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Legal Analysis and Writing

December 10, 2012

November 21, 2012

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By Zoe Grover

Today is your first law school exam. At this point you have already created your outline, you’ve probably made flash cards, worked through hypos, done CALI lessons and discussed with your classmates every possible policy question your professor might come up with.  All your preparation has been important and worthwhile, but here are just a few more things to keep in mind as you approach your final.

1) Maintain your pre-exam habits: Exam time is stressful try not to add stress to your body by changing your habits. For example, if you normally exercise, exercise during exams. If you normally eat healthy, try not to start eating junk food. This is true for unhealthy habits as well. If you normally consume alcohol or smoke cigarettes, finals are not the time to quit (of course everything in moderation).

2) Know everything on your outline: Whether or not an exam is open note or open book is irrelevant, treat every exam like it is a closed note/book exam. Law school exams are designed to be time pressured and taking time to reread concepts and rules on your outline will decrease the amount of time spent answering questions and thus decrease the number of points you get.

3) Use subheadings as a roadmap for your professor: Generally a law school exam question has multiple parts, subheadings that address each issue are a great way to organize your answer. By using subheadings in your exam answer your professor will be able to see that you have addressed all the issues and it makes it easier for them to grade. The easier your professor can find the answer to their question, the better.

4) Use the timer: Examsoft has a built-in easy to use timer. Use it. If you know you have three hours to take an exam and the first question is worth 25% of your grade, set the timer for 40 minutes (saving five minutes for re-reading) and aim to move on when the timer goes off.  Answering a question worth 25% of your grade using 50% of your time will be less helpful for your overall grade than answering all the questions. It is important to answer all the questions, using the timer will help you accomplish this.

5) Use factor lists when appropriate: If you know that there are four factors to a test, simply list them out.  It may not be necessary to discuss each factor in depth, especially on a sub-part of a problem, but it’s a quick way to show your knowledge.

6) Argue the alternative: Addressing alternative views or policy, without changing the facts of the question, will add points to your score. Do it whenever possible.

7) Don’t forget Erie.  If there is a topic that you covered in class at length, there is a 99% chance it will be on the exam. A mental (or physical, if it’s allowed) checklist of the pertinent topics of the course is a good thing to consider as you complete the exam. Did one of your exam answers address the issue you covered for four classes in October? No? Then you probably missed it somewhere on the exam.

8) Don’t forget they let you in for a reason. The law school admissions department looks at many, many applications. They chose you because they knew you were smart enough to succeed. Study hard, hope for the best, you are probably going to get a B.

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