Thursday, April 20, 2006

Exam Plan II-Strategies by Subject

In the fall I wrote about having an “exam plan,” that is, a time management strategy for getting through the reading period and exams. But I have been thinking lately about having another sort of exam plan in addition to time management.  I have been asking students to come up with an exam strategy, that is, a method they plan to employ while taking the exam to maximize time efficiency and organization of their answers.

I know it sounds a little like a carnival tonic, but here’s the idea: have a plan of attack for each subject. For example, a student could plan to tackle a Torts exam by creating a chart of the parties v. the other parties (after reading the question, of course), listing the potential causes of action that arise between each set of parties and then use this chart as a check list of issues to deal with in their answer. It would probably look something like this:

A v. B-negligence, battery

A v. C-negligence, tortuous interference with a K

A v. D-nuisance

B v. C-assault, etc.

In Contracts and Civil Procedure the strategy could be more chronological. Think of it as an obstacle course, what are the hurdles to be cleared? In Contracts, a student needs to deal with formation, and then the terms of the contract, and then if there has been a breach, and finally if there are damages from the breach and then remedies. Don’t forget to think outside the box and cover non- and quasi-contractual concepts as well. In Civil Procedure, a student might have to think through jurisdiction,  complaint, answer, 12(b) motions, joinder, discovery, summary judgment, etc.

I have advised students that having a planned course of action before even starting the exam is a good idea. If you have a closed book exam you might want to memorize a very skeletal checklist of potential issues and immediately write it down on your exam paper. In an open book exam, bring your “obstacle course” with you. I also have advised students that this kind of planning can be done collaboratively with a study group (as opposed to outlining which should be done alone).

Personally, I had to write the words, “counterarguments” and “defenses” at the top of every one of my exams. I guess I had a problem with being wrong. (ezs)

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