Study Techniques for Law School Exams

Law school examinations are different from other examinations.  Typically, during the exam by law schools, the examiner is looking not only for substantive knowledge of the topic, but how to answer the question as well.  Therefore, the abilities to write well, fluently, and under time constraints are essential in order to pass a law school exam.

It is for this reason that studying for law school exams requires not only mastery of the material in the particular class, but the ability to “show what you know” by writing answers to essay questions that spot the relevant issues, state the applicable rules of law, and present cogent analyses of the various issues raised by the particular question.   It will also behoove students to remember that the four most important things to remember when answering questions is to consider the following, namely: issue, rule, analysis, conclusion. This system of analyzing and writing about the law is also known as IRAC and is taught in many law school research and writing classes.

The best way to study for a law school exam is to synthesize all the material learned in the classroom.  It is advisable to go over the notes taken in class, review the chapters in the hornbooks and casebooks used in that class, and review any commercial outlines that cover the particular topic.   It will help to take all the materials and put them into an outline, in whatever format works best.  This can then form the basis for studying.   Modify and annotate that outline during studying for the exam.

Law school exams are usually given under strict time limits.  Therefore, spotting the issues is critical to a successful answer.  Exams in law schools do not just test whether the student knows the material, but also whether knowing how to spot the issues and then write answers that see the issues, frame the applicable rules, and set forth an analysis, applying the facts in the questions to the issues and the rules.  A successful law exam answer comes to a conclusion; the correctness of the conclusion does not matter as much as the analysis that shows the professor an understanding of the issues.  It is therefore advisable for students to get copies of previous exams or even bar exams on the subject, and then practice writing essays.

Law school exams also have multiple choice questions and the same holds true for studying for multiple-choice law school exams.  Get copies of previous multi-state exams and practice answering them.   Studying for multiple choice exams requires not only mastery of the material, but the ability to tease out the differences between more than one answer that appears to be right.

Studying for law school exams is not something that can be saved for a cramming session the night before the exam.  Both time and effort are critical to success.


Inside Study Techniques for Law School Exams