Thursday, April 16, 2009
Posted by Alan Childress
Maybe it is actually too late for some of the more useful exam-taking tips (like listen and engage during the course, and study hard), but I thought I would point to some good advice for test-takers in law schools right now who are about to enter that Matrix once again. (Of course, grading them is often like seeing a cat arch his back again and saying "Whoooa, deja vu." And a few exams remind me more of Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure. Which makes me wonder what happened to the actor who played Bill? Oh, turns out Alex Winter played "Bill S. Preston, Esq.," and then went on to several projects as either actor, producer or director. My bad.)
One much-linked source is Jeff Lipshaw's classic post here at LPB on exam-taking: Beyond IRAC. Add to that this new post on discourse.net listing advice from two other law profs. One explains pithily what we mean by applying the law rather than being conclusory, and about time budgeting (that skipping one question cannot be salvaged by excellence elsewhere). Another points out you should be "answering the question rather than trying to show how much you know or how much work you have done - relevance is crucial"; I often find that first-years, especially, want to prove to me they learned the whole course on every question, when my question may be (likely is) more focused than that.
Read also the comments to this post, as a debate ensues over the value of outlining advice from Getting To Maybe, and other readers post a few more good tips. One notes that a lot of exam tip sources such as Getting To Maybe are like diet books--you know the hard part so just do it. I would add an analogy to reading lots of golf instruction books. At some point the best advice is to take practice exams and then follow that by taking practice exams. Repeat.