One of the biggest problems we see over and over on student exam answers relates to the facts. Specifically, how the student uses the facts that they are given in the hypothetical. All too often, students merely recite the facts in their answer, and then state relevant the law and the conclusion without ever giving the professor an explanation as to WHY those facts are important. In other words, the student never makes the connection between the law and the facts that are dispositive of the issue as it relates to that law.
As a general rule of thumb, an exam answer should never contain sentences with only facts. There should never be an “introductory” sentence(s) summarizing the facts you were given. This isn’t a memo or a brief – it’s an exam, and it’s timed, so you need to make the best use of your time by only writing things that will get you points. Think about it from the professor’s perspective – they know the facts; they wrote them! They can’t give you credit for just repeating the facts as they wrote them in the exam!
It’s likely that the professor has a list or grading rubric, that contains everything he or she wants you to address in your answer. Put yourself in your professor’s shoes – would you give a student points for “restating the facts that are in the hypothetical, without making a connection to the law”? Of course not! The professor wants to give you points – but he can’t do that if you don’t give him anything to work with!
Not only can you not get points for this type of fact reiteration, but it will take time away from places where you can get points – it’s time consuming to restate facts, or to quote something verbatim from the fact pattern. So don’t waste your time doing it.
Make your facts work for you – only restate relevant facts (not every fact), and only state them when you are showing exactly how they relate to the rules, and therefore demonstrating how you came to your conclusion.
Here’s an example of what I mean…
Bad Use of Facts:
In this case, Sam pushed Jane. He pushed her knowing that she was not in danger of being hit by the bicycle. Therefore, Sam committed a battery.
This is an example of something a professor might lable “too conclusory” – sure, it gives the professor the relevant facts. But it doesn’t actually USE those facts to demonstrate anything – how do these facts relate to the rule? (and let’s assume this student already established the correct rule for battery before starting the analysis). In other words, how is each element of the rule established by the given facts?
Good Use of Facts:
In this case, Sam committed a battery when he pushed Jane, because pushing is harmful and offensive contact. Also, he intended to cause this harmful contact because he pushed her knowing that it was not necessary to protect her from the bicycle.
This is an example of a good use of facts – notice how the student has used the word “because” twice in the analysis – once for each element. Using “because” (or “since” or “as”) is a good indication that you are making that connection between the rules and the facts. How is each element of the rule establised? Because of the relevant facts.
Using your facts correctly is the key to a good analysis. Continue doing practice questions with these tips in mind, so that incorporting relevant facts into your analysis becomes second nature!