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Back to Exam Preparation

Exam Writing and Common Mistakes

The Call to Question

(This is the part of the exam problem that directs the student about what to answer.)

  • Provides structure for answer
  • Gives specific guidance for response

The Body of the Question

  • Supplies Content for Answering the
  • Gives Boundaries for Answer

Organization Matters

  • Organizing helps the reader discern the analysis
    • Order by the time line of the events in the problem
    • Organize analysis for each party in the problem. This aids students and readers in knowing the issues for each relevant person in the problem.
    • Use the course material to organize. Some examples include: a checklist, the elements of a legal principle, a familiar series of questions the professor asks in class.

Common Mistakes

  • Not following the directions set out by the professor
    • Not playing the role or following the perspective assigned in the question
    • Not using the format, such as, letter, memo, or judicial opinion
  • Not responding to all parts of a question. It is helpful to designate which part is being answered and to use the same order
  • Answering a question that is not responsive to or is different from what the professor asks in the call of the question.
  • Failure to organize
    • Makes it difficult for the reader to follow
    • Analysis seems lacking when there are gaps in the sequence
  • Using theory to explain instead of applying factual situation
  • Choice of words IS important
  • Words reflecting the question are responsive to what is asked.
    • Using wording from the problem shows the student recognizes the relevance of those particular facts, language, and events
    • Use terms accurately. Misuse of terms indicates misunderstanding of concepts or lack of precise analysis
  • Failure to use a checklist
    • May result in forgetting issues that the student knows but does not remember in the excitement of the exam

*© Martha M. Peters, Ph.D. 1999.