Information About the Constitutional Law Examination

    There will be a three hour closed book examination. The examination is a closed book examination because during the course of the semester in Constitutional Law you will be studying a variety of standards that govern the analysis of constitutional issues. These standards are collectively referred to as standards of review. Over the course of the semester, we will discuss why the Supreme Court has chosen the particular standards that it has, whether these standards signify searching, in-depth scrutiny of the constitutionality of government action, casual, offhanded review, or something in between, and how to apply these standards to concrete sets of facts. Given the importance of these standards, you will be required to memorize the various standards of review. A closed book exam is necessary in order to test whether you have committed the standards to memory. However, I should point out that while memorization is one of my goals, your recitation of the appropriate standards will receive minimum credit in the exam grading process. Many more points will be reserved for thoroughly applying the appropriate standard to particular facts. Obviously, in order to accomplish the task of thorough application of the standards, you will have to know the standards themselves.

Philosophy of Exam Drafting

    My philosophy of exam drafting can be summarized by the phrase "test what you teach." In drafting my examination, I attempt to accomplish several things. One, I want my exam to be a reasonable test of the material covered during the semester. Toward this end, I attempt to emphasize on the exam the same issues that were emphasized during the course of the semester. If we dealt with an issue briefly, it might be one issue in a question with several issues, but it would not be the major issue in that question. Second, I attempt to balance my exam questions so that there is not an overemphasis on issue spotting. To accomplish this, I always include at least one question in which I inform you what the issues are and ask you to discuss those issues. Third, I try and make sure that the questions are realistic and could occur in the real world. Fourth, the questions will usually ask you to make the arguments that could be made on behalf of one or both of the parties in the case and will not ask you to predict what result the court will reach in the case.

Philosophy of Exam Grading

    I use an exam grading system which assigns specific numbers of points to particular issues. The total number of examination points is often 150 points, though that number may vary from examination to examination. In deciding how many points to assign to each issue, I consider the amount that could be said about the particular issue by a student who thoroughly described the applicable legal standards and then thoroughly applied the relevant facts to those standards, including all alternative analyses that might be employed. The more that could be said, the more points will be assigned. In each question, there will be some issues that should be briefly considered because there are few uncertainties about the relevant law and not many facts that apply to that particular issue and other issues that are considerably more involved in both the law and the facts and should be explored in greater depth. The first kind of issue will be assigned many fewer possible points than the second kind of issue. I do not deduct points for wrong answers.