Short Guide to Answering Exam Questions

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SHORT GUIDE TO ANSWERING EXAM QUESTIONS

1.1. Planning

* All questions
o Identify the question
o Identify the applicable law
o Identify the key factors for that particular law

* Hypothetical questions
o Identify the key facts (based on the key factors)
o Identify the key issue

1.1.1. Identifying the question
A very interesting phenomenon that occurs often is the fact that students often say they do not know what the examiner is asking. Examiners are usually quite clear about what they want to ask.

1.1.1.1. Theory questions
Such questions are usually very straightforward. You would usually be asked to “discuss”, “explain” or “write short notes”. However, the examiner may sometimes ask you to “compare”, “identify the difference: or “explain the difference”. This type of question would expect you to list out what the respective characteristics of the terms are and then identify the differences. Just be careful of overconfidence.

1.1.1.2. Hypothetical questions
Look first at the question the examiner wants you to answer. It is usually found in the last sentence(s) of the question. This will influence the way you look at the hypothetical facts given. If you look at the facts before you look at the question, you may form your own question and this may result in the inappropriate answer.

1.1.2. Identifying applicable law (applicable to all questions)
Once you have identified the question, this also narrows down the principles you have to use to answer. The applicable principles can be very wide or very narrow. A contract question is obviously about the law of contract. But the law of contract covers many different sub-topics. Even these can be very general. For example, you have misrepresentation, mistake, lack of capacity etc. Under mistake, you have unilateral or bilateral mistakes. And the list goes on. Once you identify the appropriate legal principle, you should quickly write down the key points. Being able to narrow down the specific law being asked also means that you can elaborate more on the specific point. This will mean less time wasted on unnecessary points.

1.1.3. Identifying the key factors for liability (applicable to all questions)
As you study, you would realize that the law is very much like a mathematical formula. To establish liability under a principle, you would usually have to establish certain factors exist. The hypothetical usually requires you to discuss one or more of these factors. Before you are able to proceed further, you should therefore identify the key factors. Example is that for a contract to be formed, you must have the factors of offer, acceptance of the offer, an intention to create legal relationship and consideration. Once you identify the appropriate key principle, you should quickly jot down the key words as well as the key case to be used.

1.1.4. Identifying the key facts (not applicable to pure theoretical questions)
Once the key points have been identified, you are now ready to look at the facts of the case. As you read the facts, you will be now looking to see how many of the factors actually exist in the problem. You have to carefully identify the “missing” or “contentious” facts. For other questions, you have to identify what the examiner wants from you. If it is similarity or difference, then you look for the similarities or differences in the principles you are expected to compare.

1.1.5. Identifying key issue
The “missing” or “contentious” facts are usually the key issues. For comparison questions, it is the points that you need to compare that are the key issues. Issues are the problems you need to write about and resolve.

1.2. Suggested answer format (ILAC)
The suggested answer format is ILAC. This is the acronym for Issue, Law, Application and Conclusion. This format is applicable for hypothetical questions. For pure theory questions, you may usually leave out the part of Application....
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