I have spoken many times about the importance of doing practice essays here, here, and here. In fact, the #1 reasons students fail is because they don’t do practice essays!
I understand the mindset. “Don’t I have to know the rules BEFORE I take a practice essay?”
No, you don’t.
You have to understand the rules before you take an essay during your bar exam, but NOT when you are just practicing for your bar exam.
In fact, in my opinion, below is the best way to learn the rules, take practice tests, and develop that ‘make-up-the-rule’ skill that so many people overlook.
Here is a proven 7-step method for mastering practice essays without first knowing the rules:
0) I open the book for the first essay
Let’s say it’s a torts essay.
1) No matter what, I spend 15 minutes writing up an outline
If this is my first time looking at it, I probably have absolutely zero clue of what’s going on. No joke, probably zero. But I outline anyway and spend a full 15 minutes doing so.
By forcing myself to sit there for 15 minutes and not look at the answer, it forces me to think.
I must now think, ok, I don’t know what’s going on, but what the heck are these group of facts doing here? That’s pointing to something. Oh, maybe it’s False Imprisonment? I’m not sure, but let’s pretend it is. I’ll write out the rule elements. Oh crud, I can’t remember what all the rule elements are… Ummm, well I remember 3 of the elements, so I’ll start there, and maybe make up a couple more that I think are there, but I’m not sure.
Ok, now let me see whats facts belong with each element. Ok, I don’t think that’s right but it’s a start.
Then I do this for the next set up facts, so on and so on.
Guess what. When it’s done, I want to cry. I feel like I have failed it miserably, which I probably have – but that’s ok it’s practice, and I just practiced developing a huge skill – writing in the face of the unknown.
2) Review the Answer
Then, after 15 minutes is up, I go look at the answer. Lo and behold, it was False Imprisonment! And I got the elements wrong, but the rules I used were kinda right.
Well, let me see what the sample answer says about the rules. Ok, this how they worded it. This is how they used the elements and intertwined the facts. Oh ok.
Wow, that’s interesting. Now, I know how to use false imprisonment.
And now I know how to use all the other causes of action that were in this essay.
What do I do now?
3) Do the Same Bar Exam Essay Over Again
Say what? Why would I do that?
Because you are going to get this thing down so cold, even Ice Man will be like wtf?!
So, you start the timer and do the 15 minute outline again. Then you’ll know how much you remember by testing to see whether you can outline False Imprisonment over again. It’s a test for yourself. Write out the elements, apply the rules.
Go to the other causes of action and do those as well.
4) Write out that Essay
Yes, spend the next 45 minutes (or remaining part of the hour), writing out the remaining part of the essay. It will force you to think and be in the game. You might think, ‘oh well, I just read it. I know it and can move on.’
No, you don’t know it. You learn through self-application, not through reading. You can’t get around it. You’ll have to spend that full hour writing, and you’re going to coming out a better bar exam taker, with more experience after having done so.
After you’re done with that?
5) Review the sample answer again
Yes, review the full answer again. See what you missed. How did you word the rules? What facts did you leave out? How was your organization?
By this time, you’ll probably have False Imprisonment down cold. You’ll probably have the other causes of action down cold as well. Now, NO ONE can mess with you when it comes to False Imprisonment or other cause of action in this essay!
And that only took about 2 hours.
6) Do the same with the 2nd essay
Go on to the 2nd essay and do the same thing, repeating steps 1 through 5. Do an outline, review the outline and sample answer. Write out the full essay.
7) Do the same with the 3rd essay, except just go straight into the essay
Now do it with the 3rd essay, but spend the full hour the first time around.
By the time you hit this 3rd essay or maybe the 4th, you are going to be SHOCKED by how much you know. I can almost guarantee by the time you do that 4th essay, you will be spotting almost every single issue, know how to apply every single rule, and how to apply all the facts. You’ll have this topic doooooowwnnnn like a mofo!!
Not only that, you will have practiced the ‘make-up-the-rule’ skill, which is a crucial skill to develop, especially in a jurisdiction like California.