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7 MEE Tips: How to Write Bar Exam Essays (+ Common Mistakes)

Published December 28, 2018

Maybe not surprisingly, the essay portion of the bar exam (MEEs) are where most people fail. Under pressure of the exam, test takers tend to make one of these three mistakes:

1. Not enough information
2. Irrelevant information
3. Inaccurate information

Avoiding these three mistakes will greatly improve your chances to pass. Here’s how to make it happen.

7 Tips for Writing Bar Exam Essays

1. Use Your Time Wisely

Prevents: not enough information

You’ll be facing six essays with only 30 minutes to complete each one. Keep an eye on the clock and pace yourself.

Write efficiently - start by outlining your main ideas, then fill in the supporting information as you go. If you end up short on time, you’ll have all your bases covered.

2. Don't Leave Out Any Relevant Issues

Prevents: not enough information

No matter how many issues you spot in the essay questions, make sure you address ALL of them. Note each issue in your outline BEFORE you start writing to avoid missing information.

3. Don't Cite Cases or Argue Both Sides of the Issue

Prevents: irrelevant information

That being said, don’t go into TOO much detail. Since you only have 30 minutes, you need to convey your understanding of each issue succinctly. If you spend too much time citing cases or arguing back and forth, it’s harder to showcase your knowledge in the allotted time.

4. Know the Why & How

Prevents: inaccurate information

Knowing the law is one thing. Understanding the context and nuance of law is what makes a great lawyer.

While you’re reviewing your MEE topics, spend a little extra time reviewing judicial opinions on WHY certain decisions were made. Once you know the why, it’s easier to argue your point in your essays and in the courtroom.

5. Get Feedback, Because Practice is Not Enough

Prevents: inaccurate information & irrelevant information

You can practice over and over again, but an outside perspective can help you make the right adjustments. Sit down with a friend, professor, or advisor who has already passed the exam to get experienced, personalized pointers.

If you’re still in law school, there may be resources, study groups, or prep courses you can take advantage of.

6. Focus Your Studies on Highly Tested Subjects and Topics

Prevents: not enough information

Some topics and subjects show up on the bar exam more frequently than others. Make sure you have a strong, thorough grasp of those topics before you walk into the exam room. (Ideally, you’ll start studying far in advance and cover all subjects!)

Here’s a list of past essay questions on the NY bar exam.

7. Know What to Expect When Taking the Exam

Prevents: not enough information

The more you understand about how to take the exam, how it's administered, and how it’s graded, the better you'll do. You’ll feel more confident walking in, which reduces anxiety and helps you think more clearly. Thinking more clearly means more thorough arguments and higher scores.

Here’s what to expect when you sit for the NY bar exam.

By following these MEE tips, you’ll be able to write more successful bar essays. Bar essays are not fun or easy (for most people), but they’re not impossible either. Do your best, study hard, and good luck!

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Guest blogger Ashley Wilson-Rew is Content Strategist & SEM at protocol 80, Inc.

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