Thursday, 27 December 2012

What Does the Examiner Want? Answering Law Exam Questions

Now it doesn’t matter how many hours spent studying and revising – the law examiner doesn’t know that.  He meets you one time…for 3 hours…on paper…and you have to make it count.

The two biggest criticism of law exam Candidates are (1) they do not answer the exam question (2) Poor time management.

As it relates to not answering the exam question –Examiner say that the law students do not answer the exam question.  The law students will of course disagree - - as far as they are concerned, they have just come out of a 3-hour exam and they wrote for 3 hours, so they must have answered the question.  Well you the law student as well as the examiner are both right - - the law student did answer the exam question - - he or she just didn’t answer the exam question the examiner asked.  What do I mean by that?  Well, there is the exam question asked by the examiner.  And there is the exam question answered by the examinee.  There is a book – Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus.  The title might as well be - - Law Examiners are from Mars and Law Examinees are from Venus.  Because if I had a dollar for every time a law student says to me - - I don’t know how I failed land…I felt really good after the exam.  All of my topics I studied for were on the exam.  In fact, I thought I had failed tort and I got a 60 in that…If I had a dollar for every time I hear that, I would be a very rich woman indeed.  The point is (let's take land law - - yes I know, I LOVE land law), an examiner will ask a question such as:  What does it mean for someone to be in “adverse possession” of land and In what circumstances does time stop running in favour of an adverse possessor?

What a law student reads is:  What is everything I can possibly remember in the area of adverse possession and write down in 45 minutes?  And they answer that question, briefly mentioning the meaning of adverse possession and completely ignoring the time stop running bit.

I must admit that sometimes the exam question is written as if the exam writer is living in a parallel universe in his own head; but if you read the question carefully, it does actually make sense.  What you need to do is to consider the question as a legal hypothesis, and dissect it for legal principles, DO NOT try to visualise the characters as actual persons and the situation as something in real life.  It is not.  It is a hypothetical situation constructed to encapsulate legal principles for you to identify, in context, and answer.

Now, As to the second criticism of poor time management, I want you to understand the significance of poor time management.  If you have four questions to complete in 3 hours, and you decide to do 2 to the best of your ability, you don’t need to be a mathematician to realise, that even if you wrote each answer, worthy of a Law Lord, you simply cannot get more than 25% of the entirety of the marks for each question, so you cannot get more than 50% of the available marks.  So by doing 2 questions, you are already setting yourself up to get a reduced percentage of the available marks. 

So, if you can address these two main criticisms, you are more than half way there.  Starting with the latter first, how do you deal with time management?  Well, one of the biggest mistakes I see law students make, is to spend hours and hours reading.  I will say this, I have never met the law student who didn’t have the knowledge and pass.  But I have met the law student who has had the knowledge and failed.  Because the knowledge alone is not enough.  The primary piece of advice that I will give you about time management is this - - if the first time you are writing under timed conditions is in the exam…you have already failed - - yourself.  Because in your preparation, what you need to do, is to ensure that you write out in full, at least one question to a past exam question from your University; and write at least one under timed conditions.  If you are sitting an examination of three hours, in which you are required to write 4 questions, then you have 45 minutes per question but that is NOT 45 minutes writing time - - you will need about 5 minutes to prepare the question and 5 minutes to re-read the question.  So you effectively have 35 minutes writing time.  No Before you go into the examination, you should know EXACTLY what 35 minutes of YOUR writing looks and feels like.  So some examinees ask - - how much should I write?  You need to be able to write 35 minutes worth of an answer!  So if you practice, and you know that a topic with which you are extremely familiar, and which you are prepared, you can write 6 sides of an A4 sheet, then you know that is the very best you can do in the exam, so you ensure that in the exam, after you have written 4 sheets, you keep an eye on the clock to make sure you are on target time wise.

That’s your time management.  What about your question answering ability?  Let's talk about that tomorrow............

No comments:

Post a Comment