Law school essay exams are different from essay exams you may have taken before law school. They require more than just memorization—you have to analyze the facts presented in the questions and develop strong legal arguments. This means that you shouldn’t just “brain dump,” or write down everything you know—law school essays must remain focused on the question that is asked.
Sometimes students get so caught up in trying to explain the law that they lose sight of the question. Or they don’t see an issue that they were really prepared to discuss, and so they decide that they will write about that issue anyhow. You will not be rewarded for doing a “brain dump” in a law school essay. Your professor will not give you any points for writing about something that has not been tested; that is why everything you write should be linked specifically to the questions asked and the hypothetical facts.
There are other negative consequences to “brain dumping” on law school exams. There is a time crunch during a law school exam. Although this isn’t true of every law school essay question, many questions are designed so that it is impossible to answer all parts of the question in the time provided. The best answers analyze as many issues as possible in the time allotted, which is another reason why you don’t want to waste time on topics that haven’t been tested by the question. Furthermore, if you write about topics that are not being tested in the exam, you may be burying your more important analysis so that the professor will not even see it.
Stay focused on what your law school exams ask, and avoid the temptation to write about topics that are not being tested. This focus is one important tool for academic success in law school.