How to Ace Your Contract Exam

Contract exams are not as transactional as criminal law or torts, so many law students find them more difficult. There are a lot of interlocking pieces on a contract law exam. Generally, the exam has one to three contracts at issue and you must analyze those in great depth. On top of that, the law that is given is often an intense word collage - consideration, promissory estoppel, condition precedent, unilateral mistake, etc. It can be pretty intimidating.

When you start to get overwhelmed, take a deep breath and try this organizational trick:

Normally a contract law question can be broken down into three sections

1. Obligation (if there is a contract or agreement?)

2. Breach (has one or both parties breached?)

3. Damages (are there damages and what do they include?)

You’ll organize your answer by answering each question. Of course, each section is complicated and has subparts (e.g., under obligation, you might consider if it’s a bilateral or unilateral contract). But mentally highlighting each section will give you a great jumping off point to answer the question.

Usually, you’ll find that in the call of the question (normally at the end of the exam) you’re simply told to assess the claims of the parties - then you can break down the exam into these three pieces. As you organize your answer, jot down notes about the facts and how they fit in to your answer. Remember - most professors are not looking for a “right” or “wrong” answer, but rather that you know how to apply the law to the facts and make a good case for whatever you think the answer is.

Note that a professor might ask a partial question such as "Is there is an obligation here?" or "Is there a breach here?" If you’re given a more specific question, simply analyze one of these subsections.


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