How to Answer Law Exam Questions (with examples)

The process of becoming a lawyer/ an advocate might become hard when it comes to law exams. Generally, law exams are technical, demands a high degree of attention and care when attending. The focus here is to give law students basic tips which will act as a guide when doing law school exams, bar exams or any other law examination.

Types of questions in a law exam

Generally, there are two common types of questions in law exam i.e. Essay type questions and scenario/problem type questions. Each kind has its own mode and style of answering.


 Essay type questions

This is a type of questions which requires the candidate to explain, discuss or comment on the specific legal issues as asked by the examiner.

Example of essay type questions in a law exam

  • Copyright law does not protect an idea, it protects the expression of an idea.”  With relevant examples discuss the above statement

How to answer essay type questions in a law exam

In order to successfully answer the law exams; a candidate must exactly know what the question demands. A student may determine the demand of the question when concentrating on the wording of the question. The words like elucidate, critically discuss, etc. connote what is supposed to be done.

In Answering essay type question the candidate will be required to write an essay. An essay consists of three major parts that are an introduction, main body, and conclusion.


How to answer essay type question in law exam/bar exams

Introduction
This is a very important part of the essay. The way you mold it may tell the examiner if you understood the question or not.

Many students think that introduction is a part that contains a definition of key terms, however, that may be true but it is not an effective way of molding your introduction. 

For your introduction to appear more professional do not defines terms in introduction, rather tells the examiner how you are going to tackle the question. Show him what, how and where you will focus when responding to the question at hand.

For the purpose of answering the exam, A good introduction contains at least 5 sentences or two paragraphs.

The good introduction must show the examiner that you have understood the question.

Example of a good introduction

Question
Trace the origin and development of International law.

Introduction
Every society is required to have relations with other societies, and in order to regulate the relations between the states, there is required a system of law thus international law.

This work will focus on tracing the origin of international law and the development of international law by tracing it through its divided stages of the period which was seemed to develop from, that is during the primitive and ancient period, the Greek era (6th Century BC), Romans era, the Middle age development, during the 15th and 16th centuries, the modern international law (Hugo Grotius), during 19th century, during First and Second World War and thereafter and lastly on the present status of international law.

Definition of terms when necessary will come as the second part of the introduction.

Before jumping to the main body you must provide transitional sentences. The sentence which shows what you’re going to do on the main body depending on what you have been asked. Example of a transitional sentence is ‘The following is the origin and development of international law’
  
Main body
After having your introduction, now you’re moving to the main body.  The main body contains the main answer to the question. Your main body must be well arranged, number your points, make them visible, be clear in your explanation, and be neat. Examiners have a lot of papers to mark, make him interested in yours by clarity, brevity and lucid explanation. KISS (Keep it Simple and Straight) your main body.

Conclusion
Do not bring new issues in the conclusion. This part should contain the summary of key issues which transpired in the main body.





Scenario type questions
This is the type of questions which contains a set of hypothetical or real facts on a certain legal issue and requires a candidate to analyze the fact and solve the problem by applying the relevant legal principles to the fact.

Scenario questions may demand the candidate to advice and/or draft a reasoned legal opinion, to prepare a necessary legal documents etc. basing on the given facts.

Example of scenario question in a law exam


Jane has been living with Ally for the past 8 years. They have not gone through any formal marriage ceremony. The two have been blessed with 2 children, Peter (6) and Mary (3). 

Jane tells you that before they started living together, Ally (a Muslim) had agreed that he would change his religion so that the two would go through a formal Christian marriage ceremony. 8 years have passed now and, although the two children of the relationship were baptized and regularly attend Christian services with their mother, Ally is unwilling to change his religion. Jane feels that she has been cheated and that it’s an embarrassment to her parents, who are very devout Christians.

They have a house on a plot of land which Jane had purchased before they started the relationship. About 90% of the construction costs for the house incurred by Jane since Ally has no formal employment.
Jane wants to end the relationship and have the house registered in the name of the two children.

Advice Jane accordingly or Write a concise legal opinion to Jane

How to answer the scenario question in a law exam

Scenario questions are attempted using a simple formula called FILAC which stands for Facts, Issues, Law applicable, and Arguments/Application of the law to the facts/ Conclusion. When attending a scenario question you should arrange your answer in FILAC order as follows




How to answer scenario questions in law exams/bar exams


Facts
Here you should state the material facts of the scenario given. If the scenario is too long and for the purpose of time you may skip this part and move on to the next step.

From the above example the following facts may be extracted.

  • That Jane has been living with Ally for the past 8 years.
  • That they have not gone through any formal marriage ceremony.
  • That they have been blessed with 2 children, Peter (6) and Mary (3)
  • That they have a house on a plot of the land which you had purchased before they started the relationship. About 90% of the construction costs for the house incurred by you.
  • Jane wants to end the relationship and have the house registered in the name of the two children

NB. When extracting your material facts from the question avoid unnecessary repetition and you should consider only facts that have legal implications. 

After sorting your facts move on to frame your issues.

Issues
Issues refer to the things which require a legal response in your scenario. Avoid having a lot of issues. Focus on the major issues only. From the above example, the following issues may be raised.

  • Whether Jane can end the relationship?
  • Whether the house can be registered in the name of the two children?


Law Applicable
Here you should list all statute or case laws which are applicable to the issue raised. For example from our issues, we can see that the issues are based on marriage and land respectively. Therefore you have to list all marriage and land laws that are applicable to your scenario. Example Law of Marriage Act, The land Act, etc. When necessary show the relevant provisions.

Arguments/Application of the law to the facts
Here is where you’re going to attend the questions. When addressing the issue your arguments must be backed up by the legal authority. You should go straight to the point. And provide a reasoned conclusion at the end. Consider the example below

Whether Jane can end the relationship?

The law that governs conjugal relationships in Tanzania mainland is the Law of Marriage Act [CAP 29 R.E 2009]. Under section 160 (1) its provides that where it is proved that a man and woman have lived together for two years or more, in such circumstances as to have acquired the reputation of being husband and wife, there shall be a rebuttable presumption that they were duly married.

According to the case of  John Kirakwe V Iddi Siko 1989 TLR 215 (HC) the only three important elements to constitute a presumption of marriage are: (a) that the parties have cohabited for over two years; (b) that the parties have acquired a reputation of being husband and wife; (c) that there was no formal marriage ceremony between the said couple.

In the given scenario, element (a) and (c) are clear in the sense that you have been living with Ally for 8 years and they have not gone through any formal marriage ceremony. Element (b) is uncertain. Its certainty is depending on how the neighbors perceived your relationship. Thus if neighbors perceived your cohabitation as husband and wife, then the marriage will be presumed. But if not, the presumption will be rebutted.



However in the case of Hoka Mbofu V Pastory Mwijage 1983 TLR 286 (HC) it was stated that “Where there is no allegation of presumption of marriage, section 160 of the Law of Marriage Act, 1971 cannot be invoked merely on account of concubinage association.” Therefore to end the relationship, Jane must allege presumption of marriage so as the court to invoke section 160.

She can do this by formal application (petition) to the court seeking for dissolution of marriage or separation stating the evidence regarding the conduct and circumstances of their relationship.

Even when court  rebut the presumption, in the case of  Hemed S Tamim V Renata Mashayo 1994 TLR 197 (CA)  it was stated that “where the parties have lived together as husband and wife in the course of which they acquire a house, despite the rebuttal of the presumption of marriage as provided for under section 160(1) of the Law of Marriage Act 1971, the courts have the power under section 160(2) of the Act to make consequential orders as in the dissolution of marriage or separation and division of matrimonial property acquired by the parties during their relationship are one such order;”

Evidently, in light of the above discussion, Jane may end the relationship.

Repeat that process to every issue you have raised.


Conclusion
This is the last part of your question. This part contains the general response to the whole scenario. Example if you have been asked to give legal advice then this part should contains specific legal advice.

Also, you may put any further remarks.

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