Thoroughly Review The Explanatory Answers | Expert Bar Exam Study Tips

By Everett Chambers,
BARBRI Vice President of Institutional Programs


In the realm of bar review, explanatory answers exist for an important reason: to simply break down the rules and how they work, driving to a deeper understanding of the law.

As I wrote in another bLAWgical Thinking bar exam study tips post (“You’ll Play Like You Practice”), sometimes you can learn as much or more from spending time and really digging in to the explanatory answers as you would from a lecture as you move from passive learning to active learning and application.

Working practice questions and carefully reviewing the explanatory answers, regardless of whether you answered the question right or wrong, will help build and reinforce your foundation—both your knowledge and skills. Remember, the bar exam is not a test of your ability to simply (and only) recite rules. Ultimately, it is a test of your ability to apply the rules to new factual situations.

Most MBE explanatory answers provide a helpful template of how to construct a bar exam essay. Specifically, model answers will show you how to structure your essays. They provide clear and complete rule statements, and more importantly, they show you how to write strong fact-driven legal analysis.

Here’s how you can use them: Read through several model answers first before you tackle writing essay questions on your own. Next, annotate several answers. Label the components of the sample answer, using either the CRAC or IRAC paradigm – “C” for conclusion, “R” for rule, etc. Remember that sometimes the sample answer will contain rule explanations. Notice the shorthand way in which the sample answer handles minor issues. While it is not necessary (and sometimes not possible under time constraints) that your essay answer matches the sample answer perfectly, your answer should at least address the core issues, rules and analysis.

Remember your goal is to answer bar exam essay questions in a way that demonstrates your proficiency as a new lawyer. This means performing a concise legal analysis for each of the small problems presented in the fact pattern. This will show the examiners you possess minimum competency to practice law.


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