HOW TO STUDY FOR AN EXAM FEATURING
HYPOTHETICAL CASES: SOME SUGGESTIONS
Prepared by Dr. Robert
Updated: January 19, 1999
I. THE BASIC PROCESS
In order to answer an exam question in which a hypothetical scenario is presented, one must be able to recognize
- the particular issues raised by that scenario's fact pattern
- the rules relevant to the issues raised by the given facts
This means the student must be familiar with the facts and issues posed in previous cases, and the rules applied in those cases.
II. A GENERAL APPROACH TO EXAM PREPARATION
- Based on course lectures and case brief assignments, one should first identify all relevant cases and sources of law (for example, the Paquete Habana case)
- One should next determine what rules these legal sources offer (for example, the Paquete Habana case suggests how customary rules of international law may be ascertained and when, if at all, they may be applied by U.S. courts)
- One should then attempt to set the particular rules within the broader context of issue areas (for example, the Paquete Habana rules on customary international law's application might be placed within the contexts of "international law's relationship to U.S. law" and "the application of customary law")
- Finally, one should attempt to determine the relationship between given cases and the rules those cases articulate (for example, the Paquete Habana case is related in some respects to the S.S. Lotus case and in other respects to Tag v. Rogers)
- In determining the relationship between given cases and the rules they articulate, it is useful to become familiar with the cases' venues and dates (for example, both Paquete Habana and Tag v. Rogers are both U.S. court cases, Paquete Habana preceded Tag v. Rogers, and Tag clarified or elaborated upon Paquete Habana
III. MORE SPECIFIC STRATEGIES
I endorse the following techniques:
- the use of study groups for discussion of cases
- the development of hypothetical questions of your own -- if you are successfully to devise your own questions, you must first have achieved a familiarity with the salient rules, issue areas, and fact patterns
- the use of your hypothetical questions to challenge your class colleagues. Ask them to return the favor.
Return to International Law Home Page
© 1999 Robert J. Beck.