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Old Exams (Part Two)

After you have memorized your outlines, go find all the exams for your class that were given by your professor. Copy them all. You will probably have 10 or 15 to work with in any class. Take three-fourths of them and read them closely. Take your time. As you read, take note of a few things. What is the feel of the exams? Are there super complicated fact patterns? Does the professor like to put in distractions? Does she try to trick you? It’s good to develop a general feel for the type of exam the professor likes to write.

Now, take some time and look closely at how the professor asks questions about each of the particular topic areas on your outline. If the class is property, and one of your big topic areas is the law of “adverse possession,” scrutinize the old exams for that topic. How does the professor typically ask about that topic? Is there a pattern? Does he or she tend to create the same kinds of fact patterns for that topic? Is there two or three ways he tests that, or just one?

It may surprise you, but in fact, most professors ask questions about particular areas of the law in almost exactly the same way from year to year. If you can spend some time figuring out what kinds of questions are coming, you are going to have a gigantic advantage over the guy sweating it out next to you because he isn’t ready for the question at all.

Your goal is here is to try to develop a rhythm for how to answer the kinds of questions the professor asks. Your torts professor may be a total jerk, and she may have brutalized you in the Socratic method a few times over the semester. But I will tell you that if you spend adequate time with her prior exam questions, you will be able to develop a comfort level with this professor, and you will not be surprised or intimidated by anything when you show up and flip over her exam.

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