My 1L year in law school was a harsh, brutal learning experience. Admittedly, I struggled to ascertain how to write law school exam essay answers that earned "A"s rather than the "B"s and "B+"s I was receiving. Whereas I was surrounded by classmates who had parents or significant others who were attorneys or judges, I knew no one in the legal profession. I was clueless as to how to think like a lawyer.
During the summer after my 1L year in law school, I took a class with Richard Michael Fischl. He suggested that I read his book, Getting to Maybe to improve my essay writing skills. I sought out a copy on Amazon and when it arrived, I spent the better part of a week reading and absorbing the book's wisdom. This book helped me improve my GPA by almost one letter grade. If you are struggling with writing passing essays on the bar exam, then you might want to get this book.
So many bar exam essay questions are open-ended, asking the examinee to analyze the problem whilst considering the potential of multiple outcomes based on the fact pattern. Yet, so many bar examinees only write about one "fork" of the problem, leaving others unmentioned. This is a surefire way to achieve a failing score on an essay.
Let me provide you with a basic example of how stress and time constraints, coupled with inadequate preparation, can cause an examinee to miss certain points to discuss on a bar exam essay. Say for example you encounter a criminal law/criminal procedure/evidence crossover essay question concerning the admissibility of a gun used during the commission of a crime. It would be inadvisable to only write an answer containing analysis and a conclusion that the gun is inadmissible because of the exclusionary rule. The better essay answer would argue both sides of whether the gun is admissible, discussing limitations on the exclusionary rule, the 4th Amendment, and any other pertinent law. This is how you demonstrate your ability to think like a lawyer.
My entire first year of law school consisted of me writing "binary" answers on law school exam essays. I always wrote about whether something was admissible or not. I never discussed both possibilities in my answers and I paid dearly for this foolishness. Professor Fischl's book trained me to think about the "forks" in law school exam fact patterns and how to write my answer accordingly.
Of course, not every bar exam essay requires you to think like this. If you encounter a contracts essay question concerning the sale of widgets, you would be wasting valuable time spending 10 minutes on why the common law might apply. Furthermore, it might not be prudent to pick up Getting to Maybe with the bar exam only a month away. However, if you are feeling unsure about your writing habits, this book might be worth your effort to skim for helpful tips. I know it helped me immensely.