Writing “See Above” can be a really valuable tool to get through a law school exam, especially if a law student has a lot of issues to answer because they spotted many issues or their professor is particularly known for giving race-horse exams. And some students may write “See Above” for a rule, so that the professor can skip over repetitious writing.
However, LST – Law School Tutor does not recommend that students write “See Above.” Here are a few reasons why:
(1) Writing “See Above” makes the professor do more work. The professor, if grading with a fine-tooth-comb, must take their eyes and look up on your page to see if the last rule that you wrote for that issue is correct. Even worse, “See Above” may make the professor have to flip through multiple pages, if that rule is lingering on an early page that you typed (i.e. page 1 of an ExamSoft printout), when you typed “See Above” on a later page (i.e. page 10 of an ExamSoft printout).
(2) Writing “See Above” means that you have a canned rule that could be too overly inclusive or not inclusive enough. Some IRACs need extra sub-rules that pertain to that particular issue but do not pertain to all of the other same issues on the exam. This can happen when a fact pattern has facts that trigger an exception to the rule or are exactly on point based on an exact case that you read. How devastating it would be to say that all of the rules above apply to an issue later in your answer when only a portion of the rules apply! And how devastating it would be to then run through an analysis that does not even need to be there because you included some sub-rules that are not relevant! Conversely, how devastating it would be if the issue that was later in your exam required sub-rules but you merely wrote “See Above” and your professor never got to see any of those sub-rules nor grade any analysis of those sub-rules.
(3) Writing “See Above” can easily make you, as the law student, forget all of the details and elements you still need to analyze in the analysis section. When we grade students’ exams, we notice that students will often forget all of the elements of a rule if that rule is not lingering just above the analysis they are typing at that moment. They merely write “See Above” and then wing their analysis by thinking they have it all in their head. That’s right! The student’s brain gets a bit lazy and does not want to do that extra hard work of scrolling up to double check each element of the rule, which is all of that extra hard work that the student is trying to make the professor do in our #1 example above. So they wing it in their head and dive only into maybe 4 elements of the rule instead of all 6 elements of the rule. They now have a really brief analysis and are missing a lot of points. This should also be a lesson to the student: If the student does not want to do the extra work of scrolling up and making sure they are mentioning every element in their analysis, why would the professor want to scroll up or flip through pages to find a student’s rule and then try to see if the student has mentioned all of those elements again in their analysis that is mentioned later in their exam?
(4) Writing “See Above” may make your professor look to a rule that you wrote incorrectly. And now your professor is assuming you are applying the wrong rule over and over again. Your professor will not only refuse to give you points for the IRAC that you initially wrote, but your professor will also refuse to give you points for the IRACs you later wrote because they are also based on the same mistakes you made above.
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