For most first-year students, taking initial law school examinations is scary. Unlike most undergraduate classes, law school grades are usually based entirely off of the final examination, which is graded on a curve against the responses of other students. However, by preparing adequately, outlining your answer and writing concisely, you can avoid many of the pitfalls of law school examinations and get an A.
Read the full question first. Many law school exam questions have several pages. Skim the question first, then read the question carefully. Make notes in the margins and underline important facts. By taking the time to read the question before outlining or writing an answer, you have a better chance of writing a comprehensive answer.
Allocate your time wisely. Many first-year law students make the mistake of spending too much time answering the first question on an exam thoroughly. You then don't have enough time to adequately answer later questions. If a question is only worth 30 percent of your grade, only spend 30 percent of your time on it. While you may not answer every issue raised in a question, professors typically structure exam questions in a way where identifying and thoroughly discussing every issue in a timely manner is not possible.
Follow any limitations set by your professor. If your professor has assigned word or page limits, do not exceed them. Some professors refuse to read anything written beyond the word limit or even refuse to read the entire answer that exceeds the limits.
Outline your answer. When outlining, use IRAC format, which is short for Issue, Rule, Analysis and Conclusion. For each issue you spot, identify the issue, concisely state the governing rule, apply the facts of your professor’s question to the rule and draw a conclusion. If your subject matter and question lends itself to chronological order, such as with contracts or criminal law, outline your answer in chronological order. When writing an answer for a torts exam, organize your outline by party.
Write the first paragraph of your answer. In the first sentence of your response, answer the question asked in plain language. For instance, if the question asks “Which party will prevail?,” the first sentence of your answer should read “The plaintiff will likely prevail because….”
Write the body of your essay. Write concisely, using short paragraphs. Each issue that you have identified in your outline should have its own paragraph, with one sentence stating the Issue, Rule and Conclusion. While you may need to write several sentences in the Analysis section for each paragraph, avoid lengthy discussions unless required by the question.
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