William and Mary Law School

Exam Writing

by Jim Patterson, 1LJim on Exams

Law School: Getting In, Getting Out, Getting On

Michael Ariens
KF283 .A75 2010

A fairly comprehensive book, containing information on all aspects of law school: from admissions through starting your career. It also happens to have a respectable chapter on taking law school exams. Granted, this material is not as extensive as other books that focus solely on exams, but it is a good way to start as it covers a wide range of topics in a very manageable number of pages. With regards to exams, this book is best used in two ways. First is to determine which aspects of the exam process you are most interested in so that you then can go to sources that cover those topics in greater detail. Secondly, while the content is limited to a single chapter, there is useful material that one can collect from its pages and you can do that in a short period of time.

Mastering the Law School Exam

Suzanne Darrow-Kleinhaus
KF283 .D37 2007

Unlike most law school guide books that may have a chapter on law school exams, this book is dedicated to the topic. It covers everything from what to do starting day one through post exam follow-up. A sizable section of the book is focused on creating your outlines and how to make them as useful as possible without becoming unwieldy. Additional material covers the different types of exam questions you may see come finals and how to prepare for them all. While not something I would tend to use, the book includes some suggestions on what to do the night before, the morning of and moments before the exam and how to manage the initial stages of anxiety you may feel as the exam is placed in front of you. If nothing else, the collection of sample exam questions and answers located in the back of the book is worth some time as it contains questions pertinent to all 1L courses.

The Law Student’s Pocket Mentor: From Surviving to Thriving

Ann L. Iijima
KF283 .I35 2007

A standard all-encompassing guide book for law students. The book starts with getting into law school, guides you through law school and finishes with your first law job. While these types of books are great for general ideas and basic principles, they tend to be a bit skimpy on detailed discussions of any particular topic. There are two relevant chapters in this book for our purposes, one detailing the outlining process and another on exams. The outlining chapter does a pretty good job of starting things off in a very basic way and then proceeds to get more and more detailed as it leads you through the process. This chapter does include a good idea of incorporating flowcharts into your outlines, but unfortunately it does not spend much time on the topic. The chapter on the exam itself is not really worth too much time unless you are looking for a very general overview of the topic or really like marathon analogies. While I would suggest that there are better exam guides out there, you may want consider giving this a quick perusal if you are looking for how to begin outlining or are interested in other aspects of law school.

Acing your First Year of Law School (2nd ed.)

Shana Connell Noyes and Henry S. Noyes
KF283 .N69 2008

An effective well rounded guide book that focuses on helping students effectively manage their 1L year. While the content extends beyond the realm of exams, there are four relevant chapters. A particularly nice feature is a chapter dedicated to the use of study aids including popular series such as Hornbooks and Nutshell, but also it looks beyond them to flash cards and flowcharts. There is also a chapter covering outlines and how to not only create them, but going through the process of narrowing them down to useable formats for exams. This book includes material on preparing for both open and closed book exams and what to focus on when studying for both. Some nice take-aways are found in the exam writing chapter that focuses more on general ideas and suggestions than details into specific sample exam questions. All in all a good book to skim through to find some useful nuggets of information to consider.

Succeeding in Law School (2nd ed.)

Herbert N. Ramy
KF283 .R36 2010

This in another general guide book intended to cover most, if not all, aspects of being a law student. Similar to other books of this type, there are several chapters that are devoted to outlining and exams. However, unlike most others there are separate chapters not necessarily specifically about exams, but ones that should prove useful. Chapter VIII Legal Analysis and Answering the Question “Why?” is a good, albeit relatively brief, write up about legal analysis and gives some good instructions on letting your analysis decide your conclusion and not the other way around. The second chapter of note (“However,….” Constructing Your Counterarguments), goes into detail on counterarguments and does so from both objective and persuasive points of view. Counterarguments are what the author considers a very common item 1L’s leave out of their exams and maybe worth a look over. The material on outlining and the exam itself is not very distinguishable from other books of this type and there are better ones out there.

Law School Exams: A Guide to Better Grades

Alex Schimel
KF283 .S335 2012

A pocket-style guide book that is dedicated to all relevant exam related topics. The author creates a four-step system-based approach to taking the exam. A very interesting and intuitive approach that I admit I am considering trying out in a few months. Included in the book are six tips that apply to the semester leading up the exam. One of these tips titled “Prepare for exams, not for class” takes the potentially controversial approach of spending most of your normal class preparation time on exam preparation instead of being ready to answer questions if the professor calls on you. The reason behind the suggestion is based solely on grade considerations as exams constitute the vast majority of the semester grade while class participation is relatively minor. Another section covers some common mistakes 1L’s make and how to avoid them. While I would not necessarily suggest that you should follow all or any of the advice offered in this book, it does take an “outside of the box” approach that some may find appealing.

Strategies and Tactics for the First Year Law Student (2nd ed.)

Kimm Alayne Walton and Lazar Emanuel
KF283 .W35 2010

When thumbing through the table of contents, this book looks very intriguing. Over half of the book is dedicated to outlining and exam related material. The chapter on test preparation alone has over 40 topics and sub-topics; although it is only 19 pages. Therein lays the issue. The book tries to cover a lot of material about outlining and exam materials in a relatively short number of pages. So when you see a topic in the table of contents that seems of particular interest to you, be aware of the fact that it may only encompass a single paragraph write-up and shares a page with two other topics. That is not to say that some 1L’s would not find material in this book useful, but for me I found it rather frustrating to find so little content about any given topic.

The Eight Secrets of Top Exam Performance in Law School (2nd ed.)

Charles H. Whitebread
KF283 .W48 2008

While this book is focused on exams, it goes about covering the material based on the eight secrets to achieving great grades. I found the format interesting and a nice change from the standard of a chapter on outlines, a chapter on studying, etc. The eight secrets focus on different components of the exam from trying to ascertain beforehand what your professor is likely to include on the exams to a fairly detailed methodology for ensuring that you identify and discuss all of the issues on any given hypothetical. What is lacking in this book are guidelines or suggestions on outlines and exam study preparation in general. That said, I do believe that this book is worth a few hours of your time and should prove useful to most 1L’s, but I would recommend the use of a more traditional exam guidebook that covers material not found here.