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THE MOST IMPORTANT SKILLS TO PASS LAW EXAMS

The Most Important Skills to Pass Law Exams

The most important exam skills required to pass law school exams combine legal knowledge with analysis, reasoning, organization, time management, and effective written communication. Law exam examiners assess these fundamental skills when grading law school exams that are typically tested in the form of essay exams and multiple-choice questions.

There are two major steps for developing the exam skills necessary to pass law exams.

First - Learn The Law With The Help Of Law School Study Guides For Law Students

Learning the substantive law is the first step necessary to pass law exams. This can be achieved through multiple published law school study guides for law students, such as casebooks, hornbooks, and substantive law outlines.

Learning the law requires time, diligence, and good memory. Nonetheless, most law students are proficient with this step by the time of mid-term and final exams.

Second - Practice Law Exams To Develop Reasoning And Test-Taking Skills

Once having grasped a command of the law, it is time to integrate practice exams into the study schedule. This step advances the analysis, reasoning, organization, time management, and effective written communication skills necessary to pass law exams.

Practicing law exams is more challenging than learning the law because it requires law students to part with the law school study guides and engages in self-testing to actively develop test-taking skills.

Practice exams are widely available in law school libraries, online, and through commercial providers like Fleming’s Fundamentals of Law. In addition, there are exam skills courses for law students, like those offered by Fleming’s, that teach the exam methods and reasoning skills necessary to achieve success on law school exams.

With essay exams, law students must demonstrate the ability to analyze by spotting facts in a hypothetical, organizing those issues, and writing an effective answer under timed conditions.

With multiple-choice questions, law students must be able to analyze facts in a hypothetical and choose the best answer from four given answer options under timed conditions.

Diligent practice is the only way to become proficient with both of these testing formats.

Essay Exam Practice

It is important to integrate essay exam practice into the study schedule to become familiar with multiple fact patterns that raise issues and arguments that are the same types of fact patterns tested on mid-term and final exams. It allows students to develop analytical, organizational, and writing skills under timed conditions.

Reviewing past essay exams tells law students what they really know, and where they must spend more time studying. For example, most students can memorize the rules related to certain contracts that are required to be in writing by the Statute of Frauds. However, if students miss the fact that an agreement was made on "the telephone," a fact that raises an application of the Statute of Frauds on a final examination, it really doesn't matter how much he or she actually knows about the Statute of Frauds and its rule. If the issue analysis does not appear in the answer, the answer will receive no credit for the issue, despite the fact that the student could recite the memorized rule in the law school hallways.

Included in essay exam skills is the ability to demonstrate effective analytical writing under timed conditions. The ability to convey thoughts in a concise and reasoned manner is the end result of learning the rules, developing analytical skills, and then using those skills in the context of examinations. This skill is learned and perfected only through practice.

Essay Exam Practice - How To Take

To properly analyze, organize, and write an effective essay exam answer, there is a series of sequential steps to follow.

First, start with the Call of the Question, which is usually located at the end of the hypothetical. It reveals what the Examiners want to know so that the facts, yet to be read, can be put in that context. The Call reveals a wide variety of information including the subject being tested, the parties, and organizational structure to be considered, possible issues, and an occasional reference to the applicable law. Some Calls reveal all of these things. Some reveal only a few.

Second, read the hypothetical facts once for content only. Focus on the story. Pay attention to the names of the parties, dates, quoted language, verbs, adverbs, adjectives, etc. If there is any confusion, read the hypothetical again for clarity.

Third, once understanding the story, begin issue spotting. Start at the beginning of the fact pattern. Go paragraph by paragraph, sentence-by-sentence. As each issue is identified, jot it down in the margin of the exam next to the facts that raised it.

Fourth, if during the study process, mental checklists and approaches for issue spots have been developed, which are recommended issue spotting tools, use them to pick up extra issues that could be overlooked without them, because the more issues that are spotted and analyzed in the answer, the higher the grade will be.

The difference between mental checklists and approaches is that checklists help to spot the issue; approaches reveal how to write the issue after it is spotted.

Fifth, reread the Call of the Question to confirm a thorough understanding of what the Examiners want in the answer.

Sixth, transfer the issues to a formal outline sheet, making sure they are properly organized.

Seventh, go back and skim the hypothetical one last time to pick up any additional issues that may have been overlooked in steps #3 and #4. Add those issues to the outline.

Eighth, reread the Call of the Question one last time, making sure the issues on the outline are properly organized under the appropriate call if there is more than one.

Finally, write the answer, using the proper presentation for each issue, which is usually referred to as IRAC (issue, rule, analysis, conclusion) or IREAC (issue, rule, explanation, analysis, conclusion).

Multiple Choice Exam Practice – How To Take

Taking multiple choice exams follows a similar process as taking an essay exam. However, it is not as complicated because taking multiple-choice questions comes down to picking the best right answer from four given options.

First, like the essay process, start with the Call of the Question, which is usually located at the end of the hypothetical. It tells the student what the Examiners want to know so that when proceeding to the facts, yet to be read, they can be read in that context.

Second, read each of the four answer options with the Call in mind. Often, several of the options can be eliminated at that stage based on what the Call is asking.

Third, read the hypothetical facts once for content only. Pay attention to the names of the parties, dates, quoted language, verbs, adverbs, adjectives, etc. If there is any confusion, read the hypothetical again for clarity.

Fourth, reread the Call and the four options.

Fifth, pick the option that best fits the Call and the related facts. Mark the answer and move to the next multiple choice question. Repeat the process.

Developing The Most Important Skills To Pass Law Exams

Using study guides for law students to learn the law, consistently practicing with law exams, and taking a skills course for law students are the foundational keys for developing the skills needed to succeed in law school and pass the CA Bar Exam.

For most law school subjects and for every CA Bar Exam tested subject, Fleming’s offers the Exam Solutions study guides specifically created for law students. Each Fleming’s Exam Solution subject includes a comprehensive online substantive law skills course for law students together with a PDF substantive law outline that follows the video presentation and also contains sample essay questions with answers specifically selected for that particular subject. 

There are no short cuts in law school when it comes to developing the skills needed to pass law exams. With diligent study and practice, law students will have full command of the legal rules associated with the subject matter and will be able to demonstrate exam proficiency by the time of mid-terms and final exams.

Last update of the article 06/30/2020

For more information, or to speak with Fleming’s attorney about Fleming’s courses and materials, call Fleming’s now at 1-949-770-7030.

Next article Best Preparation Practices To Prepare For The July 2020 California Bar Exam

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