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How to Issue Spot Law School Final Exams

A critical skill for law students is to be able issue spot law school final exams. “Issue spotting” is the “I” in “IRAC” (Issue, Rule, Analysis, Conclusion). If you miss the issue, you will not have the opportunity to state the rule, apply it, or conclude (or get the points associated with those steps!) So, it is important to become a great issue spotter if you want to excel on law school final exams!

How to Issue Spot Law School Final Exams

There are a few tips we have for issue spotting. 

(1) Learn the rules! 

It is going to hard to spot the issues if you don’t know the law! Learning the rules is a necessary step to become a good issue-spotter. It is truly the foundation. If you try to “get by” without learning the rules, you are going to find yourself frustrated and you will not excel quickly. So, there are a few points about learning the rules that are important to keep in mind:

  • First, make sure you understand the law. If you don’t understand it, it is not going to be that helpful to memorize the law because you won’t know how to apply it. Consider getting a law school tutor if you struggle with this.
  • Next, memorize the rules. Break every rule into its key components and actively review them.
  • Lastly, in general, it is better to use an outline rather than flashcards, because you will get a bigger picture of the law. (Being able to see how rules fit together will make you a better issue-spotter!)

The best way to get exponentially better at issue spotting law school exams is to first learn the rules of law using your outline so that you truly understand how the rules fit together.

(2) Practice! 

Next, practice! Practice law school exams.

If you want to get better at chess at some point you would stop trying to learn the rules of the game and you would start to put them into practice. The same applies to law school exams.

The number one mistake we see students make is failing to practice exams. If you practice exams, you will naturally improve at this skill. We recommend practicing exams after you have already reviewed the law.

(3) Dissect every single sentence!  

An example of a law school exam question (a COVID-19-themed Torts question) is below. You can see the question first. Next, you can see how this question can be pulled apart and several issues can be extracted. Your goal, when answering a law school exam question, is to be able to master this skill. If you find yourself struggling, go through the exam sentence by sentence, to see which issues are presented.

First, review the question and see if you can spot the issues.

Torts question — Example:

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Torts question — Issues:

Second, compare your answer to the below answer. You can see the issues highlighted below.

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Issue Takeaway: most facts are in a fact pattern for a reason and they will raise (or neglect to raise) specific issues. So, a good way to get good at issue-spotting is to go through the fact pattern sentence-by-sentence and ask why the fact is there.

As you will notice, certain facts may be needed to set up the problem (such as the beginning few sentences) so will not, in and of themselves, raise specific issues.

If you feel discouraged as you start practicing issue-spotting law school exams, remind yourself to keep going! As you learn the law and practice more, you will get better and better! Good luck!

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