Exam Tips

  • Take practice exams. To be truly effective, write out an answer under timed conditions. Reading an exam question and sample answer is not as helpful.
  • Read the instructions for the exam carefully. In the heat of the moment, it is tempting to skip over the instructions. This is a really bad idea. It is very important to note the time allotted or word limits for each question. Allocate your time and stick to the time limits.  It cannot possibly help your grade to overlook such instructions.
  • Pay attention to the call of the question. What are you being asked to do? If your professor asks you to make the best arguments for the plaintiff, or write an appellate court opinion, make sure you do that.
  • Skim the entire exam once. Make sure you know how many questions there are. See where the major issues are. You do not want to waste your time fully exploring an issue in response to question 1, only to find that the issue is the focus of question 2.
  • Read the entire fact pattern of a question carefully before beginning to answer. Though there may be an occasional red herring, each fact is usually there for a reason.
  • Spend some time organizing and outlining your answer before beginning to write. Again, it is tempting to panic and begin writing, especially if everyone around you is furiously typing away. But your answer will be better organized, and possibly even better thought out, if you spend approximately a quarter of your time allotted for the question outlining before writing. If you run out of time to answer a question, outline what you were going to say. You may get points for this. This is also a very good reason why you want to outline before you begin writing; your outline will come in handy if you run out of time.
  • IRAC your answers. Identify the issues and the rules, show how the rules apply to the facts of the question, and offer a conclusion. Remember that the most important part of IRAC for purposes of writing your exam is your analysis of how the rules apply to the facts. Lay out the arguments on both sides. Show how you reached the conclusions you did.
  • Carry out your analysis. For example, on a contracts question, even if you conclude there was no offer, you should still analyze whether there was an acceptance. There are usually no absolute answers on exams, so don't cut off your analysis based on a possibly incorrect conclusion.
  • Finally, write clearly. Use short sentences and break your paragraphs often. Avoid lengthy introductions. Give a concise and thoughtful analysis of the problem.