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School of Law

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.