William & Mary

Exam Writing Study Aids

by Anne Morris, 1LAnne on Exams

Writing Essay Exams to Succeed in Law School (Not Just Survive) (2nd ed.)

John C. Dernbach
KF283 .D47 2010

Dernbach's book solely focuses on helping student succeed on exams, meaning if you want to get the most out of the book you should read it in its entirety. Dernbach treats the exam writing process just like any other piece of writing. Before you can succeed though, you need to understand your audience, which is what makes chapter 1: "Your Reader," the perfect place to start. From there the book guides you through the various big writing themes but then takes readers through specifics on how to talk about the law on exams. This book has a lot of solid and applicable advice but is also a quick read and easily understandable, making it a good place to start if you are a law student looking for exam advice.

Getting to Maybe: How to Excel on Law School Exams (2nd ed.)

Charles H. Whitebread
KF283 .F47 1999

This is probably one of the most recommended books for law students and it does not disappoint. Many of the chapters in the book do not directly relate to law school exams, but they certainly help inform the law school process. The book devotes individual chapters to mistakes to avoid, frequently asked questions, and even a chapter on sample questions. Really though, the book is about teaching students how to be comfortable with the ambiguity that comes from law school exams, teaching long term techniques, and becoming okay with saying “maybe.”

Law School Revealed

Ursula Furi-Perry
KF283 .F87 2009

If you are only looking for exam help, then skip ahead to chapter 9, though the other chapters have solid information about other aspects of law school. This book takes the approach that the more work students do in the preparation stage, the easier the test will be, meaning it puts a lot of effort into helping students prepare before ever writing a word on an exam. This means taking the time not only to put together an outline before the exam, but brainstorming ways to write out rule statements and key definitions. The potentially most useful part of the chapter, however, is its section on organization. The section takes you through the importance of issue spotting and then organizing an issue chart before you actually write the exam. The goal of the book is to get most of the difficult work of answering a question done before you begin to write. Students can then put these tenants to practice with the sample question and answer section.

The Law Student's Pocket Mentor

Ann L. Iijima
KF283 .I35 2007

The Pocket Mentor is about more than just being able to succeed on an exam, it's about the entire law school experience. The goal of the book is to be a mentor to those without one and therefore that theme runs heavily throughout. If your sole focus is on exams then you will want to focus on chapters 4-7. A real strength of this book is chapter 4: "Using Your Learning Style," which helps you identify your learning type and how to put it to use on exams. Knowing how to put your learning style to use frames the books future discussions. However, the book’s key chapter is chapter 7: "Doing Your Best on Exams." The book utilizes an apt marathon analogy, breaking the chapter down into sections on training, running the race, and recovery.

Navigating Law School's Waters (A Guide to Success)

Patricia Grande Montana
KF283 .M65 2014

Navigating focuses on more than just exams, but if that's your only goal, then go ahead to Chapter 7. The chapter covers all facets of exam taking, what to do before the exam, during the exam, and, then, how to handle yourself afterwards. Its main focus is on exam organization and implementing the IRAC method of analysis. It covers in general terms the most important aspects of a law school exam and provides students with sample exercises at the end of each chapter so students can gauge how they are doing. Overall, this is a good introduction to using law school exam guides, providing the basics which many of the other books build on.

Law School Exams (A Guide to Better Grades)

Alex Schimel
KF283 .S335 2012

As the title says, this book breaks the secrets of exam writing down into eight reasonable lessons to learn. Each aspect is specific to itself and, while the lessons advance the student as a whole, the lessons are not so connected that you need to read the entire book at once and you could even choose the lessons that you think would be the most helpful. Like most of these kinds of books, there is a theme to the advice, and in this instance it is about handling what Whitebread calls the "intimidation factor" of law school. The one down side to this book is that it, unlike the others on this list, does not review the basics of taking a law school exam. However, the lessons here are quite good and should be useful if one has read a different exam writing guide.

Strategies & Tactics for the First Year Law Student

Kimm Alayne Walton and Lazar Emanuel
KF283 .W35 2010

For students solely focused on exam preparation, chapters 7 and 8 provide the clearest answers. Chapter 7, "Test Preparation," focuses on helping students learn the material when studying. While many of its tips are generally known, there are a number of little tips that are quite nuanced. There are good tips that will help you get every last benefit out of studying that you can. Chapter 8 then moves into taking the test, reviewing the basics and then making some of its own recommendations about how to approach the idea that students’ grades are all based on how they perform relative to other students.

The Eight Secrets of Top Exam Performance in Law School

Richard Michael Fischl and Jeremy Paul
KF283 .W48 2008

As the title says, this book breaks the secret to exam writing down into eight reasonable lessons to learn. Each aspect is specific to itself and, while the lessons advance the student as a whole, the lessons are not so connected that you need to read the entire book at once and you could even choose the lessons that you think would be the most helpful. Like most of these kinds of books, there is a theme to the advice, and in this instance it is about handling what Whitebread calls the "intimidation factor" of law school. The one down side to this book is that it, unlike the others on this list, does not review the basics of taking a law school exam. However, the lessons here are quite good and should be useful if one has read a different exam writing guide.