Effective Test-Taking Skills
Being an effective and skillful test-taker is the bedrock to success in law school and on the bar exam. This precept is profiled in an article written by Myron Moskovitz, a law professor at the prestigious University of California Berkeley School of Law, and published in December 2019, in the renowned Daily Journal. The article punctuates effective test-taking skills in law school as the number one criterion for success in law school and on the bar exam, referring particularly to essay writing proficiency.
Professor Moskovitz criticizes law schools for failing to incorporate test-taking into the regular curriculum. He emphasizes the critical importance that well-developed effective test-taking skills have in ensuring every law student's success. Professor Moskovitz goes on to discuss the need for law students to include test-taking practice as part of their regular study practice, a concept Fleming's Fundamentals of Law has been advocating and teaching in each of its many courses for more than 39 years.
What's the point of school?
The Daily Journal article asks, "What's the point of law school?" It answers this question, first by illustrating the misconception under which too many law students operate during their law school career. According to Professor Moskovitz, "As students see it, they go to law school, not to analyze problems, but to learn rules." This is a common misconception that leads to too many law students to believe they should spend the bulk of their time memorizing rules of law. In doing so, they know the law but perform poorly at exam time, which results in grades well below what they expect.
As Professor Moskovitz discusses, learning the rules of law is just the first step in law school. To truly grasp the meaning of the law, law students must have a thorough understanding of the second step in the legal process, which is the application of the rules to hypothetical facts.
Without developing the ability to apply the rules to facts together with the ability to demonstrate a clear proficiency of that skill on law school exams, success in law school will not be achieved.
While it is true that knowing the law is essential to the study of law, it is only the first layer of learning. The second layer, which is equally important, is knowing how to apply the law to facts on a law exam. As stated in Professor Moskovitz's article where he likens test-taking to the practice of law, "You need to be able to listen to a client's story, sort out the issues, and advise the client how a court is likely to decide those issues. These are exactly the skills that law school essay questions test."
Professor Moskovitz goes on to state, ''The test is fine... but we need to teach the students how to handle a test like that. We would be teaching them a skill that actually helps them pass our essay exams... and because our essay exams are very similar to the bar examiners' essay questions, we would be helping them pass the bar exam, too." With this statement, Professor Moskovitz acknowledges what Fleming has been advocating and teaching for the past 39 years.
Finally, Professor Moskovitz concedes, "The standard way of teaching law - called the case method - did not help students write a good answer to a hypothetical fact essay question... they had a lot of trouble organizing scattered issues into a coherent grouping." Although the case book method is a standard law school teaching method that introduces previously decided cases and the reasoning process the court used to arrive at its decision, it does not teach the critical organizational, writing, and timing skills needed on a law exam.
The ability to organize and convey thoughts concisely and analytically is the result of learning the rules and then using those effective test-taking skills in the context of examinations. These skills are learned and perfected only through regular, diligent test-taking practice. This is consistent with Professor Fleming who repeatedly emphasizes, "It is not just practice that makes perfect, but rather, a perfect practice that makes perfect."
Law professors, in general, do not teach effective test-taking skills as part of the law school curriculum. This layer of the law school process is left up to the law student to learn and develop outside of the classroom experience. This is where Fleming's is vital to every law student's ability to achieve success in law school. Fleming's provides the vehicle that bridges the law school process with test-taking proficiency.
What does Fleming's offer to develop test-taking in fact school?
If you are reading this article, you have probably already been admitted to law school. Therefore, Fleming is pleased to inform you that you have joined an illustrious and exclusive group of individuals. As you proceed through your law school career, you will understand, if you do not already, that law school is actually fact school because law and fact are intertwined. The connection between the two is demonstrated through effective test-taking skills. The development of effective test-taking skills dictates law school success.
Fleming's devotes its variety of courses to helping law students develop both the ability to learn the law and demonstrate its connection to facts on law school exams. Fleming's includes essay exam test-taking as part of every one of its courses. It also provides its students with written and oral feedback for every assigned essay exam they submit for grading to its staff of attorney readers. Such feedback details the strengths and weaknesses in the exam answer together with instruction on how to correct the weaknesses, which is what every law student needs but rarely receives.
The Legal Examination Writing Workshop is designed to teach law students, baby bar candidates, and bar exam candidates how to analyze facts, organize, and write a superior essay examination. Note that all of the foregoing goes to the essential skills that Professor Moskovitz highlights.
The Legal Examination Writing Workshop is included in Fleming's Bar Review at no additional charge. It can also be purchased on its own.
For the California Bar Examination, Fleming's offers an Online Home Study Bar Review. It covers all bar exam subjects listed below, both from the substantive law and test taking perspective, and provides substantive law lectures 24/7 combined with all related written materials from which to participate and study from the comfort of your own surroundings.
Quoting from the California State Bar website - Applicants taking the California Bar Examination may be required to answer (essay) questions involving issues from all of the subjects listed below:
- Business Associations
- Civil Procedure
- Community Property
- Constitutional Law
- Criminal Law and Procedure
- Professional Responsibility
- Real Property
- Wills and Succession
In addition to a multitude of other written exam materials, all Fleming's Bar students receive two substantive law volumes that accompany the video presentation on Fleming's eLearning website. The substantive law therein encompasses the complete scope of the California Bar Examination from a test-taking perspective.
To illustrate how Fleming approaches each bar exam subject, the following is a sample of the Torts presentation. Although the substance naturally changes subject-to-subject, the presentation approach per subject remains the same.
Fleming's provides a checklist for every subject that identifies every potential essay issue to be analyzed:
Using Torts as an example, Fleming's teaches the following checklist to identify exam issues:
- Intentional Torts/Defenses
- Misc. Tort Concepts
- Products Liability
- Vicarious Liability
- Strict Liability
- Crossover Torts
- Invasion of Privacy
- Tort Remedies
If the facts illustrate a product injuring the plaintiff, run that fact through the checklist above. You will identify that Products Liability is raised by the facts.
Fleming's demonstrates how to approach each issue identified in the checklist:
Using the above product liability example, Fleming's teaches a product liability approach that lays out steps on how to handle a product liability problem, how to organize scattered product liability issues into a coherent grouping, and how to write an effective product liability answer.
At a minimum, product liability problems typically raise theories of negligence, implied warranty of merchantability, and strict liability in tort. Fleming's approach for each theory is as follows:
- Implied Warranty of Merchantability
- Strict Liability in Tort
- Stream of Commerce
- Defective Product
- Defect in Existence
For Bar exam candidates who do not need a complete Bar Review course, Fleming's offers Advanced Analysis for the essay exams.
This course is structured comparably to the Bar Review above, distilled to the checklist, approaches, and three essay questions per subject.
For Baby Bar exam candidates, Fleming's offers Live and Online Baby Bar Review structured comparably to Bar Review above.
For law students, Fleming's offers the following:
- Exam Solutions structured comparably to Bar Review above.
- Essay Examination Writing Workbooks
The above is tailored to the personal needs of each Bar candidate, Baby Bar candidate, or law student, in Live or Zoom Customized Personal Tutorial and/or Premier Tutorial Package.
How can you find out more about what Fleming's can offer?
For further information about the above effective test-taking resources with Fleming's attorneys, please email Fleming's at email@example.com and/or call us at 1(800) LAW EXAM. You can also Contact Us on this website.