How to Answer ANY Question

Updated: Jul 8, 2019

A question I often get asked by students, revolves around 'what do I need to memorize' or 'what definitions do I use'. Overall, these questions stem from the incorrect presumption that a Law exam is a test of memory. Far from it! In fact, as I often tell students: a Law degree is more about 'how you think' as opposed to 'what you know'

There's a simple formula that you can infuse into any answer that you attempt: rocks, pebbles and sand.

Imagine I was to give you a jar and ask you to fill it with rocks, pebbles and sand. The requirement is simple, but I also tell you that the jar must not have any space leftover once filled. How would you go about filling it? The preferred way of doing it would be to first fill it with the biggest object, then the next and so on. So, we start with the large rocks, followed by the pebbles and finally the sand to fill the remaining crevasses.

Now substitute the rocks for your point of view, your arguments and your story. The pebbles for the facts or scenario and the sand for case names, statutory provisions and anything else you'd have to 'memorize'. This is the hierarchy of precedence of an answer. Your examiner considers the way you think or your argument as being of paramount importance and thus should take up the most space in your answer (much like the jar). The facts should then take precedence, followed by the seasoning, which are your caselaw.

Once you look at it this way, it should be abundantly clear that your focus must be on arguments. So, the next time you write an answer, make sure you keep a jar next to you and fill it while you're at it!

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