beginning the essay. By reading the first sentence and the call of the question (and maybe the sentence before the call of the question depending on the question), you are provided with an understanding of what the question is actually asking. Once you have figured out what rule of the law the question is testing, you can then read the facts and begin applying the facts of the question to the rule of law.

I tried this new strategy when working on my essay question for the workshop. I found it to be incredibly helpful. I knew the rule of the law that the question was asking before I even began the question. I was then able to apply the facts directly to the law.

Moral of the blog: take advantage of workshops that are offered to you through school. You will likely learn something new that will be useful for law school and the bar exam!

#The1Llife: Computer Troubles

GUEST BLOG by Jackson Long,
1L at SMU Dedman School of Law

Back up your computer. Right now. No, seriously – RIGHT NOW.

I’m sure it’s similar for you, we have one major paper for the entirety of our legal writing grade this spring semester. I’ll set the scene:

It’s Friday at 5:00 p.m., and we turn in this final paper at 8:30 a.m. the following Monday. So we are clearly approaching crunch time. I flip open my laptop and hear the most atrocious sound. It deserves no description in the english language. Then I get a flashing folder on the screen with a question mark inside.

Hard drive has officially crashed

Gone was a major portion of my final grade in legal writing. Gone were three semesters of notes.

I had completed a healthy 10 pages of our 25 page assignment, and all of it was on my laptop. Doomed I thought. Especially after previously writing to you about wanting to fix my writing grade.

Here I am, weighing all my options. I frantically called my cousins that lived near by trying to see if I could borrow their laptop for the weekend. Success. Seriously the most relieved feeling. I scramble in the last two days to turn in what is hopefully a reasonable paper.

Moral of the story, regularly (at the minimum weekly) back up the files on your laptop. I’ve bought an external hard drive for this. You can get whatever size for whatever files for pretty reasonable prices.

All of which are much more than paying the price of not having any of your notes. Especially in your 1L year.

P.S. Paid $140 for a professional data recovery service. Got all my files back after a week. Crisis averted. Stress levels = Inverted.