The Catholic University of America

Most Basic and Common Problems on Law School Exams



1.       Inconsistent (or no) “analysis”—inconsistent application of law to facts


a.       Writing “just law” or “just facts”: try labeling your sentences F or L. Look for F + L

b.      The magic of “because”

c.       Not using all relevant facts, which also leads to missing issues

                                                               i.      Remember a fact can be useful for more than one point

                                                             ii.      It may be helpful to cross out facts you have used


2.       Disorganized


a.       Not going through all the steps of analysis on one issue before going on to another issue, “skipping around”

b.      Not going through the steps in a logical order, i.e., moving from general to specific

3.       Conclusory statements without back-up


a.       Can the uninformed reader understand your answer?

b.      Are all the steps of the analysis there?

c.       Where is application of law to facts supporting the conclusion?

d.      DO NOT USE

                                                               i.      “It is clear”

                                                             ii.      “Obviously”

4.       Not answering the question asked


a.       Highlight all parts, include assumptions, write out thoughts on scratch paper


5.       Incomplete analysis


a.       Skipping steps

                                                               i.      Think of it as a math proofà did you show ALL your work?

                                                             ii.      Will an uninformed but intelligent reader be persuaded by the soundness of your reasoning?

b.      Reaching a premature conclusion that cuts of steps of analysis

                                                               i.      Resolving the question on one element without discussing the others

                                                             ii.      But your analysis should have mini-conclusions that separates the easy questions from the more debatable ones


6.       Missing issues


a.       Missing issues, not answering the question asked and not finishing the exam are the quickest route to a C or below

b.      Comprehensive skeleton or backbone of the course and/or issue checklists help you to spot all the issues

c.       Do NOT throw in everything “just in case”

                                                               i.      Don’t throw in irrelevant things it emphasizes that you don’t “really know”

                                                             ii.      Consider  how irritating it is to a busy reader to wade through irrelevant things & your important points get lost