Updated: Aug 24
Compiled By: Archiebald Faller Capila
Much has been said, written about, and debated upon the topic of how to properly answer Bar exam questions. Law students all over the Philippines may have heard a list or two on what to do and what to avoid come the time they take the exams for four Sundays. From different practitioners to a handful of professors trying to help the next generation of lawyers, different techniques and strategies have already been shared through various platforms.
However, due to the litany of strategies law students often hear from different people, they tend to be over-informed, worse, be rattled on what advice to follow.
To help law students narrow down what to do when it comes to answering Bar exam questions, we have compiled a list containing the most often told tips of law professors and law practitioners on how to properly answer a Bar exam question. Below is a guide that can help law students surpass the Bar.
Most Bar takers tend to go through the questions right away after being handed the questionnaires and having a go signal to start the exams. This, according to most professors and lawyers, is the common mistake of those who took the previous Bar exams. Given the fact that each Bar examiner has a specific set of instructions for their respective exams, bar examinees should read the instructions first.
Reading the instructions carefully is important in the two-examiner-per-subject Bar Exam format as every subject for the examination is checked by two examiners who made two separate sets of exams. This means that an examinee will be having two booklets for two sets of the exam. Under this new rule, the examinee is required to write his answers in two separate booklets corresponding to the two separate questionnaires/parts. As such, even if there are remaining spaces in the first booklet, the examinee is required to move to the second booklet for the second part.
At times, the exam offers a kilometric set of facts which will make the examinees spend so much time reading it. Most Bar questions have tricky facts that branch out to legal problems which will make law students think critically and exhaust them all the way. However, most of the time, the questions posed are simple.
By reading the question first, students will be able to read and understand the set of facts given in a legal problem. They can filter out unnecessary facts that will only confuse them.
A legal problem in the Bar exam will always hand in something to every examinee. Whether it be a word, a phrase, or even a legal provision, takers must consider the same and determine whether or not it is relevant to the answer they have in mind.
For example, one is confronted with a Criminal Law question and a crime was given in the facts. The examinee is then expected to cross-refer the same to the legal elements of the crime. Are the elements of the crime present? Is one or more lacking? If so, what? With this, a Bar taker could answer in a manner that is accorded with a legal basis and the like.
It must be ingrained in memory that every taker must leave a margin on both sides of the test booklets. Bar examiners always want a neatly-submitted booklet when they are checking the same.
Also, takers must write clearly. Grammatical errors may affect the grades an examiner may give to a taker. It must always be remembered that the Bar exam, first and foremost, is an English exam that requires mastery of the language as well.
Remembering ALAC and KISS
The ALAC method strikes as the most familiar and most useful to all bar exam takers out there. To those having a hard time on how to come up with a well-crafted answer in the Bar, let us revisit the said method.
Before stretching out one’s knowledge when it comes to the pertinent jurisprudence or codal provisions, one must first answer. Most questions will ask whether or not the contention of a party is correct. Takers must first answer by jotting down a YES or a NO followed by the question asked (e.g. YES, the contention of the petitioner is correct.)
After answering and establishing a point of reference, takers must now lay down the related jurisprudence or codal provision to defend the answer. One must take note however that while there may be a lot of possible answers considering the exceptions and the exceptions to the latter as well, remember that there is only one issue in the legal question in which the examiner would like to be answered. In short, do not complicate the answers and simplify them as much as possible.
Now that the legal basis is established, an analysis must then be made towards the facts of the legal problem. Here, correlation and cross-referencing to the facts as well as the question comes to play. This is the portion in which takers can further expound on their answer aside from the given legal basis.
At times, the ANALYSIS is also referred to as the APPLICATION wherein a taker must apply the legal basis he or she has given to the set of facts and problems in the exam.
For the last paragraph of the answer, one must sum up all of the factors already stated in the preceding sentences. It serves as the point referring to the end of your answer.
NO, the contention of X is incorrect.
According to the Revised Penal Code, the elements of self-defense as a justifying circumstance are as follows: unlawful aggression; the reasonable necessity of the means employed to prevent or repel it, and; lack of sufficient provocation on the part of the person defending himself.
In this case, the second element is lacking. Shooting an aggressor multiple times at the back, according to jurisprudence, is not within reasonable means to prevent or repel an attack.
Hence, X cannot use self-defense to be exculpated of the crime charged.
As shown in the given example, the KISS method was also applied. The acronym stands for “Keep It Short and Simple.” Bar takers are expected to go directly to the point and avoid beating around the bush. Given the number of Bar takers in the country, examiners only have a very limited time in checking every booklet. Bar takers should know how to answer shortly yet so concise that all the issues in the legal problem are answered with just a couple of sentences.
While there is only ample time left in studying for eight subjects for a couple of months, how to answer Bar exam questions must already be given importance. Being compressed into five easy steps, may this guide serve as a simple yet handy reminder to all the Bar takers for this year and the years to come as well.