Top 5 Issue Spotting Techniques for the Bar Exam

by Dustin on

Issue spotting is key in your bar exam prep.  If you can spot and discuss the main issues, you’re well on your way to passing the bar exam and joining the next batch of licensed attorneys.  So, let’s maximize the issues we spot.  If you don’t spot an issue, you won’t talk about it, and miss out on points.

1)      Attack Sheet

Develop a bar exam attack sheet for each subject that has short form for every single main issue that could possibly come up on a bar exam fact pattern.  Realistically, you’ll be building this attack sheet throughout your entire bar exam prep, and it may not be fully complete until a week before the bar exam. The attack sheet doesn’t need all the factors and sub-issues.  It’s just a quick checklist for all the major issues.  For example, a torts attack sheet might look like this: B, A, F, T/C, T, I, N, N, P, SPL, D, TC,  DEFENSES C, D S/O, N Hint: Although, not a complete list, these stand for Battery, Assault, False Imprisonment, Trespass Chattels/Conversion, Trespass to Land, IIED, Nuisance, Negligence, Products Liability, Strict Products Liability, Defamation, Tortious Interference with Contract.  Defenses: Consent, Defense of Self/Others, Necessity.

2)      Look for something that ‘doesn’t sound right or fair’

Sometimes, on the bar exam you might see a set of facts that don’t trigger a specific issue in your mind, but definitely have a ‘hmmm, this doesn’t seem right’ feel to it.  If so, you know you’ve struck a golden egg.  You just have to figure how to dig it out.  The mere fact that you found the issue is a big step.  If you have no idea what is going on, just make up a rule you think would be fair and just repeat the facts.  You’ll probably get at least half the points for that issue!

3)      New Paragraph = New Issue

A general rule is that the bar examiners will put a new issue in a new paragraph.  Some facts and issues will definitely be present throughout an exam fact pattern; however, often times bar examiners put a distinct set of facts all by themselves in their own paragraph.  If you see it, especially if the facts are specific, you know you’ve hit a golden egg.

4)      Ask why why why?

Remember, each word written on the bar exam was put there with deliberate care.  If you see facts you haven’t used yet, ask yourself, why why why is this fact here?  What is the bar examiner trying to tell me?  This will help you both with your analysis and spotting issues.  The exam used the words, “carelessy dropped the glass” for a reason.  Use it to find your issue.

5)      Use your law school knowledge

Many times, you’ll be able to spot bar exam issues from your own law school training. Often, you’ll have done hypos and exams with the same issues you see on the bar exam.  You’ve spent the last three or more years training your eye.  Keep doing what you have been learning.

“This name appears on the pass list”

Good luck on your bar exam prep!

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 DogMom January 30, 2014 at 8:44 am

Hi Dustin,
I enjoyed reading through your book and am a bar repeater. I am wondering if you have other examples of Attack Sheets although I think I sort of get what you mean. I have several resources and am trying to condense things down, but each one uses a different mnemonic or else is really just a condensed outline. I have some mnemonics memorized for certain issues in certain subjects, but it’s overwhelming trying to memorize everything for all subjects – thanks for any tips!


2 Dustin January 30, 2014 at 1:06 pm

Hi DogMom,

I don’t really have another example. As for the mnemonics, I would find a system that you are comfortable with. If you look at others and condense them into your own, that’s fine, but practice with your system so you truly are comfortable using it on exam day. You could also develop your mnemonic from taking practice exams and the issues you see while reviewing practice exam answers.

I know it definitely can be overwhelming. You don’t need a mnemonic check list for all the topics. Torts is a good one to have. Con Law is a little different and more theory & rule based, rather than issue based, so a full-on checklist might not be necessary. For evidence, you definitely want a checklist.

Again, make your own list. If you are looking for a good condensed outline and a few attack sheets as well, check out and use “DUSTIN” to save you some extra money.

Good luck and I’m glad you enjoyed The 7 Steps to Bar Exam Success book!


3 DogMom January 30, 2014 at 1:30 pm

Thanks, Dustin!


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