Law Exams: Long Answers Are Better Answers

Many professors tell their students that they are looking for “well thought-out” or “well organized” answers, as opposed to long answers. It may even be possible that they subjectively prefer such answers.

But long answers will almost always get better grades.

90% of professors grade against outlines they create which have all the issues they believe the question implicates. They read through your answers and tick off points according to the outlines. At the margins, writing a more organized answer will count for something, if only because the professor has an easier time matching your answer to their outline. But they wrote the problem, wrote the answer sheet, and they will grade dozens of exams. It’s not that hard for them to figure out what issue you’re talking about even if it’s not in the most “organized” position possible.

On the other hand, if you miss an issue entirely, you’re going to get 0 points for it. There’s no way to properly organize the missing parts of your answer. Because law school exams are time-pressured, it’s usually impossible (at least if the exam is well-written) for you to hit every issue the professor included — if a law professor has difficulty overloading a three to four hour exam, then there is a problem either with that professor or with the course being taught.

So go all out and hit every issue possible. Your professor may not “like” this (it takes longer to grade long answers!), but he or she will probably give it a higher grade than the “well organized” alternative.

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