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December 07, 2010


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Jacqueline Lipton

An issue I have had with using past exams/past exam questions as study aids is that in some courses (eg cyberlaw, digital copyright issues, online trademark issues, online defamation and privacy etc) the law moves very rapidly and the older questions become quickly dated, thus potentially confusing students. Also things that were "hot topics" just a few years ago quickly lose the spotlight to other issues so students get confused about what I'm likely to emphasize on the exam. I generally try to give the students verbal guidance and notes on my Blackboard website about these limitations of past exams, but this is one reason I tend to select specific past exam QUESTIONS each year for students to look at, rather than entire past exam papers. And if I don't have past exam questions on a newer issue, I write some practice questions for the students on the issue.

James Grimmelmann

Make them all available. If you don't, someone else will. Law reviews and other student groups are famous for keeping exam archives for their members -- which means that some students will have access to your old exam memos and others won't

Another James

Ditto what James said.


If you post them all, how can you reuse? You don't spend your time writing new exam questions each semester, I hope!

Spencer Waller

I write a new one every time and I post them all.

Marc DeGirolami

I write a new one and post it before the students take it. I consider it the ultimate in transparency.

David S. Cohen

Marc - maybe I'm obtuse, but I can't tell if that's a joke or serious....

Marc DeGirolami

David, meant as a joke. My apologies.

In seriousness, I don't release any of my exams (a small number right now, in any event), but I do write up different exams and practice exams each year. I expect that the practice exams will be disseminated far and wide, but I don't expect that the actual exam will, since I haven't released it. I can't see how students would have access to them.

David S. Cohen

Marc - I should have known, but I have heard of profs who give out questions before and say that 2 of the 4 questions they give out will be on the exam, or something like that. I think, though, that I've heard of that with undergrad exams, but not with law school exams, which is why I was surprised by your post, thought it was probably a joke, but wasn't sure if someone maybe was trying this method in law school.

Marc DeGirolami

David -- thanks, hadn't heard of this.

I don't know if you give multiple choice questions (I do for Professional Responsibility, as a comparatively minor part of the exam), but it seems burdensome to go that route and make all questions available to the students, before or after.


David -- Your provision of past exams and grading memos was incredibly helpful. In my experience, availability of past exams and answers was an excellent predictor of my performance in a class. I found professors prized very different things in an exam answer. It is important to know the applicable law, but it is also important to know your audience. I found this to be even more important with adjunct professors. Unfortunately, they rarely provided such materials, perhaps because they taught infrequently.

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