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School of Law

 Exam Preparation

Exam Preparation is very important. Listed below is a general plan for exam writing. It is also important to check out common exam mistakes. In addition, there are different kinds of exams; you should try to develop an approach to Multiple Choice Exams and learn to evaluate Practice Essay Problems.

A General Plan for Exams

  • Check List
    • Main points
    • Any known "blind spots"
    • 1/2 - 1 page before reading the exam questions.
  • Timing
    • Use suggested time or number of points to calculate time allocations.
    • Write ending time by each question. (example: 10:26)
    • Use 1/3-1/2 time to deconstruct question, brainstorm, and plan answer.
    • When time is up: Be ruthless - STOP and move to the next question.
  • Reading the question
    • Read "call to question" first - (before reading the full question)
    • Read the full question for the purpose of understanding the story level of the hypothetical. Diagram or sketch the fact pattern to clarify the alignment of parties and interests.
    • Read call to question again to be sure you know what you are being asked to answer.
    • Look at the question for a second time, searching for ambiguities and issues that relate to the call of the question. Consult checklist.
    • Read call to question literally. What specifically do you need to answer?
    • Examine the question from a "big picture" perspective. What kinds of analysis must happen to "advise your client" or answer the intention of the question. What are the possibilities you see?
    • Use your checklist to help you look for other issues that could or should be in this question as you read it for the third time.
    • Ask yourself about each fact: "Why is my professor telling me this? How does this contribute to or alter my analysis of what I have been asked to do?
  • Preparing to answer the question
    • Use of your time to plan an answer for a question with unlimited space for writing, but for space limited answers, plan more carefully using up to ½ of your time.
    • Prepare an event diagram.
    • Create an issue and fact outline or sketch.
  • Writing an answer
    • Use paragraphs.
    • Skip lines, if possible.
    • Follow your plan or outline
      • For better organization
      • Because it decreases skipping or missing important points
    • Use terminology of course being examined.
    • Be direct
  • Following exams
    • Don't talk over the exam with other students
    • Watch a good movie to take your mind off of the hypothetical stories in the exam.

© Martha M. Peters, Ph.D. 1999.