How to Answer That Bar Exam Question You Didn't See Coming

By William Vogeler, Esq. on July 10, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

There's this nightmare, where you are crossing a bridge and it suddenly runs out.

There you are, looking at the vast below and the bridge starts to crumble behind you. You have no place to go but down.

That's what it feels like when you face a question on the bar exam and you don't know the answer. Nothing prepared you for this. Now what do you do, besides panic?

Don't Jump

Panicking may be the biggest mistake you can make during the exam. So take a deep breath, and re-read that killer question.

"The strategy I give students when they don't know the law is to make up the law the student believes is the right law and come up with an analysis that utilizes the facts relating to that issue," says Patrick Lin, a former bar grader.

We're not talking about a guessing at the answer. It's about being reasonable because, we all hope, the law is reasonable.

Look Again

Another strategy, especially on essays and the performance test, is to re-read the question. That's because the key to the answer is in the question.

"Most people fail because they don't follow directions," Lin says. Look at that again: Most people fail because they don't follow directions.

"Always answer the question asked," he says. "Often times, people answer a question based on an outline, and not on the question itself."

Put Fear Behind You

Of course, you should have an outline to study. In fact, you should even write out answers in your preparation.

Lisa Duncanson, the self-described Bar Exam Guru, says she confronted her fear of not knowing how to answer questions by writing introductory paragraphs for each subject beforehand.

"That brought me comfort and some peace of mind," she said.

If you have prepared, you have nothing to fear -- except failure, embarrassment, and unpaid student loans. Sorry, just a little gallows humor.

Seriously, you need to fear the exam just enough to ramp up your prep time. So by the time you reach that gap in your knowledge -- like the gap in the nightmare bridge -- you will have enough momentum to fly over that thing like a boss!

Related Resources:

Copied to clipboard