Being Your Law Professor for a Day Can Improve Your 1L Grades

Putting yourself in the mind of someone creating and grading an exam can do wonders for your final exam performance.

As you think about law school finals, one great way to test your knowledge is to practice writing exam questions yourself. Law students who are able to write their own hypotheticals are more likely to not only understand the law, but also how it’s applied and tested.

So how should you start?

The first step is to start reviewing old exams, preferably from your professor, but any professor’s exam will do and there are plenty you can find online.

Mentally work your way through the answer - you can even outline how you would write an essay. Once you get used to this, start thinking about your own hypotheticals.

Coming up with your own essay ideas is a great way to test yourself in a new way. It’s easy and quick (you don’t have to write out full exams, just think of the concepts). If you’re in a study group, it’s also a great group study exercise.

If you’re finding it too difficult to write a hypo from scratch, try manipulating an existing question. See if you’re able to change the facts in the hypothetical to change the outcome. When you’re able to do that, you can determine which issues are important and you’re more likely to spot them on your final.

Review old exams

Many professors make their old exam questions available to students, and often these exams are on reserve in your law school library. It's always valuable to see how your professor writes exam questions, so doing the legwork to get your hands on these is well worth the effort.

When reviewing your professor's old exams, pay attention to what they test, but more importantly how they test. Are they looking for you to know discrete nuance of issues or do they want you to cover and show basic competency on a broad range of issues across the class's subject area? This is really important information to know before you start preparing for final exams. 

Talk to your professor.

Finally, you should always go visit your professor in person before you get too far into finals prep. The purpose of your visit should be to ask them how they grade their exams. You're not looking for inside information, just a window into what they're looking for. Ask them what an "A" answer looks like to them.

You would be shocked at how the answer to this question varies from professor to professor. Some want you to be able to show basic knowledge across a range of issues and really demonstrate your issue-spotting.

Others would rather you show expertise and, rather than trying to address all potential issues, show deep knowledge in one or two of several potential issues. 

These are hugely important distinctions that inform not just how you should answer your finals, but also how you should study for them.


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