Law School Academic Support Blog

Editor: Amy Jarmon
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Essay Exam-Answering Tips

Amy Jarmon recently asked me if I would consider adding some posts on a continuing (irregular) basis pointing out “…not only on patterns of error that students have in exam writing, but also on tips how to correct those errors.  A lot of students read the blog,” Amy continued, “and could benefit from postings that focused each time on one type of error and practical tips for correcting that specific error.  It would also help those of us who look at practice questions or review exams with students as a good refresher.  It is easy for us to ‘get stale’ in our discussions.” 

Amy is right about getting stale.  When we use our same notes semester after semester for our “How to Write a High-Scoring Essay Exam Answer” presentations, then answer the same student questions week after week in the office about “What’s the professor looking for in my answer?” or “Should I use IRAC?” … we get stale. 

Because my work these days is principally devoted to commenting on essay exam answers, I tend to avoid that problem (that’s right – I don’t avoid it – I only “tend” to).  Almost every day, I grade and comment on several essay exam answers online for Concord Law School.  Although the same problems pop up very often, each exam answer is different.  So I wind up writing quite a bit of fresh commentary. 

Exam tips must be in context to have meaning.  So here’s how I’ll approach this task.  I’ve just added a “context schemata” to a page on my blog … and each time I add a tip to the Law School Academic Support Blog I will assign it a number (based on the date) which will make it easy to locate in the schemata.  As Amy Jarmon put it, “It would be helpful to our student readers (as well as to our ASP readers) to have tip entries that address specific problems and the ability to see them within the greater context.  Those who become readers part way through the series would be better served by the continuity provided.  In addition, students with differing learning styles would benefit from the two-layer approach.”  Right!

Soon I will add the first “tip” to this blog, and we’ll see how it goes.  If/when you have suggestions for exam-answering problem areas you think ought to be addressed, send them along to me and I’ll do my best to respond!  (djt)

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