GUEST BLOG by Sara Valentine, Graduate of Capital University Law School
Assigned essays for grading, anyone?
How many weeks are we in now? What day is it? Should I wear a hoodie or shirt today? Tbh, I’m at the point where I don’t know what day it is, but I can rattle off the Criminal Law distinctions in Ohio. Isn’t that what’s important?
Let’s talk about essays
Y’all, I cannot tell you how thankful I am that BARBRI spends so much time working with us on essays. Not only did we start out at the beginning of the bar prep course with an in-depth “how-to” on writing essays, but now we have completed numerous assigned essays and should be getting the hang of what to do, right?
Okay, so maybe we don’t have perfect bar exam essays at this point, but we’re not aiming for perfection. If your essays aren’t perfect, BARBRI will help.
This past week, I had the opportunity to submit a an essay and receive personalized feedback from BARBRI essay experts.
What you can do better
The more that you practice writing bar exam essays, the better that you are going to be at them. Obvi.
But, what are we actually getting out of the essay sample answer in the book? Maybe a lot, maybe a little. But I can think of a few times when I may have read them a little too quickly and didn’t put in as much effort in reviewing what I could have done better on the essays (the days are long, okay? Let me live).
So, that’s why I was absolutely thrilled to see the opportunity to write out and submit essays to BARBRI.
Our first essay was an open book essay. What? Why? How does that help!?
Let me tell you: the first essay that you submit should not be about what you can recall in terms of a rule statement. It should be about how you craft your essay and how you can improve. You can’t assess how good you are at crafting essays if you’re hindered because of a bad rule statement or unfamiliarity with the rules.
Okay, picture it, (Sicily, 1922 … if you get this reference, then we’re friends) … I’m sitting here, with an open book and my rule statements ready to go. I craft a great essay, in my opinion. I submit it. The turnaround time is less than 24 hours. Turns out, I had some work to do. I had missed some easy ways to pick up some easy points. Here’s the thing: it’s not that I didn’t know the applicable facts to the essay, it’s just that I didn’t think that they were necessary to include.
Minor details can lead to extra points
Although I had everything that I needed in front of me, I didn’t craft the best possible essay because I was missing out on what I thought to be minor details that were irrelevant. Nope! Turns out that by adding a couple of sentences here and there (with information that I already knew, but chose not to include), I was able to add another point to my essay score.
Had I not submitted my essay to BARBRI and had someone with more experience review it, I wouldn’t have known to include the additional information that captured some added points.
Think smarter, write stronger essays
This led me to a seemingly obvious conclusion: if there is some extra relevant law that you can throw in, do it!
Don’t get too far outside of the scope though. How do you know what’s outside of the scope? Keep writing essays! Keep working on your essays and make sure that you’re dedicating time to review your essays. Just make sure that you’re taking the time to go over what you got right and what you got wrong. If you do this, you’ll be more inclined to add relevant law that can help you pick up points.
We don’t need to be perfect on the bar exam, we just need to pass. What better way to do that than to add easy points to essays? Keep practicing so we can all #PassTheBar.