A Step-by-Step Approach on How to Read, Organize, & Draft Your Answer to an MEE Essay Question
What You’ll Learn:
- How to Allocate Your Time Per MEE Question
- Our 5-Step Approach on How to Read the Essay Question & Draft Your Answer
- How to Structure and Draft Your Essay Answer using the IRAC Method
We strongly recommend that you have a pre-determined approach on how you will tackle an MEE question on exam day – meaning how you will review the essay question and draft your answer all within 30 minutes.
Having an approach will make the exam much less stressful, and you can practice it prior to the exam so it will be second nature when taking the actual test.
MEE Timing – How to Effectively Allocate Your Time
Since you have 30-minutes per MEE question, you should allocate your time as follows:
10-15 minutes: Reading the essay question and Organizing your answer (ideally no more than 10 minutes).
15-20 minutes: Drafting your answer.
You must keep yourself on track, and NOT spend more than 30-minutes per essay question. Otherwise, you’ll never finish all six essays.
MEE Step-by-Step Approach – How to Read, Organize, and Draft Your Answer
Here is our recommended step-by-step approach to tackle an MEE question within 30-minutes.
Step # 1: Read the Call of Question First – (1 minute).
The call is the question prompt(s) at the end of the fact pattern, which asks you to discuss certain issues. Reading the call first helps you identify the subject matter and issues being tested, so you know exactly what to look for when reading the fact pattern.
Step # 2: Read the Fact Pattern, and Mark It Up – (7-10 minutes).
Read the entire fact pattern carefully, and while doing so you should mark it up to note key items. For example, you can make notes in the margins or circle/underline anything that is important (i.e. facts, issues, dates, names of parties). Marking up the fact pattern will make the important items easy to reference later on when organizing and drafting your answer.
If you have time, you may want to read the fact pattern a second time to make sure you fully understand the facts.
Step # 3: Read the Call of the Question AGAIN – (1 minute).
Reading the call of the question a second time will make sure you understand the issues the bar examiners want you to discuss, and will confirm that you didn’t overlook anything.
Step # 4: Organize Your Answer & Make a SHORT Outline of the Issues/Topics – (1-3 minutes).
It’s best to organize your answer by making a very short outline (or checklist) of the issues and topics that you will discuss. Something short like “negligence – proximate cause” or “supplemental jurisdiction” should suffice. The goal here is to map out the topics/issues so you’ll have a list to reference when drafting your answer (and so you don’t forget hit anything).
Use the call – the question prompts – at the end of the essay question to organize your outline (and eventually your essay answer).
Often the call will tell you to discuss certain issues/points, which are numbered. It’s best to organize your answer in the same order. Below is an example.
Example of Question Call with “Specific Prompts”
(from July 2017 MEE, Essay 2 – Constitutional Law)
- Can the bank maintain a suit in federal court against State A for damages? Explain.
- Can the bank maintain a suit in federal court against the state Superintendent of Banking to enjoin her from enforcing the State A statute? Explain.
- Is the State A statute unconstitutional? Explain.
Sample Short Outline of the Issues/Topics
(for July 2017 MEE, Essay 2)
1) 11th Amend. – State Sovereign Immunity
- State cannot be sued for money damages
2) 11th Amend. – State Sovereign Immunity
- Exception for allowing suit for injunctive relief against a state official
3) Negative Commerce Clause
- Discriminatory Regulations
- Unduly Burdensome Regulations
Sometimes, an essay question will contain a “general call” where the question prompt is not broken out like the example above (this occurs often in Wills & Estates questions).
Example of “General Call” Question
(from July 2017 MEE, Essay 4)
To whom should Testator’s estate be distributed? Explain.
In such instance, you will need to organize the answer yourself. For “general call” questions, we suggest organizing your answer by either the Parties, Events, or Legal Issues.
Remember your outline should only be a short list, and MUST be done quickly.
Your time is precious, so you don’t want to waste much time on this step. Thus, we recommend hand writing this outline on scrap paper or somewhere on the essay question page (at the end of the page or in the margin). DON’T write this outline on the computer because most people have a tendency to write more than they would on paper, which is a waste of time. Writing your outline on paper forces you to keep it short and write it quickly.
Step # 5: Draft Your Answer using IRAC – (15-20 minutes).
Using the organization in your short outline, start drafting your essay answer using IRAC format.
IRAC is a method for organizing your legal analysis so the essay grader can easily review your answer.
State the issue presented by the essay question.
State the applicable legal rule(s).
Apply the legal rule(s) to the facts of the question. You must use the facts in the question to explain how the legal rule leads to the conclusion. DO NOT merely recite the facts; instead link the facts to the elements of the legal rule to justify the conclusion.
State a short conclusion – the result of the analysis. This should be a single sentence.
When using IRAC:
- Use Headings! You MUST make sure to include a heading for each IRAC analysis.
- Each item in IRAC should be in a separate paragraph.
- When there are multiple issues to address (there almost always are), then you must write a separate IRAC analysis for each issue.
- For bar exam essays DO NOT discuss both sides (unlike a law school exam).
The IRAC structure should be used for two reasons. First, the MEE Instructions state that IRAC should be used:
“Demonstrate your ability to reason and analyze. Each of your answers should show an understanding of the facts, a recognition of the issues included [Issue], a knowledge of the applicable principles of law [Rule], and the reasoning [Analysis] by which you arrive at your conclusions [Conclusion]. The value of your answer depends not as much upon your conclusions as upon the presence and quality of the elements mentioned above.”¹
Second, most Sample Examinee Answers that have been released as exemplars follow the IRAC format.²
Below is a sample IRAC analysis of what your essay answer should look like.