Bar Exam Tip: Longer essay answers. Better scores.
Should attorneys learn how to type?
For over two decades we have been telling attorneys sitting for the California Bar Examination that longer bar exam essay answers receive higher scores. While one would think that the substance of the exam answer is what prevails, model answers released by the State Bar of California average between 8-10 pages double spaced. That is a lot of content to produce in an hour. Assuming the average question is one page in length, applicants must read, think, digest and type at lightening speed. For applicants coming right out of law school, this really is not an obstacle given that law school exams are almost always administered under timed conditions, and recent graduates have been pecking away at their keyboards almost nonstop since they commenced any form of higher education. Coupled with their inability to part from their smartphones, they message, tweet, and chat at speeds that seemingly defy the laws of physics.
Older attorneys (and by older we mean those who have long stepped away from the academic arena) are almost at a disadvantage compared to their tech savvy counterparts. Seasoned attorneys rarely type out their own briefs, and more often than not have the advantage of support staff to format, spellcheck, etc. what they wish to convey on a written page. To make matters even more complicated, the California Bar Exam is now administered almost exclusively online requiring applicants to navigate new software and shift around text boxes on a very small laptop screen.
There are 17 substantive areas of law tested on the California Bar exam, and on any given July or February exam applicants have a very short opportunity to demonstrate what they know. If more in this case equates to better, then attorneys should consider adding one more subject to their study plan: the fine art of touch typing. As we all might recall from our 7th grade typing class, touch typing refers to typing without looking at the keyboard. Being able to feel the keys just makes you type faster. Obviously, this takes practice, but with practice you can improve your speed in relatively short order. A few tips worth mentioning:
• Type first, correct later. The delete key will slow you down and also interrupt your train of thought.
• Mechanical keyboards have a faster response time. Before you go out and buy one of these, first learn the touch method. Once you do, the mechanical keyboard can produce a faster output.
• The F&J keys have a tactile raised bar. Who knew? Or better yet, who remembers? Your index fingers should lightly sit over the F and J key before your start an essay.
At the end of the day, accuracy is more important than speed. Essay answers full of mistakes are distracting to graders. Take the time to look into an online typing course or watch a YouTube video while you are studying for the California Bar Exam.