Concluding the series on doing each component of the UBE online for the October non-UBE bar exam, let’s talk about essay writing. For the October remote exam, there will be 3 essays instead of 6. Of course, you do not know which subjects will be covered, so you still have to know all of them. But, you don’t have to have the stamina to get through 6 essays in 3 hours, so that’s positive. Be sure to practice doing 3 essays in a row on a computer several times before exam day.
Although I don’t know exactly what the software will look like, it is likely that you will be able to highlight on the question itself and type on a notes or scratchpad feature. This is helpful. But, you don’t want to highlight every line in the essay question, as doing so will eliminate the utility of the highlight function. You will end up re-reading everything multiple times because you won’t be able to differentiate what goes where. Notes are much more helpful than highlights. Highlights don’t actually tell you why a sentence matters or what you were thinking when you chose to highlight it.
As always with an essay, read the call of the question first. If the call of the question is open-ended like “What result?” read one or two lines prior to the question prompt. This should help situate you in the subject and sub-topic.
Then, read the fact pattern, making notes of the issues that pop into your head as you read the facts. (Side note – remember that just because a rule is not met, does not mean it is not triggered. If you think about it, it is probably triggered, even if your ultimate conclusion is that a rule fails. Too often students don’t include a rule because they analyzed it in their head and decided the rule isn’t met. Don’t be that student. Put the analysis you did in your head onto the computer, or you can’t get any points for it.)
I would normally suggest at this stage that you be writing notes on the essay prompt paper, but it may make more sense now to write the notes directly into your answer document. Most bar essays (though not all) introduce facts in the order in which they are relevant. So, if you begin jotting notes of the rules you think of and the facts that triggered those rules for you, you will likely have a thorough outline you can follow when you draft your essay. You should also practice writing out in words things that you would typically draw out in a diagram or timeline. Develop a practice of words or symbols to indicate what you previously drew in pictures.
Remember that careful reading and planning are key for all components of the bar exam, including the essays. That means that you should spend roughly a third of your time – 10 full minutes – reading and planning before you start writing. That way, you can be sure you’re heading in the right direction and you know what rules you will address in each sub-question. Racing into the writing portion will likely lead you to ultimately spend more time going back and forth between the fact pattern and your answer field.
Breathe. Plan. Practice. Be kind to yourself.