How Many Essays Are On The Florida Bar Exam

It’s been a few weeks since the Florida bar exam results were released. Many students received exciting news and are now practicing Florida lawyers. There are also those of you that may have received disappointing news and are now gearing up to study again. In order to succeed at retaking the bar exam, it’s important to understand what went wrong the first time. In this post, we are counting down the top four reasons students don’t pass the Florida bar exam.

4. Students underestimate the importance of ethics

Ethics is easy. It is obvious. Just don’t commingle funds and you’ll be fine!

These are all statements I hear from students telling their friends NOT to study for ethics when it comes to bar prep time. Yes, ethics is straightforward and there are many rules of law that are repeatedly tested throughout the years. So why not make yourself an outline of what is commonly tested in essays and then use that outline when practicing your essays?

Ethics is tested nearly every exam, but many students do not gain any of those points for two common reasons:

  1. They never get to ethics (run out of time on the essay)
  2. They are too succinct when it comes to ethics and not in the “good” way. That is, they don’t know enough rule of law and, therefore, do not write enough and do not spot enough issues.

So give yourself a boost when it comes to essay writing and incorporate ethics into your studying! Create an outline and use it every time you practice an essay. If you still find yourself not getting to ethics in the one-hour time frame, then start your essay with ethics and get it “out of the way” right at the beginning of the essay!

3. Students do not review answers and explanations for ALL questions

If I do 1,000 MBE questions I’ll be fine, right?

Well … no, especially if you are making the same mistakes over and over again and do not realize why! AND especially if you do not know the black letter law “cold” (see reason #1 below).

But I studied SO HARD … why did I not pass?

Because you need to study SMART and not necessarily HARD.

Doing 1,000 questions is not the same as doing half of that in addition to reviewing each question/answer methodically and carefully. Now, I am not saying you only need to do 500 questions to pass the bar exam – what I AM saying is that studying SMART means reviewing all of your answers. Reviewing your answers entails asking yourself some mental questions:

  1. What was the call of the question?
  2. Why was the wrong answer that I picked … well, wrong?
  3. Why was the right answer that I picked … right?
  4. Did I know the black letter law for this question?

Also, sometimes it is best to do one question and then review the answer immediately; sometimes it is best to do 10 questions at a time and then review, and so forth. It really depends on your learning needs and your progression throughout your studying.  If you feel like you need a personal touch or mentor to figure out your MBE plan, check out Celebration Bar Review.

So remember to study smart and review ALL of your answers – even the ones you got RIGHT!

2. Students do not write essays. At all.

It is estimated that up to 1/3 of the bar takers sitting in that room with you have NOT written a practice essay!

Would you take a driver’s exam without practicing driving the car?

Of course not because you would want to get your driver’s license after just taking the driver’s exam once, correct? Well, why would anyone take the bar exam without practicing essay writing first?

The most common answers:

  • I already know how to write an essay.
  • I did it all through law school, what’s the difference?
  • I just do not have the time! I am not ready and I don’t know the law yet.

So what is the solution?

  1. Write an essay before you start your day
  2. Create a calendar/schedule of essays
  3. Time yourself
  4. Use your outlines (open-note)

Still need some guidance? Look at some more tips on how to prepare yourself to write essays.

Even though ¼ of the bar exam is writing essays – it still does not “scare” some students straight into writing practice essays! Instead, the most common mistake I have seen is students only reading and reviewing previous model answers. Don’t make that same mistake and instead, WRITE, WRITE, WRITE as many essays as possible!

1. Students do not know the Black Letter Law COLD!

This is the NUMBER ONE mistake students make. They do not take the time to memorize the black letter law “cold.” Why not? Because there is just no time, right?!

But there is time!

During your last semester of law school, you can create flashcards or outlines for MBE and for Florida essay writing. Further, many law schools have bar courses that are either optional or required for the last semester of law school. Take advantage of these courses and start working on your flashcards or outlines slowly and methodically.

Don’t know what to memorize? Try this book – 100 Rules to Know for Passing the Bar Exam

Still need extra guidance? Try a personal approach with MBE expert, Jonathan Grossman.

Get your black letter law organized and memorized before you graduate if at all possible. As you are creating your flashcards/outlines, remember to be concise and precise, while maintaining the integrity of the rule of law. Putting it in your own words will also help you memorize.

Instead of automatically doing 1,000 questions without really thinking about it, handwrite the black letter law in a separate notebook. Doing 1,000 questions without taking the time to memorize the black letter law will not help.

Memorize and be confident! You can do this!

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The Florida portion is on Day 1 of the exam and consists of three essays in the morning in which you have a total of three hours to complete. The essays can be selected from approximately 19 subjects and each essay will include no more than three subjects. The essays will test general principles of law as well as Florida distinctions or Florida specific laws.

Typically an essay will have an overall primary subject. However, secondary or tertiary subjects can also appear throughout the essay. Therefore, theoretically, you have to be prepared to competently and accurately write on at least 3 primary subjects and up to six secondary subjects for the Florida essay portion of the bar exam!

This sounds impossible! What can I do?

Here are the top five ways to prepare yourself for success on the Florida essay portion of the exam:

  • Make a calendar /schedule of essays for yourself
  • Try to write one essay per day
  • Practice the highly tested essays
  • Use IRAC
  • Focus on the “must-haves”

Make a Calendar / Schedule of Essays for Yourself

It is easy to go online and make yourself a schedule.  For instance you can try Calendar Labs.

Map out how many days you have left until the bar exam. Decide how many essays you want to write per week. For instance, three days a week? Five days a week? Try to write for each subject at least once. Initially you can take about an hour and 15 or 30 minutes to write each essay and the closer you get to the bar exam, you want to stick with the one hour for each essay.

Need help with this? Don’t really know where to even begin? We can help you with a personal approach to essay writing and a customized essay schedule that will fit specifically YOUR needs.

Try to write one essay per day during the weekdays

Finished with final exams? Graduation over and commercial prep hasn’t begun yet? Got extra time? Then start training yourself to write one essay per day during Monday through Friday. Get up in the morning, write an essay and review it before you start your day. Make it a great habit that you will never regret!

If you do this right after you are finished with your semester, you could potentially write up to 50 or 60 essays by the time the bar exam date comes around! Even if you just wrote three essays per week, you still would complete approximately 35 essays before the bar exam. Nothing to shy away from!

Practice the Highly Tested Essays

As you know, the essays can be from approximately 19 subjects and each essay will include no more than three subjects. When selecting your essays you may want to be sure to include writing essays on highly tested subjects.

Subjects that have been frequently tested include (*not including the new subjects added in 2013):

  • Contracts
  • Family law
  • Florida Constitution Law
  • Ethics
  • Real Property
  • Torts
  • Trusts

However, that does not mean you simply ignore the other subjects. When creating your calendar, take everything into account and be sure to include all subjects at some point; with a special emphasis on the frequently tested subjects.


IRAC stands for Issue, Rule, Analysis, and Conclusion. When writing bar essays, focus on the IRAC format. The Florida Board of Bar Examiners even indicate that you may want to write in IRAC format given their essay examination instructions in their study guide.

In the study guide, published every year, it outlines what an acceptable essay answer should include and indicates the following:

  • Analysis of the problem
  • Knowledge of the law
  • Application and reasoning
  • Style
  • Conclusion

If you write in IRAC format, you set yourself up for success and will write an acceptable essay answer scoring as many points as possible.

Focus on the “Must-Haves”

The bar examiners grade essays in a “positive” manner, so to speak. An essay grader will grant points for all the issues, analysis, knowledge of law, etc., that you spot or write about in each essay. The grader does not “deduct” points. Therefore, in essence, I like to think that the grader is “looking” for points to just give away!

So how do you use that to your advantage?

Focus on the must-haves in each essay. The examiners grade on a curve, so you have a very good idea of what a “must-have” looks like. What is everyone else in that room with you likely to write about?

Is it a contracts essay? What is the first thing that comes to mind in a contracts essay? Formation, right? Do the facts of the essay and call of the question lead you to discuss formation? If so, then you better do it!

What about a torts essay? Negligence should come to mind. Of course, not all torts essays include negligence, but you get the picture!

Focus on the big-ticket items and not the small, obscure rule of law that you just know is going to score you those 10 points! Unfortunately, you would likely be wrong — since the exam is graded on a curve, knowing obscure, “random” exception-to-the-exception rules of law will likely not gain you the big points that you desire.

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