advice for writing a better exam

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sam_f
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advice for writing a better exam

Postby sam_f » Sat Jan 21, 2012 9:42 pm

I got a B-, 2 B's, and a B+ my first semester. Just found out today, actually. I cant say I am happy, but I feel like it could have been a lot worse.

I know one of my downfalls was my organization style. I simply laid out every issue the same exact way, Issue: Rule: Analysis: and Conclusion. I used those headings for every issue and when I could think of a counterargument I would put it after the analysis. I know it led to very concise answers but from the feedback I am hearing from professors, it seems like the longer exams tended to do better; despite the fact we were told over and over that concise responses will be rewarded.

Do you know of any supplements I can pick up to help me organize and write a better exam? I am studying way differently this semester and I have a grasp of what's actually important now on exams. So I feel confident that alone will help me do marginally better going into the semester. Still, I'm looking for like an audio supplement or something I can listen to throughout the semester to help me organize and write a better exam. I heard of LEEWS but have gotten very different responses, so I dont wanna waste the money if it's not worth it. I'd appreciate any help you could offer me. Thanks.

hurldes
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Re: advice for writing a better exam

Postby hurldes » Sun Jan 22, 2012 12:54 am

I would totally recommend LEEWs. But I haven't gotten my grades back yet. Regardless, LEEWs gave me a test strategy and organization guide that helped make exams predictable. It taught me how to break down a long, complicated fact pattern into manageable pieces that I could analyze in clear paragraphs.

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I.P. Daly
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Re: advice for writing a better exam

Postby I.P. Daly » Sun Jan 22, 2012 1:05 am

Read sample bar exam answers. Several states post sample answers online.

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fundamentallybroken
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Re: advice for writing a better exam

Postby fundamentallybroken » Sun Jan 22, 2012 1:12 am

Read Getting to Maybe.

For a more cynical take, read Planet Law School.

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Cupidity
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Re: advice for writing a better exam

Postby Cupidity » Sun Jan 22, 2012 1:13 am

I find that people who tend to over-focus on formal outlining or methodology tend to do poorly. I find that the most effective strategy is just to vomit everything that you know onto the paper. Seriously, don't worry about format, just issue spot. And wherever you can, after your sentence just write, "see Mottley" or "see thathypotheticalyoutoldinclasswhereyourwifecaughtthebaseballinherpurse." The case cites are sometimes worth a point in and of themselves, and if your analysis is off, but you site the correct case, it helps show what you meant to say, so you may score points with inferior analysis.

I've never gotten anything lower than an A- on an issue spotter.

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Cupidity
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Re: advice for writing a better exam

Postby Cupidity » Sun Jan 22, 2012 1:17 am

sam_f wrote:we were told over and over that concise responses will be rewarded.


Lies! 5000 words or you are betting a B!

Bumi
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Re: advice for writing a better exam

Postby Bumi » Sun Jan 22, 2012 1:22 am

sam_f wrote:from the feedback I am hearing from professors, it seems like the longer exams tended to do better

Wait. Is that the rumor mill, or actual feedback direct to you from multiple professors?

Get the latter. Until you do that, you have no idea if you're missing issues or just not being wordy enough in analysis.

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BlinkNC
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Re: advice for writing a better exam

Postby BlinkNC » Sun Jan 22, 2012 2:00 am

Here's a sample from my Torts issue spotter. For credibility, I got an A in Torts (3.0 curve). Please keep in mind that this is very specific to our professor, so the elements of assault may differ from what you learned. I'm not going to post the facts, just because they're long and I'm lazy.

"A v B - Assault

Assault requires an 1) intentional 2) act that causes 3) apprehension of an 4) imminent 5) battery-like contact.

INTENT is acting with the purpose of causing apprehension of an imminent battery-like contact. Intent can be proven via any one of these four methods: A) Direct Admission, B) Substantial Certainty, C) Inference, and/or D) Transferred Intent.

Direct Admission requires a person to affirmatively state they intended to cause apprehension of an imminent battery-like contact. A will argue that B admitted his intent by using the phrase "I only meant to scare him!". B will attempt to counter that he did not actually intend to commit a battery, but this is immaterial because he did admit to wishing to cause fear in A.

Substantial Certainty requires that "as night follows day" a result of apprehension of an imminent battery-like contact will follow the plaintiff's act. It is unlikely that A will argue B's act was substantially certain to result in apprehension. A and B were friends, and A recognized B as he ran up. A person does not often apprehend imminent battery-like contacts when they see a recognized friend run up. B will not counter.

Inference requires that a preponderance of the evidence suggest that B actually intended to cause apprehension. A will argue that B knowingly ran up with a fake knife in his hand. The act of running up to a person diminishes the amount of reaction time that person has to determine an adequate response. A thus did not have a long time to recognize the knife as rubber and anticipated B was about to stab him. A reasonable person under the circumstances would recognize a person running up to them with a knife as hostile and fear an imminent shanking (battery). Conversely, B will argue that they were friends and A recognized B as he ran up, even going as far as to say, "What's up, B?". Even though B had a rubber knife in his hand, A did not seem alarmed in the slightest. B will argue that a reasonable person is immaterial because there is a special relationship (friends) between A and B. However, the reasonable person here merely takes on some of A's qualities, and this would still not get B off the hook. A reasonable person who witnesses their friend running up with a knife in hand would most likely be apprehensive of an imminent battery. Normal people do not run around with knives, and what's more, do not run directly at a person holding a knife. The status of the knife as fake is immaterial because A did not have enough time to ascertain this detail in the short span between B starting his run and ending right in front of A.

Transferred Intent requires the intent to commit another intentional tort, but instead actually causing (in this case) Assault. A will attempt to argue B intended a battery, but this argument is extremely speculative. No evidence exists to show B ever contact A or had the intent to contact A.

On balance, B did have the requisite intent to cause apprehension of an imminent shanking in A because he directly admitted his desire to scare A by running up with a rubber knife. Only one test need be satisfied to establish intent. Assuming, arguendo, that the Direct Admission does not fly, A may also establish intent via Inference.

An ACT is. . ."

It's not perfect and certainly not exhaustive, but that's literally my response to one of our essays. BE CAREFUL TO KNOW WHAT YOUR PROFESSOR WANTS. Ours wanted depth of the major issues, not breadth of every issue. If yours wants all the issues, don't go in as much detail. Get the elements banged out with some topical reasoning, and move on.
Last edited by BlinkNC on Sun Jan 22, 2012 2:42 am, edited 1 time in total.

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BlinkNC
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Re: advice for writing a better exam

Postby BlinkNC » Sun Jan 22, 2012 2:07 am

sam_f wrote:from the feedback I am hearing from professors, it seems like the longer exams tended to do better


Length does not always equal quality, but often it does. What professors mean to say is: "The exams that were longer AND had more analysis did better." If you write 10,000 words but are functionally retarded, you're not vying for an A. One of the most helpful tips I got from GTM/LEEWS/Professors (best source) was that legal analysis takes a little planning. Plan your response whatever way fits best in your method and then write. If you have adequately "outlined" a quick list of things you want to hit, you will likely have a lot to say. The people that stop short are often those that dive right in to the most obvious issue, only to have no plan of attack / goal afterwards. The people who planned often see more issues pop up as they start to write and can segway into them without rambling.

23402385985
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Re: advice for writing a better exam

Postby 23402385985 » Sun Jan 22, 2012 2:12 am

Make rule blocks. I aced my K's exam by making simple rule blocks that I could copy right onto the exam. It worked like a charm. I aced K's and I could not have done it without making rule blocks.

Image

23402385985
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Re: advice for writing a better exam

Postby 23402385985 » Sun Jan 22, 2012 2:16 am

BlinkNC wrote:
sam_f wrote:from the feedback I am hearing from professors, it seems like the longer exams tended to do better


Length does not always equal quality, but often it does. What professors mean to say is: "The exams that were longer AND had more analysis did better." If you write 10,000 words but are functionally retarded, you're not vying for an A. One of the most helpful tips I got from GTM/LEEWS/Professors (best source) was that legal analysis takes a little planning. Plan your response whatever way fits best in your method and then write. If you have adequately "outlined" a quick list of things you want to hit, you will likely have a lot to say. The people that stop short are often those that dive right in to the most obvious issue, only to have no plan of attack / goal afterwards. The people who planned often see more issues pop up as they start to write and can segway into them without rambling.


Bingo. Back on my K's example:

For my midterm, I wrote 24000 characters in 60 minutes. 4000 words or so, I think. About 13 pages. But I wrote it like I was retarded. Got a B on it for sheer length and my rule blocks. The analysis sucked.

I re-grouped for my final. I wrote about 22000 characters in 4 hours, but the analysis was fantastic. I went into depth and made an original argument. I actually thought I fucked up due to the original argument, since everyone I talked to basically told me I was wrong. Guess what? I got the A and they did not.

The analysis is the key. My professor, who preferred IRAC, showed it as follows:

I
R
A
C

Every point you get will be in analysis.

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BlinkNC
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Re: advice for writing a better exam

Postby BlinkNC » Sun Jan 22, 2012 2:40 am

I like the way IRAC is visually modified there. It's very on point with exam writing. I know there's a lot of hate for IRAC, but in the end it's just a method (as all the rest are) for forcing you into analysis. K's was my worst class with an A-, because it was my first exam. After that I figured out a basic strategy guide:

Issue - If given, write in question format and move on. If spotter, comb quickly for action. Read the fact pattern like a script - wherever someone DOES something, often there is a legal issue attached.

Rule - Know these cold -> This means know what you will write on the exam when you have to define "consideration". Save yourself time on the exam and have these committed to memory, so when you see it on the exam you regurgitate it out like it was 5th grade all over again.

Analysis - Don't get mired down. Start with the MOVANT, or the person who would likely be suing. Take the facts and apply them to your Rules / tests. Next, flip over and do the exact same process for the NON-MOVANT, or person who would be getting sued. If time permits or if you have a novel counter, flip back over to the MOVANT and make the counter. Do this until you either run out of your self-allotted time or novel ideas. Don't get mired down making shitty arguments - you have bigger fish to fry.

Conclusion - Restate in 1-3 sentences what your A said. If you find yourself having to explain why, you need to copy/paste that back up into the A section. This should literally take 2 minutes max.

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NoleinNY
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Re: advice for writing a better exam

Postby NoleinNY » Sun Jan 22, 2012 3:08 am

joncrooshal wrote:Make rule blocks. I aced my K's exam by making simple rule blocks that I could copy right onto the exam. It worked like a charm. I aced K's and I could not have done it without making rule blocks.

Image


Anecdotally, I've noticed K's professors tend to prefer that format more than any other doctrinal class.

morris248
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Re: advice for writing a better exam

Postby morris248 » Sun Jan 22, 2012 10:58 am

Still, I'm looking for like an audio supplement or something I can listen to throughout the semester to help me organize and write a better exam


This is the wrong approach. Audio supplements are excellent for individual classes but not for improving your exam taking skills. The only way to improve your method of taking an exam is to practice answering old exam questions and then comparing your answers to the model answers. There is a lot of good advice in the previous posters. Leaving out knowledge of the material, your enemy in an exam is TIME. It is rare to get an exam where you actually have enough time so time management is critical. That means you need a structured organization of how to answer a question in the shortest time and to maximize the points. Even small things can give you extra time. Learn to use abbreviations, PC for probable cause, D for defendant, etc. Never write out the same rule twice, use supra. You have to include the rule to get the points but you don't have to write it out again. There are plenty of old exams and model answers online and you need to start now even though you do not know the material. Give yourself 3 x the time allotted for the old exam question and then research and write your answer. Good luck




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