This week has been a busy one, with many new materials posted to the website. FYI, today and yesterday, I posted three new pages with practice essay questions:
- Student-submitted practice essays – This page has a brief practice essay on Burnham by our very own Anthony Alvarez Thanks, Anthony!
- PJ Practice Essay on yPhone by ALI Brittnay Wittnebel – This essay will be the subject of your ALI session later this week. The link is not yet active. You’ll have to wait until later in the week. It’ll be available some time after Thursday’s ALI session. Be sure to attend, as Brittnay will be giving important guidance regarding essays for this class.
- Two basic diversity fact patterns – This last link has some basic diversity essays. For those of you who have yet to write a practice Civ Pro essay, I’d strongly recommend that you start with these. Why? See below.
Why start with # 3?
Here’s the reason to start with the simpler essays. There are at least two skill sets that must combine in order for a student to do well on an essay exam. The first is knowing the law. This is what most students focus on. They think that memorizing or understanding the law is enough. That is not correct. Why? Because there is a second (and perhaps more fundamental skill), which is being able to get your essay down on paper in an organized & cogent manner. Law students tend to ignore this skill. But this second skill is as important as the first skill. Maybe more important. Why is the second skill arguably more important? Because all that matters in your grading is what you put down on paper. Thus, even if you know the law and relevant facts (skill # 1), you won’t get a good score if you can’t get it down on paper (skill # 2).
With that in mind, I highly recommend that you spend time practicing your basic get-it-down-on-paper skills by starting off with some really simple essay questions. These are basic starter questions that I might ask in class, really basic hypos. But as you’ll see, even when you know the answer, it’s not always easy to get it down on paper.
Although I try to avoid sports metaphors, think of it this way. A football player’s first game can’t be the Superbowl, right? Instead, the player has to go to training camp, play in the preseason, and later the regular season and playoffs. Then and only then might the player be ready for the Superbowl.
Final exams are kind of like the Big Money Game, right? Like athletes, students need to have their own kind of training camp, and basic essay fact patterns serve the crucial function of developing this fundamental get-it-down-on-paper skill.
How can you develop this skill? Start with a class hypo, any class hypo. Turn it into an essay. Or take a simple hypo that you come up with (keep it simple!) and turn it into an essay.
Give it a try. You’ll be surprised how difficult it can be to write up a simple essay if you’ve never written a practice essay before. You’ll see what I mean — it’s one thing to know the law (skill # 1), and it’s another thing to get it down on paper (skill # 2). The best time to realize this is now and not in December.
Accordingly, I suggest you start with the simpler essays at the link in # 3 at the top of this post.
(Note: the paragraphs above reiterate materials stated here).