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Law School Exams, Fog and Water Colors

How does the majority of One Ls end up in the big middle? Exam preparation. Most people do just enough exam prep to get an outline done, or to find an outline somewhere and read it. They may even read their outlines a few times. That is the balance of what they do to prepare for the exam.

When these poor souls walk into an exam, do you know what happens? The exam fact pattern arrives and the twists and turns in it start to swirl all the concepts that they remember around in every impossible direction in their head. Or, they remember that the professor mentioned the key exam words that really confusing day in class two months ago and they struggle to place the concepts. And then another word comes, another idea.

About now their stomach shrinks, they feel blood rush from their heads, and they shake for a bit trying to get started writing who knows what. This sensation is rehearsed thousands of times every year in One L exams all over the country.

When they finally start getting something down on paper, it is not anything that resembles a strong answer. Sure, their answers may start to approach the subject, may start to work around the edges, may start to vaguely poke at the law that matters for this or that topic. They stumble around trying to think of the right things, trying to recall how their outline put this or that detail, trying to find the answer to the question in the fog that is now their memory.

Most of their energy is spent just trying to remember the material itself, and just get an answer down that is more or less correct. And when they finally do remember, they write it down in fits and starts. In the end, the answer has the precision of a water color painting where, well, there was just too much water.

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