I am not being purely theoretical here -- at least one exam I took last year had a question based on a case I had read for another class. My answer to that question was particularly thorough, and my confidence on the exam as a whole was greatly increased. I also have a decent track record when it comes to attempting to predict the subjects of exams. Last semester, I successfully predicted at least two of the issues involved in two different exams (and I would have correctly predicted the content of a third exam had anybody in that class asked me to speculate). My predictions were based on the strategies that I discuss in this post.
Here, I provide some tactics students can use to predict the types of fact patterns that you will encounter on a law school exam. Of course, these strategies will be most useful if the exam will be formatted as an issue-spotter exam based on a set of facts that the professor provides. But taking these steps will help students understand a class's subject matter at a deeper level, and apply the law to new fact patterns, and this type of studying will likely help prepare students for any exam.
As an aside, students should consider taking these steps in any areas of law where they have a particular interest -- I have found that these steps are a good way to engage in an area of law, and to pinpoint important issues that have yet to be resolved, and cases that may end up having significant impacts.
Finding Fact Patterns that may be on the Exam
- Pay Attention to Relevant News Stories
- Targeted Reading of Law Blogs
- Use Twitter
- Above All, Look For Multifaceted Cases
What to Do About These Fact Patterns
- Take Note of Them in Some Way
- Note Unfamiliar Reactions
- Include the Cases in Your Outline or Notes
- Write Your Own Analysis of the Cases
This approach may not be for everybody. Those who do not read the news very often or who are not interested in reading law blogs may not find this approach to exams appealing. And it would certainly be unwise to put all of one's stock in hoping to predict the subject matter of an exam, rather than developing an outline or synthesizing notes.
But students should consider taking these steps in order to develop a deeper understanding of the law that they cover in their classes (or in areas of law they are simply interested in). There is always the possibility that following these steps will reveal the content of the final exam. While this possibility may be small -- the payout in the event of a successful prediction can be massive.