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The best time to practice multiple choice questions and review past essay exams is...

Right now.  Yes, right now.

One of the biggest mistakes law students make is putting off practicing multiple choice items and reviewing past essay exams until the very end of the semester.  The thought goes something like this:

Multiple choice items and past essay exams are testing my knowledge of the law. I don't yet know or have memorized all of the law. Therefore, I should wait until I do know all of the law or have it memorized.

Now, doing so at the end of the semest may end of giving you a realistic indication of where you are at that point.  But it's not the best implementation of these practical skills.

The best way to learn the law is to apply it.  And what are you doing when you take multiple choice items and take your professor's past essay exams?  You are applying the law.  True, you may not have covered a concept yet and so you may get the question wrong.  But now you've given yourself a frame of reference and a hypothetical from which you can form some context once you do get to learning that particular concept.  In other words, if you have seen the concept in practice (and even screwed it up) before you have been taught it in depth, you are better primed to understand and attend to that concept once you get there.

The best way to learn the law is to apply it.

Think back to when you first learned about the intent element for intentional torts, for example (assuming you have gotten that far).  Had you come across several multiple choice items or a past essay exam that touched on that concept before you covered it in class, you likely would have had a better foundation on which to build an accurate framework of that concept for yourself--even if you answered those multiple choice items wrong, or misanalyzed the issue in the past essay exam.

Too often law students mistake the goal of practicing multiple choice items and reviewing past essay exams.  They think the goal is to miss the fewest amount of questions, or spot every issue in the essay.  Really the goal should be to learn from this practice, regardless of whether you got it right or wrong.  We all know you can guess at a question, for instance, and get it right (even if you don't know why).  The most valuable thing you can do is practice early and often, mess up horribly, and start learning from your mistakes as soon as possible.  This promotes deliberative adjustments that will pay dividends down the line.

The most valuable thing you can do is practice early and often, mess up horribly, and start learning from your mistakes as soon as possible. This promotes deliberative adjustments that will pay dividends down the line.

Another advanatge to starting now, especially when it comes to reviewing your professor's past essay exams, is that the model answers can provide you the framework for a particular set of analyses that you will want to make sure you have included in your outline.  In other words, it helps you set up your outline in advance.  Even if you're not familiar with the concept yet, there you have the correct way to analyze issue "X" right there in your professor's model answer.  Go ahead and start mining those for valuable components you will be adding to your outline.

The bottom line is you don't want to wait to practice applying the law.  Start now, and you'll be glad you did.

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