Two Techniques to Raise Your 1L Grades

One of the easiest ways to raise your law school grades is to have a plan of attack for answering final exam questions.

Oftentimes students go into a final exam knowing the law, and even how to apply it, but not knowing how to answer exam questions effectively. Using these two techniques will help you figure out how to craft organized and concise answers to exam questions.


1) Checklists

The checklist technique helps you organize the law so you can think through which issues need to be raised in an answer. In this scenario, once you’ve identified the issues, you make a checklist of the issues to discuss. As you craft your answer, you don’t need to talk about everything, just the issues that you check off. Then you can set up your answer to dive into each issue.

  • Example: In Criminal Law, you may get to a question that deals with murder. You may create a checklist of different types of murder. Under or next to each item, make a short, one or two word note about the facts that fit the checklist item. Now you have an outline for how to answer your question - moving through the list and deciding which item you need to discuss and how the facts fit, picking and choosing.

2) Attack Outlines

This technique will help you if the question requires you to talk about everything, instead of picking and choosing. In this situation, you analyze the question and figure out that it requires you to think through and discuss several issues (categories and subcategories). If that’s the case, use an attack outline or analysis. Often times your professor will give you an outline or analysis for a given issue that explains how to apply the law in any fact pattern. In this situation, follow the attack plan and you will not need to make many, if any, judgement calls.

  • Example: Your Torts professor may have told you that to prove an intentional tort you must think through intent, elements of the tort, causation, damages, AND defenses. That means you must discuss all 5 of these issues in your answer and you can organize your answer using these headings. This will allow you to take an analytical approach to figure out what you need to talk about and put it together in an organized way.

Which To Choose

The technique you choose often depends on the question and the law you must discuss. It may also depend on your law professor and how they view the law should be applied. On this note, it’s incredibly important to ask your professor during office hours what they prefer in an answer -- one that covers as many issues as possible, or one that really dives into one or two issues. If it’s the former, go with the checklist approach. If it’s the latter, go with the attack outline approach.

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