Exam-Writing Instruction in a Classroom Near You: Why it Should Be Done and How to Do it
49 Pages Posted: 24 Feb 2017
Date Written: February 24, 2017
As law schools struggle with declining enrollment, lower bar passage rates, and the likelihood of more stringent accreditation standards related to bar passage, law schools will be forced to re-assess how they prepare their students for the bar exam. One way to address those issues is to think more deeply about why law schools should teach exam-writing skills and how to teach those skills. To that end, this article first explains the benefits of teaching exam-writing skills in the law school classroom. Most importantly, teaching exam-writing skills promotes the very skill that is at the heart of legal education: structured, coherent thinking. In addition, the same skills that are necessary to write a structured law school exam are essential to passing the bar exam and are foundational to the practice of law. Finally, teaching such skills explicitly in the doctrinal classroom provides important support to minority students and will likely mitigate mental distress for all students. Despite the many reasons for doing so, few law professors teach exam-writing skills — at least not explicitly.
The lack of exam-writing instruction in law school classrooms is a missed opportunity. A number of recent studies have demonstrated that merely taking practice exams and receiving some feedback improves exam performance.
The studies that document the relationship between practice, feedback, and performance do not, however, provide a method for teaching exam-writing skills. This article adds to those studies by recommending an underlying method for teaching exam-writing skills. As explained in the article, the work necessary to provide explicit exam-writing instruction need not be overly burdensome, and the payoffs can be great.
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