The law exam problem question is a necessary evil. These questions always involve a factual circumstance where you’re required to advise one of the characters in the question applying what you have learnt in the semester.
It sounds daunting, especially to the first or second year student. However, with some preparation you make answering the questions somewhat easier.
Preparing a template for how to answer the question is great way to get yourself prepared for an exam. I would like to introduce you to one of my favourites, the Proof Making Model. Whilst it is something I didn’t learn until my traineeship and covering advocacy, it certainly something that can be adopted for exam questions.
The model works on the basis that no matter the subject, no matter the question or set of facts, all legal problems can be answered using a similar structure to identify the issues and apply the facts.
1. Source of Legal Rights
The first thing you need to do is work out where the legal rights appropriate to the question come from. This might be common law for contracts and equity, a Wrongs Act or Defamation Act for torts or the Crimes Act or Code etc.
Your template may include a pre-written or dot-point introduction setting out the legal rights.
2. Cause of Action
Your second step is to identify the breach of the legal rights or the cause of action, for example a breach of contract or criminal offence. This often will be obvious on the exam question, but always be on the lookout for the hidden cause, the smaller things in the question to separate the Ds from the HDs. Everything is in the question for a reasons.
3. Elements to Prove/Defend
The third step is where you examine the elements which form the cause of action. Using what you have covered during the semester, you can flesh out your template by listing each of the elements you need to cover. For example, in negligence you need to prove a duty of care, foreseeability and damage.
Don’t forget any relevant defences or exceptions there might be and make a note of the relevant authorities for each element. This is where you can save time and pick up marks by having the elements and case law set out for you to insert into your answer.
4. Apply the Facts
Finally you can apply the facts contained in the exam question to each of the elements in step three. Depending on what you are asked, you can use the facts to prove or disprove the cause and conclude your answer.
By writing out a template for steps 1 to 3 for each topic you have covered in the semester, you can have a running start on your answers leaving you to apply the facts and reach the appropriate conclusion.
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