Many of our law students ask us if they can pre-write law school exam answers — or have “canned” law school exam answers ready for their exam. The answer to that question is both yes and no.
- Yes, you can have a list of rules and cases that you will likely cite in response to a specific problem. (And this can increase your score significantly!!)
- No, you cannot write your entire answer verbatim before the final exam! (You get a lot of points for applying the law to the facts and you do not know what the facts are until you get to the exam day!)
However, we have helped students at top law schools get “A’s” in their first-year courses by coming up with a great law school exam answer checklist that they use in response to specific fact patterns. Let me give you an example.
Example on How to Pre-Write Law School Exam Answers
If you are taking Civil Procedure, and you are learning jurisdiction (personal jurisdiction, subject matter jurisdiction, venue, etc.) there are certainly specific cases or concepts that your professor will want you to discuss should you be confronted with a jurisdiction issue. For example, my personal jurisdiction checklist was about a page and a half long, but looked like this:
- Question 1: Is there consent, service or domicile? (General jurisdiction)
- Consent: can be explicit or implicit
- Service: (Pennoyer)
- Question 2: Is there continuous and systematic contacts? (Perkins, Helicopteros)
- Question 3: Are there minimum contacts? (International Shoe)
- No contacts (no jurisdiction)
- Casual and isolated (no jurisdiction)
- Specific–single act (McGee yes, Hanson no)
- Continuous and limited (International Shoe, Burger King)
Having a checklist of questions to run through was helpful for a few reasons.
- First, I knew that I was not missing a step! Professors give quite a few points for connecting the dots in your analysis. For example, virtually every personal jurisdiction essay question should start by asking “Is there general jurisdiction?” even if the answer to that question is “no.”
- Second, it helped me associate case names with concepts. I am not a big fan of reading or briefing every case in law school. But the seminal cases, like International Shoe, should be cited in law school exam answers if possible. This increases your score!
- Third, it gave me confidence going into the exam. I wasn’t just blindly going to the exam with a million different personal jurisdiction concepts swirling around in my head–rather, I went in with an organized checklist of concepts that I should consider discussing in response to a fact pattern.
- Lastly, it increased my score! Remember you are generally compared to your peers, who will not be approaching the final exam so methodically! By having a checklist you can refer to, you will be in great shape!
How do you make this law school exam checklist?
There are a few ways you can do it:
- First, go through your class notes or your outline and start organizing the rules of law into categories. If there are specific cases that you spent a long time on in class, then include those in your checklist (especially if you are taking a case-focused course like constitutional law, civil procedure, or torts. Cases are less improtant in classes like contracts.)
- Second, see if your professor has past exams on file. If there are sample answers, model student answers, or your professor’s exam grading rubric, then by all means, study these! Add any relevant points to your checklist.
- Third, even if your professor does not include a sample answer, model answer, or grading rubric with an exam that he or she has on file, still study the exam. Slowly go through your notes and see which concepts are relevant to the fact pattern. Your professor will likely test many of the same issues.
If you have any questions on making a law school exam checklist, please feel free to contact us or post in the comments below!
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