Preparing for and Taking Law School Exams… Outlining Outlining You may have purchased commercial outlines or obtained copies of outlines from other students. Even so, you should also spend some time conceptualizing and synthesizing the course material for your classes on your own. There is too much material for you to go back and read over the notes and cases to prepare for exams. Outlining You may be one of two kinds of students who has these thoughts about outlining: Type A: “My contracts outline rocks. I wonder if I can sell this to a 1L next year.” OR Type B: “I can’t remember if I am up to date on my contracts outline. No…wait, have I been going to contracts?” Outlining Regardless of what your approach to law school is, outlining is a very helpful way to prepare. It will keep you from “losing sight of the forest through the trees.” How to Outline Lookover the Table of Contents of your course books, in order to conceptualize your notes into the “big picture.” Starta daily routine of summarizing your case discussions and class notes into an outline daily. Be careful using hornbooks etc. Preparing for Exams: The Six Weeks Plan As an ideal method of preparing for exams, you may wish to subscribe to the six weeks plan. Under this plan, six weeks out from your first exam, you should pick one subject and beginning studying your outline and notes. Some students prefer to spend as much as a week on one subject before rotating to another. I recommend changing subjects from one day to the next. The Six Weeks Plan You may even wish to study for two courses a day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon but just be sure to give equal time to the other subjects. It may prove difficult to continue to prepare for class, to work on outlines and on top of all that , to study your outline and notes. If you run into problems, don‟t stop preparing for class. Exams seem to disproportionately address material covered in the second half of the term. As 6 Weeks becomes 5,4,3… Six weeks plans are sometimes rescheduled into five week plans, or even four. But, unlike your undergraduate school, a good cup of coffee the night before the exam won‟t do it. Study tools: Old Exams Asexam time approaches, look over as many old exams as you can, especially ones with sample answers. But don‟t stress-out if, after looking over them, you feel lost. Work back from the sample answer and keep in mind that it probably includes materials you have not yet covered. Read the instructions; they will most likely not change much. To Group or Not to Group? This just depends upon your personality: Do not create a division of labor If you are the desperado type . . . Preparing for Exams; Summary Study outlines--don’t try to reread cases Schedule your time rotate between subjects; don‟t try to study one subject until you have it mastered Use a study group, if you can. Study effectively for a set period of time and then take a break, plan for some fun. Don’t forget to eat , sleep and keep exercising! Thanksgiving this year, will suck. Demystifying Legal Analysis Exam question: How many legs does a horse have, if you call a tail a leg? Credit: Abraham Lincoln :) Answer #1: "Five." Grade: D Answer #2: "Four." Grade: D Answers 1 and 2 are arguable as conclusions, but they show nothing of the the knowledge or reasoning. A conclusory answer is nearly as bad as no answer at all. Answer #3: “4, because calling a tail a leg doesn't make it so.“: Grade: C Answer 3 gives an arguable conclusion, and some, but not all, of the reasoning. The answer does not, however, show the knowledge upon which the reasoning depends. An instructor can't assume that you have knowledge that isn't explicitly articulated in the memo or on the exam. Some won't give credit even if some of that knowledge is implied in the reasoning. Answer #4: "An ordinary horse has four legs and one tail. Assuming that we're dealing with an ordinary horse here, the issue that will determine how many legs it has is the effect of "calling" a tail a leg. If calling a tail a leg actually makes it a leg for purposes of leg-counting, then a horse has five legs. If calling a tail a leg does not do so, then a horse has four legs. The better view is that a horse has four legs. Horse tails and horse legs are vastly different in both appearance and function. Moreover, horse tails cannot perform the weight-bearing and locomotion tasks that are the primary purpose of horse legs. There is no reason to believe that "calling a tail a leg" (i.e., simply renaming it) could change these realities. Thus, even if you call a tail a leg, a horse has only four legs.“ Grade: A Answer #5: "The better view is that, under the conditions specified, a horse has five legs. Admittedly, horse tails and horse legs are vastly different in both appearance and function. However, „to call‟ usually means „to label,‟ in the sense of „to place in a category.‟ While a tail cannot perform the support and locomotion functions that a leg normally does, it could belong in the same category as legs for certain purposes, such as studying the extremities or circulatory system of the animal. Assuming a context similar to these, a horse has five legs if you „call‟ the tail a leg.” Grade: A Note that answers 4 and 5 contain the relevant information and use that information and valid reasoning to reach the conclusions while clearly stating all necessary assumptions. The crux of the matter is not the ultimate conclusions that you reach in your answers so much as the relevant information and defensible reasoning contained in those answers. Demystifying Legal Analysis: What does this mean? “The life of the law has not been logic: it has been experience." Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., The Common Law 1 (1881) Sorry, Spock Thus, a legal discussion may start with nice, clear rules . . . Credit: Charles Calleros and then present nice, muddy facts .
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