This time of year I read a lot of practice exams for students that I tutor. And almost every student I work with feels like they are running low on time when it comes to finishing an exam. So how do you work more efficiently? How do you know what you can speed through an issue to save time? Here are two suggestions that I typically give to students to help them write more efficiently on law school exams.
Don’t spend too much time on rule statements.
You have spent hours and hours outlining and learning rule statements. If you are taking a closed book exam, you have also spent tons of time memorizing. So come exam time, you are terribly excited (yes, excited) to show the professor how many rules that you memorized.
How could there be any problem with this?
Well, unfortunately, on a law school exam, although rule statements are important, they are not the most important part of the exam. The most important part is analysis (we have talked about this before, right?). Rule statements help you do analysis by stating the rule you are going to apply. That is all. Lengthly rule statements, especially those that include everything and the kitchen sink are typically not your best bet on a law school exam. Especially if it is an open book test, your professor is unlikely to reward your ability to copy down lots of rules, right?
So if you are finding you are running out of time on exams, spend a little time looking at your rule statements. Could you streamline them? Here is one rule of thumb you can use to judge if your rule statements are too long: Are your rule statements generally longer than your analysis? If so, you want to review your IRAC and evaluate how you are spending your time.
Don’t spend too much time on minor issues.
Not all issues on a law school exam are created equally. Based on the facts presented in the fact pattern, there are major and minor issues. One place I see that students waste their time, is spending too much time on minor issues. Sometimes an issues is a simple one only requiring quick analysis to get all available points. Spending a lot more time on that issue is unlikely to get you any additional points. Instead, you should be spending time on major issues, those where you have ambiguous facts and the opportunity to argue both sides. Those are going to get you many more points than the lengthily analysis of a simple issue.
Keeping these tips in mind will help you manage your time better on exams. Good luck!
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Have you done okay on a law school exam when you were really unprepared? Share your tips!
Taking exams? Here are some posts you might find helpful:
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- How to Recover from a Bad Law School Exam Experience
- You’re Totally Unprepared for a Law School Exam! How to Avoid Disaster
- Five Steps for Setting Yourself Up for Second-Semester Success
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