The following is from Starting Off Right in Torts by Carolyn Nygren which was published in the spring of 1998.


     Very few law school professors give any feedback throughout the semester. You will probably have no practice questions or midterms. Therefore, you will have little information from professors about how you are expected to respond to their questions. You are a most unusual person if you are not scared of having a three or four hour exam determine your grade in a course for which you have given so much of your blood, sweat and tears. Although you have practiced writing many exam questions if you have followed the advice in the previous sections of this book, you also need a strategy to ensure that you do your best on the actual final exam.

     The first thing to remember is that your professor will probably test you on almost all topics covered in the course. I have found it useful to read through the entire exam before starting to answer any question. (You should know that this works for me but may not work for you.) I take my one page checklist of topics covered in the course (see next page for such a checklist for torts) and try to find them in all the questions. I then write down beside the item in the checklist the number of the question in which that topic is covered. At this point I have made no mark on the exam booklet. Usually there are several topics on my checklist without a question number. Although it may be true that all topics don't appear on the exam, I always assume that I have just not seen them on my first reading of the exam. I do not panic if I don't find a topic or if I see whole sections of questions I don't understand. I will read these questions several more times before I put pen to exam booklet, and when I look harder I usually find the topics.

     Since it would be wasteful to test most areas more than once on an exam, you should assume that if you see an issue in one question, it probably won't appear in another question. However, sometimes topics do appear in more than one question, but usually the topic is a major part of one question and a minor part of the second. (Negligence or strict liability are likely to appear in one question as the sole topic and in others as minor issues.) This means I know to give my most thorough analysis of the topic in the question in which it is most important.

     You may find that you feel more confident about one question than the others. Unless the rules of your school forbid it, try starting with this question. While most of your brain is concentrating on this question, a part of it is ruminating over the other questions. Often flashes of insight on one question come while you are working on another. If this approach makes you more nervous, don't use it.

     One of the most important things to remember is to allot only the amount of time to any question that is suggested by the professors. Since it is likely that they will grade you using a score sheet which allows only so many points per issue, your wonderful answer for one question cannot make up for slighting another question. After you have figured out how much time you have for each question, approach it as you have practiced. Spend about half of the allotted time writing your notes for your answer, crossing out the words you have used, and trying to find topics on your checklist for any sentences you have not used. Rearrange the issues you have found in order to make the best organized answer, and then write.

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