Sunday, December 23, 2012

A Little More Rumination On What I DId Differently ...

... to pass the July 2012 Bar Exam.

I just replied to an email from someone taking the CA bar exam again in which I tried to communicate what I did differently this time to pass.  As you might imagine, I have thought about this quite a bit since November 16, 2012, at 6:18 p.m., and my thoughts, and understanding on the subject have evolved somewhat since my last post.  I have pasted below relevant portion of my reply to this person, (with minor editing):

Looking back, I think that they must be looking for something like the "casual disdain" (or "casual contempt"?/"casual disgust"?/"bored familiarity"?) with which I wrote my answers on the last exam.  I believe the graders try to see through the words on the paper in an effort to get a feel for the state of mind of the person writing it. When I think about the instructions on the front of the essay packet I imagine that they must be looking for signs that the writer is so secure in their command of the material that they don't have to rely heavily on the crutch of the strictly structured IRAC format. 

After years of struggling to understand why my nicely structured and IRAC'd answers, calmly written in 60-70 minutes on subjects in which I knew the rules inside and out, received scores of 50, 55, or 60, but my hurried, unstructured, much less IRAC'd answers, which had always been dashed off in 50 minutes or less, and which frequently produced scores of 65 or 70, I finally convinced myself that I had to make a serious effort to figure out why this was happening.

The only answer I could come up with (that made sense to me, anyways) was that they were looking for an answer that was more than what amounted to an "outline with details."  And when they saw a strictly IRAC'd "outline with details" I imagined it created an image in their mind of a writer who was trying to show he knew all the issues, all the rules for the issues, all the elements of the rules, and all of the facts which related to those issues/rules/elements - which was something they specifically advised us not to do in the instructions on the cover page of the essay packet.  I also knew these (issues/ rules/elements) are things that everyone who graduates from law school should know.  What I needed to discover was the conceptual, fundamental, ethereal, difference between a nicely structured answer that received a score of 65, 70, or 75, and my own nicely structured answers that almost always received scores of 50, 55, or 60. 

I decided that this must be what they mean when they say that they are looking for an answer that shows more than that the writer can simply recall the issues and rules, but can write about those things in a lawyer-like manner.  We must be able to combine them in a way that communicates an understanding of how the issues/rules/elements/facts relate to each other and to the solution of the overall problem presented.  They must be looking for an answer that shows that the writer knows those elemental things so well that he has moved beyond merely being able to create the blueprint for a complete answer.  They must be looking for signs that writer understands the subject completely and grasps, and can effectively communicate, a comprehensive solution to the big picture of the problem presented.  

I imagined it to be similar to the difference between, for example, a baker who is competent enough to combine all the ingredients of a recipe to bake a cake, and the baker who has mastered the fundamental baking process, is proficient at building a complete cake, with multiple layers, and who can decorate the multilayer cake in a way that tastes good and is pleasant to look at, thereby producing a complete, high-quality, nicely finished product that has value to the consumer.

Despite the short length of that reply it took me quite a while to compose so I decided that I might as well share it with the rest of you.  It is basically the same as what I said below, but the different way in which it is presented might strike a chord with someone when the earlier explanation did not. 

Take good care, and good luck on the upcoming exam.

GP, Esq.


Randy Chino said...

I to after 5 attempts am sitting around trying to figure out why my answers are not good enough. After listening to all the "experts", What I have found when I compare my answers to the bars web site passing answers they always mention more issues than I did.I am under the assumption that every issue is worth 5-10 points. So when I look at my 55 score and see that the passing answer has 2 or 3 more issues than mine and if I give them 5 points per issue my 55 becomes a 65. Do that 3 or 4 times on the test and with a good MBE score I should pass this next time.
I wonder did you write on more issues or just elaborate more on the main issues?
After I look at passing answers I always see more issues mentioned that what I have wrote on. So the big question is do you just write on the main issues or write on every possible issue.
P.S. I too was happy as hell for you when I saw that you passed. I do "know" you pain. Randy Chino Cal

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The Grand Poobah said...

Hey Randy,

I used to be told that I had that problem too. I obviously don't know whether or not I solved it, but as I look back I suspect I may have done a better job of it by completing my outline on my desktop.

After I completed the outline, I went back over it to make organizational changes (moving issues to the correct calls, eliminating unnecessary duplicates, etc.) This, I rationalized, enabled me to reduce the time spent on organizing my answer while I was writing it, which I used to do quite often. And it gave me confidence to know that I didn't have to constantly re-check the fact pattern to see if I missed issues.

Plus, as I was writing, when I became aware of a minor issue that I should write about, I had a structured outline that I could consult to determine where that issue should go.

Of course, it also helps to have a firm grasp of the issues that go hand in hand, when one issue should always be mentioned when the other is present (e.g. defamation & IIED/NIED.)

Some people I know advocate memorizing checklists to help them remember the "clustered" issues.

I could go on forever, but I believe those are the main points.

Anonymous said...

congratulations! you are one of the six repeaters who passed from your school:

Go GP!

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Anonymous said...

Was surfing around all the bar blogs today in search of model answers, and saw you passed -- Congratulations! Thanks for the advice, I am going to use some of it (like rechecking the outline to avoid missing the call of the question).

After not working the first time around and blowing through my savings, I have to work through this study period which seriously sucks. You're an inspiration to us all, GP.

Anonymous said...

BTW, when does the bar typically post the model answers? I'd like to compare, contrast, but can't seem to find an answer to this question online.

The Grand Poobah said...

Anon 12:00: Thanks. Another person who passed after numerous attempts agreed with my comment about writing with a somewhat casual style. It seems like they're looking for signs that the writer has a certain comfort level with the material such that they don't have to rely on a strict IRAC format. So, apparently, while they do want to see a header/issue, rule, and conclusion, the analysis is where you can, and perhaps should, relax and just show that you know what's going on without being too stilted. This is just my opinion, of course, because I don't know for sure without seeing my answers and scores. It's entirely possible that my writing could have sucked even worse than usual but I improved my MBE score enough to make up for it.

Anon 12:26: There's never any announcement or schedule for the release of the answers, they just come when they come.

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Anonymous said...

1:51 You are an idiot and are not worthy of posting on GP's blog. Go GP!! Congrats on passing the CBX!!

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Anonymous said...

GP - Who are these idiots and where do they come from?

The Grand Poobah said...

Anon 1:18: I haven't the foggiest idea. But I learned a long time ago that the best way to get them to go away is to ignore them. Even the simple act of deleting their posts sometimes incites them to further public self humiliation (as is the case here.)

There are ways to track them down, but (in most cases) I'm not interested in wasting the time.

Anonymous said...

You did it! Happy new year!

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kris said...

Dear GP

I stopped by today and have just seen the excellent news! Well Done!!!

You have come through so much - both externally and internally to achieve this.

I am also impressed by the business you set up while you were in the process of passing the exam. It's good to see that it compliments your new legal practice.


Let me know if you need your judgments enforced in the UK!

All the best,

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The Grand Poobah said...


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Biggius Catius said...
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Anonymous said...

@2:11 - Awesome comments, bro. Just kidding. They suck.

Got heem...

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Big Cat said...
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The Grand Poobah said...

Alrighty then ...

I've deleted comments above which deviated from whatever inconsistent and randomly enforced standards for them that may exist in my wooden head at the time I am reading them.

Please do not be alarmed. They contained no bar exam related content (or, at least, none that was useful.)

We now return to the regularly scheduled broadcast.

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BIlly the Kid said...

GP, I'm planning on taking the July 2013 exam. I'm from a different jdx, so I need to immerse myself in CA law early on. Out of curiosity, what advice would you give someone taking CA for the time? No, I'm not an attorney from another state, either. Thanks and congrats to you!

Anonymous said...

California Bar Exam frequency of testing subjects:

Feb-11 5 business associations
Jul-10 4 business associations
Feb-10 2 business associations
Feb-09 6 business associations
Jul-09 1 civil procedure
Jul-09 5 civil procedure
Feb-09 2 civil procedure
Jul-12 1 civil procedure
Jul-11 2 civil procedure
Jul-12 2 community property
Jul-11 6 community property
Jul-10 6 community property
Feb-10 6 community property
Feb-08 5 community property
Jul-07 6 community property
Feb-12 2 constitutional law
Feb-11 2 constitutional law
Feb-10 5 constitutional law
Jul-09 4 constitutional law
Jul-08 2 constitutional law
Feb-08 3 constitutional law
Jul-07 4 constitutional law
Feb-07 5 constitutional law
Jul-12 4 contracts
Jul-11 3 contracts
Feb-10 1 contracts
Feb-10 4 contracts
Feb-09 5 contracts
Jul-08 3 contracts
Feb-12 4 corporations
Feb-08 6 corporations
Feb-07 2 corporations
Jul-12 6 criminal law and procedure
Jul-11 1 criminal law and procedure
Jul-10 5 criminal law and procedure
Jul-09 6 criminal law and procedure
Feb-08 3 criminal law and procedure
Jul-07 4 criminal law and procedure
Feb-07 3 criminal law and procedure
Jul-12 3 evidence
Feb-12 3 evidence
Feb-11 6 evidence
Jul-10 3 evidence
Jul-09 3 evidence
Feb-09 3 evidence
Jul-07 3 evidence
Feb-07 6 evidence
Jul-12 2 professional responsibility
Feb-12 5 professional responsibility
Jul-11 4 professional responsibility
Feb-11 5 professional responsibility
Jul-10 2 professional responsibility
Feb-10 2 professional responsibility
Jul-09 1 professional responsibility
Jul-09 2 professional responsibility
Jul-09 5 professional responsibility
Feb-09 1 professional responsibility
Jul-08 1 professional responsibility
Feb-08 2 professional responsibility
Feb-08 6 professional responsibility
Feb-07 2 professional responsibility
Feb-12 6 real property
Jul-11 5 real property
Feb-11 3 real property
Feb-10 5 real property
Jul-08 5 real property
Jul-07 1 real property
Feb-07 1 real property
Feb-11 6 remedies
Feb-10 4 remedies
Jul-09 5 remedies
Jul-08 4 remedies
Jul-07 5 remedies
Feb-11 4 torts
Jul-10 1 torts
Jul-09 1 torts
Feb-09 4 torts
Feb-08 1 torts
Jul-07 2 torts
Feb-12 1 trusts
Feb-10 3 trusts
Feb-08 4 trusts
Jul-12 5 wills and succession
Feb-11 1 wills and succession
Jul-08 6 wills and succession
Feb-08 4 wills and succession
Feb-07 4 wills and succession