Not Your [Grand]Daddy’s Law School Exams

With final exams rapidly approaching, students are beginning to buckle down and prepare in earnest for the challenges of the end of the semester.  It is no secret that law school exams are designed to be challenging—even for very capable law students.  But have law school exams always been as difficult as they are today?  According to at least one op-ed from the Wall Street Journal Law Blog, the answer is a definitive “No.”

Ashby Jones surveyed past exams from Harvard Law School dating back to 1871 (available online here), and came away unimpressed by the rigors of Post-Civil War law school finals.  I have to admit, this excerpt from the 1871 Harvard Criminal Law exam bears little resemblance to the Crim Law exam I took as a 1L:

Harvard Exam 1871

Jones points out that in 1871 the body of law in the United States was a decidedly less complex creature.  But it is impossible to ignore the disparity between the one-sentence, short-answer questions above and the complex hypotheticals followed by open-ended, issue-spotting questions commonly found in modern exams.

Aside from being extremely interesting to read through, past exams are one of the best ways to prepare for future exams.  The library provides access to past Chicago-Kent exams that have been provided by our professors.  You can access our online exams database here, or, for a more historical view of Chicago-Kent exams throughout the years, take a look at the bound volumes in the 10th floor reading room at the beginning of the KF section dating back to 1962.  In addition to past exams, the library has created a 1L Introduction Guide with great information to help you prepare for exams.

Above all, remember to take a moment or two during finals to RELAX.  Good luck to all in the weeks ahead!

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