Bar exam study tips: Thoroughly review the explanatory answers

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Explanatory answers can be one of your best teachers of the law

In bar prep, 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. 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 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.

Use explanatory answers to construct better bar exam essays

Most MBE explanatory answers also 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.
  • 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 that sometimes the sample answer will contain rule explanations.

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.

Check out more bar exam study tips here.

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