Exam Advice: Staying within Word Limits

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theantiscalia
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Exam Advice: Staying within Word Limits

Postby theantiscalia » Wed Oct 27, 2010 1:04 am

My criminal law professor handed out a practice exam essay question this week and put a 500-word limit on it. I spotted five critical issues in the hypothetical, one of which pertained to proximate cause.

I think I found all of the issues, and I was fine on the time limit, but I found it almost impossible to stay within the word limit. Five hundred words is a challenge... it works out to 100 words per issue, and as you probably know, I had to devote more to proximate cause than its fair share.

I've read Getting to Maybe, and I'm familiar with IRAC. Under either method, something had to go, and the first thing for me was the rationale for the rule, which I've always been told is part of what distinguishes and A from a B exam. I'm a concise writer (this post being an exception), but I can't see anything other than a IRC and very basic A being possible.

Any advice? What would you cut out? How do you distinguish your exam under these circumstances?

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rayiner
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Re: Exam Advice: Staying within Word Limits

Postby rayiner » Wed Oct 27, 2010 1:23 am

URFUCKT.

theantiscalia
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Re: Exam Advice: Staying within Word Limits

Postby theantiscalia » Wed Oct 27, 2010 1:52 am

rayiner wrote:URFUCKT.


So very helpful.

I searched a few past TLS threads before posting, and there wasn't much.

Advice? Anybody?

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MrKappus
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Re: Exam Advice: Staying within Word Limits

Postby MrKappus » Wed Oct 27, 2010 2:00 am

Write your answers in haiku.

In all seriousness, what can people tell you? Just make sure you're not restating ANY facts, hit the high notes, and let it ride. Everyone has the same limit.

savagecheater
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Re: Exam Advice: Staying within Word Limits

Postby savagecheater » Wed Oct 27, 2010 4:46 pm

sup scalia.

we have crim together.

what'd you think of his discussion to the class?

It seemed rather odd that he was so focused on issue-spotting rather than spotting the issues, analyzing their merits, and drawing conclusions.

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GoodToBeTheKing
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Re: Exam Advice: Staying within Word Limits

Postby GoodToBeTheKing » Fri Oct 29, 2010 12:09 pm

you might be able to save words by not stating an entire rule before applying it, but instead tie the rule into your explanation. For example: Under negligence per se, "apply to facts" ...

Instead of "Under negligence per se, "talk about what negligence per se is"

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vanwinkle
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Re: Exam Advice: Staying within Word Limits

Postby vanwinkle » Fri Oct 29, 2010 12:10 pm

I'd actually love advice on this too, since I'm facing strict word limits for the first time this fall.

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Paichka
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Re: Exam Advice: Staying within Word Limits

Postby Paichka » Fri Oct 29, 2010 12:28 pm

Okay, so my Contracts professor 1L year had a strict word limit. His exams both semesters were identical -- 5 essays with a 900 word cap on each. (Well, the total thing had a 4500 word cap, which worked out to 500 per essay -- I might have gone over and under on a couple of the questions)

My advice is to be incredibly concise. Look at your writing, do you use any unnecessary filler phrases? Pare your writing down to the absolute essentials -- any of the highfalutin' words law students love can probably get cut as filler. I'd use IRAC (or similar) to make answers as to-the-point as possible.

On our contracts exam, it really became apparent that our professor was more concerned with issue spotting. So, each of my answers looked like this:

A will sue B for breach of contract because B failed to perform. B will argue that there was no contract because they were just involved in preliminary negotiations that fell through. A will answer ______, relying on [CASE]. B will respond that ______, relying on [DIFFERENT CASE]. A court will likely find for A because _______. In the alternative, B will argue that there was no contract because _______....etc, etc.

As long as you recognized the claim, the defenses, and responses to those defenses, you racked up the points.

500 is a lot less than 900, obviously...but I think as long as you try to be as bare-bones with your wording as possible, you are going to be able to fit a lot of information into your answer.

pasteurizedmilk
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Re: Exam Advice: Staying within Word Limits

Postby pasteurizedmilk » Fri Oct 29, 2010 12:39 pm

Does he have prior model exams? If so check those out. If they are written bad grammar to save space or hv lts of abrev. then use either of those tactics to save space. I ahd a prof with absolutely draconian word limits, and I just wrote in very short, grammatically incorrect but comprehenesible statements and used a ton of abbreviations. Booked the class.

But do check out prior model exams before you do this to make sure it'll fly.

Other advice in this thread is quality, besides rayiner's trolling. Don't restate facts, efficient use of the words you do have, etc. etc.

savagecheater
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Re: Exam Advice: Staying within Word Limits

Postby savagecheater » Fri Oct 29, 2010 4:01 pm

No model exams to look at.

For the record, given that OP and I are in the same class, some feedback after a review with the prof.

The model exam answer was very bare-bones issue-spotting, cursory explanation, and cursory analysis as it pertains to the facts.

My personal exam answer addressed what he wanted, but I remember while I took it that I ran into the word limit fast, i.e., I was 40% in my answer and had 450 words on paper. I figured out that I had to pretty much turn every 4 sentences into 1.

I very vaguely recall a section from GTM where they explain that the best exam writing is concise and direct but utilitarian and dense in its application. It was to the intent that you need to fundamentally restructure phrases where you're putting out more analysis/explanation/etc but you're using fewer words.

Ironically I like word limits - it forces you to recognize that you can only say so much; I'd rather be constrained by word limits than by time limits.

Find out WHAT the prof wants - our prof informed us he'd be going 'by checklist'. So hitting 10/10 issues w/ only as much analysis as you could fit was much better than 6/10 issues w/ excellent, thorough analysis. Talk to them beforehand and find out exactly what theyre looking for.

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wiseowl
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Re: Exam Advice: Staying within Word Limits

Postby wiseowl » Sat Oct 30, 2010 12:48 am

Getting to Maybe has to pretty much be thrown out with word limits.

Just do an abbreviated IRAC...maybe just a RAC, or even a RA.

I got wildly divergent results on tight word limit exams. Seems to be a total crapshoot. Best of luck.




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