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Practice Makes Perfect: Examples and Explanations


Practice Makes Perfect: Examples and Explanations


This may sound like heresy, but the plain fact of the matter is that most students spend entirely too much time studying for their first-year exams.

  Let me clarify what I mean. Most students study for their finals by reviewing their notes, rereading material from the casebook, writing outlines, and memorizing the legal doctrines studied in the course. All this is very well, and should be done, but learning every minute rule in the Torts course is not the best way to assure a strong performance. The best way to prepare for your law exams, once you have mastered the basic legal rules, is to take some law exams. There’s a big difference between reading about chess and playing the game. If you were going to a chess tournament, you would prepare by playing a lot of chess. Similarly, there’s a big difference between learning legal rules and using them effectively to answer an essay question. If you want to develop a facility for clearly applying the law you have studied to new facts, the best way to do it is to practice at it.

  This chapter is meant to facilitate that process, which should help you on all your first-year exams. If you’re going to practice, you need some sample questions to practice on. So this chapter presents two Torts essay questions covering basic concepts taught by most Torts professors. Once you have outlined, read, and studied, you should sit down and take the first exam, in the allotted time, without looking at my suggested answer.

  Then, you should read my comments about the question, and my suggested answer.

  Then, do it again, using my second question. Practice really does make perfect. Again, be honest; don’t peek. Much of the learning takes place from trying your own hand at the question, and then comparing your analysis to mine. If you just passively read the question and my answer, you will lose the benefit of working through the process yourself. Then, you’ll have to do it for the first time in the exam room. You wouldn’t want to play your first game of chess at the chess finals, would you?

  You needn’t wait until you have finished studying for the Torts final to do this, but you should do a basic review of your outline before sitting down to answer the first question. One of the virtues of writing practice answers is that the process will highlight the issues you need to study further. If you get to a duty issue, for example, and are unsure how to address it, you will realize that you need to spend more time studying the duty material. Then, when you go back to do so, you’ll go back with a purpose, so your further study will be much more effective.

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