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Test Taking Advice for the CA Bar Exam (Essays)

In study skills | May 13th, 2014 | comments: 1

When each essay session starts you will be tempted to look ahead in the packet to see which subjects are being tested.  You should resist this urge.  Besides taking up valuable minutes, looking at all the essays will distract you from the task at hand.  And peeking at essays two and three will tempt you to do them out of order, especially if your favorite subject is among them.  This may seem like the model of efficiency at first but it opens the door to many possible mistakes that can render all of your efforts moot.  Imagine, if you will, that you discover question #3 is Torts, and you just LOVE Torts!  You’ll likely find it difficult to resist reading the fact pattern to get a head start on the issues.  This may only take you a few minutes but those few minutes may be the most important minutes of the entire exam if you’re just that much short of properly completing the third essay in that session when the Proctor announces “Time!  Stop writing or typing!”

And you risk even more damage to your overall score if you give in to temptation and skip right to that essay on your favorite subject.  It may seem like the best strategy at that moment to try to increase your score on that one essay by taking a few extra minutes to craft a killer answer (because you just KNOW you’re going to be rewarded with a very high score.)   But you take a huge risk doing that.  If your gamble doesn’t pay off you’ve just handicapped yourself on the next two questions.  And if you skipped the first question because you really don’t care for, e.g., Civil Procedure, you have now put that entire three-hour session in jeopardy because you’ve reduced the time you can spend on, say, that tricky issue about whether the defendant has a right to a compel the plaintiff to take a physical or mental evaluation; or to recall the specific rules regarding jurisdiction when the defendant corporation only does business in one state, both of the plaintiffs are residents of different states, each of their damages is less than the amount required for Diversity Jurisdiction, and the corporation’s headquarters are in Canada,.  Or maybe there’s a Constitutional Law essay that’s all about Executive Powers.  Yikes!  A potential score of 75 or 80 on one essay may not be enough to overcome the potential scores of 50 or 55 you might get on the next two essays.  In the end, you would have been better off logically organizing and writing each of the three essays in the recommended 60 minutes, giving yourself the best possible chance of getting three solid 65s.

Another potential problem you could encounter by doing the second or third essay first is inadvertently typing or writing the answer in the wrong section in Examsoft or in the wrong book.  This would be an almost irreversible mistake if you wrote your answers by hand, but if you’re typing you could be frantically trying to copy and paste your answers into the correct section when the Proctor calls “Time!”

It’s better to keep unnecessary distractions to a minimum.  Simply attack the essays in the order in which they are presented, give each one of them the full 60 minutes it deserves, and don’t run the risk of short-circuiting your already stressed-out brain.


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