Trouble Starting on Practice Exam Question...

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Trouble Starting on Practice Exam Question...

Postby Power_of_Facing » Sun Nov 16, 2014 1:53 pm

Hey, guys,

I would love some thoughts on a general issue I'm having while taking practice exams...

Sometimes, even when I feel like I have a good grasp of the concept at issue, I can't find a good starting point to begin answering the question and I just sort of freeze. This is especially problematic when the hypos are dense.

Anyone have any insights as to how to get answers flowing?

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Re: Trouble Starting on Practice Exam Question...

Postby 2807 » Sun Nov 16, 2014 2:27 pm

First, you must ANSWER the question asked.
Start there.
Stay focused on that. People tend to wander in their brilliance.
That is a trap.

Based on that approach, then IRAC is your friend.
Just go chronologically if that helps.
Depending on the question(s) asked:

1. Start with general concepts of law that apply.

Then, start issue spotting.

2. State the ACTUAL legal ISSUE.
This is NOT the "legal topic"
This is the legal ISSUE.
Using the word "whether" may help you to focus.

3. Then, state the Rule that applies to THAT PRECISE LEGAL ISSUE

Then, APPLY the facts in the hypo.
This is where the money is for you.
Use the word "Because..."
It will force you to focus the fact-to-law analysis

4. Then give a Conclusion that is consistent with your analysis.

If you start saying.. "on the other hand..." BEWARE:
There is a good chance you just changed to a NEW legal issue
Make that a NEW IRAC.

Try this structured approach and see if it helps you.
Structure, and practice, will make these manageable.

Structure. Focus. Clarity.
No extra points for verbose flowery nonsense.

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Re: Trouble Starting on Practice Exam Question...

Postby hoos89 » Sun Nov 16, 2014 3:06 pm

IRAC is the road to median, in my opinion. It's repetitive and unnatural.

What you do first kind of depends on the course and the type of question. For a classic issue spotting torts exam, for example, a good way to start is to write down each party in the question, and then all claims they might bring. Each paragraph should be a different claim (although you can of course break claims into multiple paragraphs if one starts getting too long). This should help you get over the problem of where to start. It's all kind of arbitrary, but just go in the order you wrote them down and cross them off as you go.

So for example: A may bring a claim for Battery against B. [Talk about the elements and whether they are satisfied]. For obvious ones just say that the element is satisfied because X reason (e.g. "harm" where B stabbed A just say that there was harm because B stabbed A; you don't need to get into some kind of esoteric discussion about what "harm" really means). For less obvious elements, you may need to devote several sentences to a back and forth: "A will argue this, B will argue this, the court should find A's argument more persuasive because..." It's important to stay objective and discuss BOTH SIDES on a question like this, and discuss what each party would say. After you discuss the elements, you should bring up any affirmative defenses, such as self defense, as well as their elements, similar to what you did for the claim itself. After that, just write a quick conclusion that is consistent with your analysis (e.g. "The court will find for B because B acted in self defense"). Rinse and repeat for each claim.

For more policy-based questions, it's a bit less straight forward. Unless time is a serious concern, it can be a good idea to take a step back and find the part of your outline relating to the main point of the question. Look at your notes from that day if you can find them quickly, and see if you can't remember something that your professor said. I'm of the opinion that it's generally a good idea to parrot your professor's views if (s)he made them clear. Even if (s)he did, you still do a back and forth of why a given policy is or is not good and what you think the correct policy is and why (so for instance, whatever the professor's reasoning was).

One important thing to note: different professors have different expectations of how much you should use cases in exams. I had one professor who expected you to site the case and the PAGE NUMBER for the case on the exam for pretty much everything you did. I had one who straight up said "don't mention cases on the exam." I've had others who've said that they're not required, but can be helpful to support your analysis or as a shortcut for analogies (e.g. "this is like XX case where ABC happened"). Make sure you know where your professor stands on cases, and use them accordingly.

ETA: Some professors will tell you to write out what the rule is before doing analysis. I don't like doing that because it's redundant if you do your analysis properly, but if the professor explicitly asks you to do that, then plop it in there before the analysis: "A will bring a claim against B for battery. The elements of battery are XYZ." And then continue as usual.

2807 wrote:No extra points for verbose flowery nonsense.

That depends on the professor; there are professor who will reward for totally off-topic BS, but you should have an idea by now who they are (if any). Generally I agree though: be concise.
Last edited by hoos89 on Sun Nov 16, 2014 4:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Trouble Starting on Practice Exam Question...

Postby 2807 » Sun Nov 16, 2014 4:36 pm

hoos89 (above) has a good point.
I would listen to that advice.
My advice is fairly fundamental, and will likely save you, but at median.
Good point.

Maybe try a hybrid of IRAC fundamentals to keep you structured, and the awareness of the concepts hoos89 address too.

Done with law school, I think I am more Bar exam focused in my approach where median = attorney.
I am likely not the best person to address how to do better than median on a law school exam.
So, therefore, I will defer to the sharp kids.

I'm old. I found comfort in the structure of IRAC .... and median.

Onward !


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Re: Trouble Starting on Practice Exam Question...

Postby NotMyRealName09 » Tue Nov 18, 2014 6:40 pm

Eight Secrets of Top Exam Performance in Law School.

Aside from hard work making my own outlines and getting lucky by being born intelligent, this right here made me top of my class first semester 1L. The posters above touch on the basics and are on-point, but it's all right in this book, easily accessible. Do what the book says. Trust the book. Don't let the stupid title fool you into dismissing the power of the book.

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