The Almost Daily Word – Why Gamble on Essay Questions: Letting Essay Call Structures Organize Your Answers – Part 2 – The Multiple-Call Call

“The smarter you play, the luckier you’ll be.” Mark Pilarski – Gambling Expert

“You can know the rules of law. You can know IRAC. You can know how to write. You can know all of that . But if you don’t know the Bar Exam itself, you’re “’playing stupid.’” Adam Ferber – Bar Exam Blogger

Each year, there are six essay questions on each of two bar exam administrations – 12 altogether. That’s 60 essays in the last five years, 120 in the last ten years. This might lead you to conclude, even after your bar preparation, that there is endless variety in essay questions. It might lead you to think that your best bet is just opening the exam booklet and reacting to what you see. It might, but if it did, you wouldn’t be playing smart – you’d just be gambling.

Although California Bar Examination Essay Question calls (the tasks assigned to the applicant in each question) vary slightly, in general, there are four call structures that commonly appear. An applicant who has become familiar with each such call structure and has developed appropriate strategies to respond to them will have an advantage on the essay portion of the Exam.

The first such call, I call “the Multiple-Call” Call.

(a) Description-The “Multiple-Call” Call contains two or more sub-calls, each of which may have additional sub-sub-calls.

(b) Example-“What arguments can Developer make, and what is the likely outcome, on each of the following points:

1. Developer did not breach the contract with Builder.

2. Developer’s performance was excused.

3. In any event, Builder did not suffer $700,000 in damages.


(c) Handling the Multiple-Call Call

(i) After reading the question thoroughly and completing preliminary issue spotting, assign tentative weights to each sub-call. What percentage of the maximum achievable grade of 100 is devoted to each sub-call? Allocate answer and/or outlining time and words accordingly.

(ii) If one sub-call appears to be worth substantially more than any other, plan for a two-tiered answer consisting of: (A) analysis of each issue presented by the call (e.g. parol evidence rule, exceptions to parol evidence rule); and (B) organization, analysis and discussion of all issues collectively, to arrive at the answer to the subcall. (e.g. Developer did not breach the contract with Builder.)

(d) Samples of Multiple-Call Call Questions at the Office of Admissions’ “Past Examinations Site” (

– February 2014: Essay questions 3, 4 and 5

– July 2013: Essay Questions 1 and 3

– February 2013: Essay Questions 1, 3, 4, 5, and 6