Law School Exam-Taking Tips for First Year Law Students

In October 2004, I gave a talk to Marquette first years about taking law school exams. I thought it would be useful to share my notes from that talk:

Preparing for the Exam

1. Learn how to take law school exams

2. Determine how the professor will evaluate the course

• open book v. closed book

• multiple choice v. checklist v. holistic

3. Do every sample exam you can

• If the professor doesn’t make sample exams available, ask for them!

Taking the Exam

4. Manage your time

• Allocate time in accordance with points

• Don’t freak out

[For essay exams]

5. Spend extra time issue-spotting

• Mix it up with the facts

6. Invest in organization

• Put your strongest arguments first

7. Answer all questions asked

• Don’t answer a question that wasn’t asked

• Don’t answer the question from the wrong perspective

8. If you are uncertain about the facts or the law, state your assumptions and discuss both ways

9. Don’t brain-dump

• Cutting and pasting costs the professor’s confidence

• More words aren’t better; it’s about the right words

10. Be accurate with the law and the terms

11. If you’re handwriting, write legibly

After the Exam

12. Move on and don’t compare notes

13. After grading is completed, review every exam to learn what you did right and what you can improve

14. Recognize the poor correlation between grades and anything that matters