How to Channel Your Professor

law-school-examsIncrease your chances of success on law school exams by learning to “channel your professor.”  At the most basic level, this simply means that you should write for your audience, i.e., your professor. Consider what your professor wants.

First, your professor wants you to demonstrate your knowledge and fluency of course concepts . Second, your professor wants exams to be well-organized and easy to read. Most students leave it at that. But you will be well-served by learning to craft answers using the language and methodology of your professor.

Think of it this way: most professors would give themselves an “A.”  If you can figure out how the professor would approach an exam problem and mimic that approach, you increase you chances of earning an “A” yourself.

The first step to learning to channel your professor is to listen. No doubt you have been listening to your professor all semester, but rather than listening just to factual content, listen for form, manner and method of analysis. Think about how your professor thinks through problems and crafts arguments.

You might find it helpful to take a bit of dictation in class. Every once in a while, when the professor is making arguments, take dictation. In my experience, the best time to do this is when the professor is discussing something important to him or her, something about which the professor has spent a good deal of time thinking and writing.

Once you’ve got the transcript, review it closely. Map the arguments, identify key phrases, and capture buzz words. Experiment with those tools when studying, particularly when taking practice exams. See if you can make these tools work for you. If not, drop them and focus on other exam tactics. But if you are comfortable “channeling your professor,” do so during the exam.

(photo: draggin)


  1. This was quite true when I was in law school. I made the mistake as a 1L of naively believing the advice professors gave the class on how to do well and get good grades. What they say and what they do are not the same. Try to ignore what they say and learn what they will do. That means talking to 2Ls and 3Ls and reading old exams and model answer in the law library. Luck!

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