Best of Wolters Kluwer Law School Tips: Week 12

Week 12: How to Tackle True/False and Multiple-Choice Exams
Although essay exams are traditional for most law school courses, a growing number of professors are using true/false or multiple-choice questions for quizzes and final exams. Additionally, the Multistate Bar Exam uses multiple-choice questions.
 
The preparation for these exams is the same as for essay exams—read and brief the cases, and organize the general principles into a coherent framework.
 
There are a number of strategies for taking these exams, however, that you may find helpful.
 
  • Don’t use up all your time struggling with a difficult question, losing your chance to get points for the easier questions. For the more difficult questions, put down the most likely answer, put a “?” in the margin as a reminder to come back to it later, then move on. As you deal relatively quickly with the easier questions, you may now find you know the answer. Which brings me to my next point…
  • In general, stick with your first answer. When I’m grading my students’ weekly true/false quizzes, I often see that my students have changed their answers. More often than now, they changed from the correct to the incorrect answer. Trust your first impression. Unless you see that initially misread the question or are fairly certain that you were mistaken, you generally should stick with your original answer.
  • If you are running out of time, guess! If you see that the professor is about to call “time,” quickly go down the rest of the sheet marking all “Ts” or all “Fs” for true/false questions, or all “Cs” for multiple choice. For the former, you have a 50/50 chance of getting each question right! For the latter, you have a 1-in-4 chance (if the questions give you choices of A, B, C, or D). If the rumors are true, that C tends to be the most frequent answer, your chances will be a little better than that. (Of course, don’t guess if your professor penalizes a wrong answer more severely than no answer at all.)
  • Occasionally, you may run into a question that you can’t answer because the answer depends on your assumptions. If this is the case, make the assumption that makes the most sense to you and answer the question based on that assumption. Then briefly jot down on your answer sheet the assumption you made. It’s possible that the question contained an ambiguity that your professor hadn’t been aware of, and that you will get credit for your answer, even if it was not the answer the professor had in mind. Use this device sparingly, however. If you write in explanations for all of your answers, your professor’s response is likely to be irritation rather than a thoughtful consideration of your analysis.
  • Read the questions carefully! The language of the law requires precision; your professors will expect you to read each word. If you are asked to determine whether a statement is true, make certain that each and every part of the sentence is true. If three of four parts are true, but one part is not, the statement is false.
Coming next week: How to Tackle Essay Exams