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Turn Studying Into Success On Your Law School Essay Exams

Turn Studying Into Success On Your Law School Essay Exams

To achieve a passing score on your law school essay exams, you must effectively brief your assigned cases, create carefully crafted substantive law study outlines, and practice essay exam writing on a regular basis. Do those things and you will achieve success in law school. 

To begin an effective study program, you must first brief all of your assigned cases, because you locate the rules from the cases and you learn the legal reasoning that is foundational to your legal analysis skill development. 

Next, you must attend all of your classes and take copious notes, which is paramount to incorporating the relevant material from class discussions into your study outline. By briefing your cases and engaging in classroom activity, you will enhance your ability to memorize and understand the issues and rules for each course. You will then use that expertise to maximize skill development in the law school process.

Finally, and most important to the study process, you must incorporate essay exam practice into your study program by practicing your essay analysis and writing skills under timed, simulated exam conditions. Practicing essay examsmanship will tell you what you know and what you need to improve so you can write on all the issues tested in each exam within exam timing parameters - usually sixty minutes for most essay exams.  

Law student study guides and class discussions assist with learning issues and rules, but only you can develop essay writing skills. You must learn to apply the law to law school exams, and the only way to become proficient in doing so is to practice exams under timed conditions so you learn how to perform to your full potential by the time of your midterm and final exams. 


Your Study Outline is Your Guide to Success

For the reasons given above, creating a substantive law study outline for each course is foundational to preparing for your law school essay exams. Your outline should include all of the issues and rules in the order you are learning them in your classes.  

In Torts, for example, you will generally commence with learning the intentional torts. As such, for your study outline, you would head-note the first intentional tort, e.g., Assault, and then provide the Assault rule. You should add anything notable regarding each issue that may be tested on the exam - such as transferred intent - when learning intentional torts. 

Commercial law school study outlines like those offered by Fleming’s Fundamentals of Law are a tremendous resource when creating your own study outlines. They provide a comprehensive presentation of the subject material and ensure you have all the correct issues and rule statements in your own study outlines. You can use these commercial study guides to cross-reference issues in your selected law school subject to make sure you have included all of the required issues and rules, especially for complicated subjects like Products Liability and Defamation. These study guides are also a great resource to ensure you have all of the correct elements in your rule statements because every rule element of every rule must be developed when the related issue is raised by the facts of an essay exam. 

By combining the use of commercial law school study outlines with your own study outlines, you will have the best of all study resources, which promotes excellence in the law school process. 


Case Briefing Is An Important Component To Studying For Exams

The purpose of briefing cases is not only to learn the history and development of law but to extract your rules and learn legal reasoning that then must be incorporated into your law school essay exams. 

It is imperative to brief your cases yourself. Students who use canned briefs cheat themselves because they miss an integral part of the legal education that cannot be developed by any other means. Students who use canned briefs may save time, but they sacrifice the process of developing foundational legal reasoning skills that only comes from briefing cases themselves. 

When briefing your cases, you learn where information is generally located within the cases. You learn where to look for the case rules, how to identify the case reasoning, and how to incorporate those essential case ingredients into your course study outline. You also learn how the Court holds due to its discussion of the parties’ arguments and counter-arguments. That information is crucial because it assists with developing your analysis skills.  


Commit To Attending All Class Lectures

The California State Bar requires 80% attendance in your classes. However, best practice is that you strive for 100% class attendance. The lectures and discussions will reinforce your case briefing and assist with your comprehension of the subject, which translates into stronger analysis skills. Your professors will also provide you with insight regarding how to write a law exam for their respective courses. Take notes and incorporate the relevant portion of your notes into your study outline. 


Memorize Your Issues And Rules

When it comes to memorizing your issues and rules, you need to understand whether you are a visual, auditory, or reading/writing learner. Because I am a writing learner, I would memorize my issues and rules by writing them over and over again. My son is an auditory learner, so he can learn from a lecture without ever taking notes. For visual learners, flashcards are an excellent resource for learning rule statements. Determining how you learn and incorporating that into your study process will add to your success. 


Follow The IRAC Format When Writing Your Answer

For first-year law students, part of your studies includes understanding how to write a law school exam in the IRAC (Issue / Rule / Analysis-Application / Conclusion) format. It is imperative that you always write on each issue in the order you spot it in the exam. 

For example, in a Torts exam, if you have an Assault, a Battery, a second Assault, and a Conversion, you must write them in that order. However, the Call of the Question will govern, so always follow the Call because defenses may be written under a separate Call. Failure to correctly write on the Call of the Question and according to the instructions contained in each Call can result in a failing grade. 

In crafting your exam answer, you must start your answer with the title of the lawsuit such as "Pete v. David", because you need to show the professor who the litigants are in the case. You then head-note the first issue, which should be in bold and underlined so the grader can quickly identify the issue. Next, write the rule statement, then your analysis, and finally a conclusion for that issue. Repeat the process for each subsequent issue your raise. 

Fleming's offers a number of study guides for law school and Bar exam tested subjects that provide sample essay questions and model answers to ensure you have the correct format for passing any law school essay exam. 

If you’d like to see an excellent example of what I’m talking about, just click here.


Practice, Practice, Practice Your Essay Writing

Once you have learned how to create an effective substantive law outline with complete rules, you must take timed practice exams. This is the only way to develop your timing and analysis skills. 

One of the most fatal errors in writing a law school essay exam is running out of time. I do not believe there is a faster sixty minutes than taking a law school essay exam, so you must prepare under timed conditions. 

So often law students believe they understand the rules...until they take timed practice exams. Suddenly, they realize they do not really understand a part of a rule or how to apply the facts to a rule. They also realize that if they do not finish in the allotted exam time, they cannot pass the exam no matter how well they understand the law. Thus, practicing examsmanship teaches you how to allocate time in order to finish - a crucial exam requirement. 

Your law school exam practice must also include developing your analysis, which demands that you write on each element of the rule, supporting or negating it with the facts in a persuasive manner. With practice, you will be able to discover and rectify any weaknesses in your exam skills prior to taking your midterms and finals, which always results in high exam scores. 


Have The Determination And Discipline To Achieve Success On Your Essay Exams

It is important to understand that effective study for essay exams incorporates all aspects of what you are learning in law school. If you are having a difficult time with one aspect of the process, you need to dig deep and work even harder until you understand it. The worst thing you can do in law school is to settle for less than your goal. Having the discipline and determination to follow this approach will turn your hard work into success when taking your laws school essay exams. 

By implementing the principles described above, you will turn your studying into success, both in law school and on your law school essay exams.

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