There are many common mistakes Law School Tutor has seen in working with second semester 1Ls. It can be challenging to organize your exam answer, especially if the question is based on a lengthy, complex hypo and the call of the question is broad, such as “identify all possible claims and defenses.” But your grade depends in part on organization.
(1) Organize Your Law Exam with IRAC or CRAC
Make sure you create an IRAC or CRAC, unless your professor does not want this format. There are infinite modes of poor organization, but common problems include (1) partially discussing an issue, moving on to something else, then returning to the first issue; (2) not stating a conclusion; and (3) blurring your statement of the rule and its application to the facts. You can fix this and remind yourself by typing or writing IRAC, in a vertical column, on your exam as soon as you begin.
(2) Outline Your Answer
Use your scrap paper to outline your answer before you begin writing it. You can set up a general IRAC outline and fill in the details, using the rules you memorized and the facts of the fact pattern on your law exam. This should ensure that you have written an IRAC for every issue and included complete rule statements and thorough analyses.
(3) Your Outline should Trigger Issues to then Trigger IRACs
Excellent outlines do not just contain rules. Your outlines should include examples of the facts that trigger application of the rules. Law students can find these facts in the cases they read and discuss in class, in hypos their professor presents, and in practice exams. Many causes of action, and many exam questions, are based on recurring fact patterns. Place key-word facts into your outlines now.
(4) Use Your Attack Plan on Your Law Exam
Plan out your answer in advance. Yes, even before your final. Lay out an issue with an IRAC and have an idea of how you would fill it in with the analysis sentence structure that we teach you at LST – Law School Tutor. Include the elements of each claim. You should be able to apply these elements thoroughly when confronted with the triggering facts.
(5) Use Each Fact on the Fact Pattern
Every fact in an exam in law school is there for a reason. Read the facts carefully and try to use all of them. Cross check the outline of your exam answer with the hypo to make sure you haven not omitted any facts.
(6) Answer the Call of the Question on Your Law Exam
Sometimes students fail to read and understand the call of the question. Sometimes professors will write an exam question to place you in a role, such as law clerk advising a judge how to rule on a motion, or prosecutor developing the strongest case against a defendant. The phrasing of the question dictates whether you are expected to come to a definite conclusion. For example, you may write that a motion should be dismissed.
(7) Practice Law Exams with LST – Law School Tutor
Work on a variety of practice exams throughout the semester. Focus on the call of the question, and practice the skills of outlining your answer and organizing it appropriately in response to the question. Working on practice exams is the best way to develop exam skills and avoid all the mistakes you made last semester. You can start as soon as you have learned one topic in your class. Apply the strategies discussed here to your practice exams, and improve your performance on your law exams.
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