The Almost Daily Word – Why Gamble on Essay Questions: Letting Essay Call Structures Organize Your Answers – Part 5 – The Undivided 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 fourth such call, I call “the Undivided Call.”

(a) Description

The “Undivided Call” can appear as a single call, or one or more sub-calls in a question. (This means that, at the same time, an essay question can have characteristics of both a “multiple-choice call,” and an “undivided call.” However it appears, it is similar to the Causes of Action Call in that it calls on the applicant to identify all possible issues (sometimes causes of action, sometimes other legal issues) that reasonably arise from the facts in the question, assign weights to them, and then allocate appropriate time and words to organizing, analyzing and discussing them.

It is different from the Causes of Action Call in that it also requires the applicant to organize, analyze and discuss all the issues together to reach the answer to the single call of the question. In this respect, it is similar to the most heavily weighted sub-call in a Multiple-Call question.

(b) Example

“Does City’s refusal to allow AAO to use the bulletin board violate the rights of AAO’s members under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Discuss.”

(c) Handling the Undivided Call

As does the Causes of Action Call, the Undivided Call typically uses facts and words typically associated with a rule or rules in doctrinal law school courses and bar reviews. Once the applicant is familiar with the content of the root of the question, he or she can identify these facts and situations and/or these triggering words and link them to the corresponding rules of law. The relative weights of the issues can be used to make time and word allocations.

The second level of analysis can be thought of as an issue in itself, requiring its own weight and time and word allocation. That is because, as in the example above, the applicant must organize, analyze and discuss the each issue and its outcome to arrive at a direct answer to the single call.

(d) ‘Samples of Causes of Action Questions at the Office of Admissions’ “Past Examinations Site”

– February 2014: Essay questions 3, and 4

– February 2013: Essay questions 4, 5, and 6



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