There is, of course, no substitute for an accurate understanding of legal doctrine, and an ability to see a legal issue lurking in a fact pattern.
But exam-writing is a skill that can be practiced and learned. Seize the opportunity to practice and develop this skill, and take seriously the feedback that you receive. With the proper attitude and effort, you should succeed.
There are two components to be successful in an exam. First, you must know the law. Second, you must know how to analyze fact patterns that suggest which law is relevant and write about your analysis in a form your evaluer is expecting.
We believe that the harder of the two components is the analysis and writing. You cannot imagine how difficult it is to write a coherent answer.
We demonstrate this way – students are given a question and an answer. After the question is discussed, the analysis, and the answer in depth, they are asked to write out the answer in their own words. They look at in disbelief, “What good will that do us? We already know the answer.” “Just try it.” At the end of the time allotted to write, the attitude has changed.
Most students do not even finish. Even with a sample answer in front of them, they have trouble framing their own sentences and stringing them together into coherent paragraphs. They had assumed that knowing the law was enough. They did not realize that writing about it would be so hard.
Examiner expects you to know how to write logical answers to the questions.
“I saw the issues, but I couldn’t figure out how to talk about them.”
“I got lost in the middle of my answer and never finished. “
“I talked about kidnapping, but I never got to anything else.”
“I had no idea how to organize the answer.”
These are the comments students normally make. They always say, “I knew the answer,” and we are sure that they are right because they mean that they learned the material as it was presented in the books. They thought it was enough to learn their outlines, and they worked exceptionally long hours in learning them.
However, they were doomed from the start because they had not learned to demonstrate what they knew.
Since you need to show your examiner that you can relate the facts in the issue spotter to the law, it is helpful to know an answer format you can turn to under the stress of an exam. I like to start each paragraph with the rule for the theory which I will discuss in the paragraph. If all the elements of that rule are not clear, then I like to get the elements that are clear dispensed with first by stating which words in the fact pattern make them clear. Then I turn to the element that is at issue. I would argue both sides of the issue, come to a conclusion, and go on to the next theory.
Practice is the key to your success. Do not be tempted to think it is enough to read the questions and answers in this book.
Although this might reinforce your understanding of the law, it will do nothing to help you be prepared for demonstrating everything you know in a three hour exam. The time spent in writing out an answer to a question in your own words is time well spent.
Short questions are answered differently from the longer questions. The most important thing to remember in answering these questions is to focus on the question that you are being asked to answer. Be sure that you know what you’re being asked to answer, and answer it precisely. Do not delve off into areas that you are not being asked to answer thinking that it might get you points.