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School of Law

Back to Exam Preparation

Multiple Choice Exams

The Finz Multistate Method*

  • Construction of a Question
    • Root of the Question (FACTS):
      • Contains the underlying facts
      • Can be written in past or present tense
      • May be followed by one or several sets of options
      • Most facts may be significant or irrelevant
    • Stem of the Question("CALL" of Options):
      • Contains the call of the options
      • Can be in the form of a question or sentence completion
      • May specify the cause of action or theory a party is advancing
    • Options (Answer Choices):
      • May state conclusions
      • May link a conclusion with a supporting reason
      • Only one is correct
  • Distractors and Foils:
    • Distractors & Foils are used to hide the correct answer amongst the other options:
      • Distractor: Serves to compellingly and confusingly attract in the wrong direction
      • Foil: Serves to set off another thing to advantage or disadvantage by contrasting with it.
    • Incomplete Definitions and Arguments
      • Lawyers must use precise language
      • Some distractors and foils use incomplete or imprecise statements
      • Do NOT allow yourself to complete the argument or definition in your mind and conclude that it is the correct answer
    • Dealing with the facts :
      • Do NOT assume anything in addition to what has been established or given.
      • Do NOT ignore facts that are given
      • The root of the question may be filled with implausible facts in an effort to trick you into rejecting them.
      • Accept the given facts no matter how unlikely or implausible they seem.
    • Overlooking the obvious
      • Occasionally, there is an option which is so obviously correct that there is no rational excuse for missing it
      • Do NOT overlook a gift.
    • Plausible Creations
      • Have confidence in your knowledge of the subject based on the hardwork you've done over the semester
      • Intimidation leads students to reject options which are obviously correct in favor of something meaningless
      • A Latin phrase is often at the core of these plausible creations
      • If an option cites a doctrine or rule that you've never heard of before, it is probably incorrect
    • Unfamiliar Phrases
      • Familiar concepts maybe described using non traditional words
      • The key is remembering that the same idea maybe phrased in several ways and the substance is more important than the form
  • Role Playing
    • Acting as the Judge
      • Typical stem: If John sues Mary for battery, the court should find in favor of...
      • In this role, you are not focused on questions of fact
      • See whether the facts and law are accurately stated. If not, reject the option.
      • See whether the conclusion offered is consistent with teh argument advanced. If not, reject the option.
      • There will be only one option in which the argument advanced is based on accurate statements of fact and law and is consistent with the conclusion offered. Select it, even if you dod not like the result.
    • Acting as the Advocate
      • Typical stem: Which of the following is the most effect argument in favor of Mary's position?
      • Advocates work towards a particular result, the result you've been told to accomplish
      • The Advocate assumes the client can win and then makes the argument most likely to bring about victory.
      • Examine each of the options in turn to see whether the law is accurately stated and whether the inferences on which it is based are justified by the facts which are given. If not, reject it.
      • See whether the option presented could possibly result in victory for the client assigned to you in the stem. If not, reject it.
      • There will be only one option in which the argument advanced is based on accurate statements of law and fact and which supports your client's position. Select it, even if you don't believe your client can win.
    • Acting as the Scholar
      • Typical stem: The interest in Blackacre which John had on the day after Testatrix's death is best described as a...
      • The Scholar does not try to decide or influence the outcome.
      • The Scholar uses his or her knowledge of the law to recognize the legal significance of a particular fact or to select the most applicable rule.
      • Focus on the specific issues involved and try to resolve them in your mind. Then examine each of the options carefully and select the one which comes closest to the selection you have already formulated.
  • Selecting the Correct Option
    • Simple Options: Options that only state possible conclusions.
      • Simple does not equate to easy
      • Strategy: Keeping in mind the elements of the applicable rule of law, check the root to see if every element is satisfied by the facts given.
      • Mark each option with either a "T" or "F". Only mark an option with a "T" if every element is met by the given facts.
    • Complex Options: Options consisting of two parts: a conclusion and a reason or condition giving rise to the conclusion.
      • "Because" as a conjunction: Couples a conclusion with a reason for the conclusion
        • Mark each option with either a "T" or "F".
        • Determine whether the reason given is based on an accurate statement. If the reason is based on an inaccurate statement of either facts or law, the option gets an "F".
        • Even if the reason given is based on accurate statements of facts or law, it only gets a "T" if the reason logically justifies the conclusion.
      • "If" as a conjunction: Couples a conclusion with a condition requiring that conclusi
        • Using "if" requires that you assume the condition following it.
        • Assume that the "if" condition exists and then decide whether it locially justifies the conclusion.
      • "Only if" as a conjunction: Couples a conclusion with an exclusive condition.
        • An option of this kind makes only one absolute statement
        • Decide whether the "only if" condition is the only thing in the world that could possibly justify the conclusion.
      • "Unless" as a conjunction: Couples a conclusion with still a negative exclusive condition.
        • "Unless" requires that you assume the condition following it
        • Decide whether the "unless" condition is in fact the only condition which could make the conclusion false.

Top 5 Errors on Multiple Choice Exams**

  1. Making Assumptions:
    Read slowly so as not to fall prey to this mistake by making assumptions about the fact pattern.
    Read slowly to ensure you are answering the question that is being asked.
    Do not disregard an answer simply because it is too simple.
    Avoid filling in the blanks to achieve your answer as opposed to the actual answer to the question.
  2. Getting distracted by a option that tracks a case: Some options may be correct statements but not the best answer. Be sure to check that the option is the best answer for the question being asked.
  3. Disagreeing with the question being asked: When you find yourself thinking a question is impractical, don't disregard it. Focus on answering the question asked not what you think should have been asked.
  4. Answering as a Lay Person: Look for the appropriate legal test not what you believe is the “just” or “right” result that does not track the legal rule.
  5. Not Reading all the options: We are conditioned to work quickly but avoid skipping options once you've seen what you think is the correct answer. Be sure to read all options carefully.

Additional Resources:

Rogelio A. Lasso, Professor, University of Missouri-Kansas City, How to Answer Multiple Choice Questions


*Adopted from Steven R. Finz, The Finz Multistate Method (Aspen Publishers). See Dr. Peters for the complete article.

**Adopted from "A Helping Students Unravel the Mysteries of Multiple Choice Exams," @ The Learning Curve, Newsletter for Academic Support Professionals, spring 2004, pp. 5-7.