FloRo
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I am studying LLB law at a RG uni and could really use some advice on writing a problem question- I am really letting myself down with my writing and could use some rules or guidance to follow for the best possible grade.


I would sincerely appreciate any help anybody has to offer. If anybody has some example essays they would be willing to send me I would be very grateful.

Many thanks!
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Forum User
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Your question is pretty generic so any advice will have to be generic as well. Here are some random thoughts:

1) To answer a problem question you need to know your subject matter well enough to spot all the issues that arise on the facts. The type of knowledge required to answer problem questions well is broader (but perhaps shallower) than that needed to answer essay questions well.

2) You need to plan your time well when answering problem questions. In an essay (within the confines of the topic) you have a good deal of control over what you write and if you find yourself pushed for time you can usually readjust on the fly by omitting discussion of certain things and sticking a quick conclusion on the end of what you already have. In a problem you need to address all the issues and if you are halfway through the problem with 10 mins left there is not really anything you can do to fix that. If you are going to answer a mix of problems and essays I would recommend answering the problem first for this reason.

3) It follows that although you need to spot all the issues you need to be sensible about how much time you devote to each. From your knowledge of the area it should be clear what are the 'major' issues in the question and which are the little side-issues that the examiner is throwing in there to see who is really on the ball. You should spend the majority of your time discussing the important issues.

4) Perhaps this should be (1) - structure is at least as important in answering problem questions as it is in answering essay questions. You should bear a method like IRAC in mind even if you don't strictly follow it for some reason. You should tackle the issues in a sensible order. It makes no sense, for example, if you are answering a problem question on exclusion clauses in contract law, to begin discussing whether the exclusion clause is unfair within the meaning of UCTA before you have discussed whether the exclusion clause is incorporated in the contract, or to discuss whether the exclusion clause is incorporated in the contract before you have discussed whether the contract has been breached (assuming that each of these are issues raised by the facts).

5) You need to get the law right. The focus in problem questions is usually on what the law is. A very good answer to a problem question will contain critical / normative analysis of the law as well, but this is a 'bonus', rather than the focus as it often is in essay questions. If you are answering a problem question which involves statutes / other legislation, then you need to know the wording of the statute. Perhaps surprisingly, students manage to mess this up even when they actually have the statute book in the exam with them.
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jessjanellbhons1
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You definitely need to be able to spot the issues in problem questions as mentioned by Forum User. Read every sentence of the fact scenario carefully and try to figure out why the examiner inserted each bit of information.

Knowing which rules and sub-rules to apply is essential, as well as knowing the exceptions to the rules.

But most importantly, you also have to remember the facts of important cases so that you can analogise or distinguish the key facts from decided cases. If you answer the question wholly with reference to generic rules but without analogising with a specific case that is extremely similar to the hypothetical fact scenario, you are not going to score as highly as someone who can draw accurate comparisons with that case.

That is why you should look out for four things when reading cases:
1. Issue(s)
2. Rule(s)
3. Facts
4. Decision

This pdf in particular is a very good read regarding analogising and distinguishing:
Attached files
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FloRo
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(Original post by Forum User)
Your question is pretty generic so any advice will have to be generic as well. Here are some random thoughts:

1) To answer a problem question you need to know your subject matter well enough to spot all the issues that arise on the facts. The type of knowledge required to answer problem questions well is broader (but perhaps shallower) than that needed to answer essay questions well.

2) You need to plan your time well when answering problem questions. In an essay (within the confines of the topic) you have a good deal of control over what you write and if you find yourself pushed for time you can usually readjust on the fly by omitting discussion of certain things and sticking a quick conclusion on the end of what you already have. In a problem you need to address all the issues and if you are halfway through the problem with 10 mins left there is not really anything you can do to fix that. If you are going to answer a mix of problems and essays I would recommend answering the problem first for this reason.

3) It follows that although you need to spot all the issues you need to be sensible about how much time you devote to each. From your knowledge of the area it should be clear what are the 'major' issues in the question and which are the little side-issues that the examiner is throwing in there to see who is really on the ball. You should spend the majority of your time discussing the important issues.

4) Perhaps this should be (1) - structure is at least as important in answering problem questions as it is in answering essay questions. You should bear a method like IRAC in mind even if you don't strictly follow it for some reason. You should tackle the issues in a sensible order. It makes no sense, for example, if you are answering a problem question on exclusion clauses in contract law, to begin discussing whether the exclusion clause is unfair within the meaning of UCTA before you have discussed whether the exclusion clause is incorporated in the contract, or to discuss whether the exclusion clause is incorporated in the contract before you have discussed whether the contract has been breached (assuming that each of these are issues raised by the facts).

5) You need to get the law right. The focus in problem questions is usually on what the law is. A very good answer to a problem question will contain critical / normative analysis of the law as well, but this is a 'bonus', rather than the focus as it often is in essay questions. If you are answering a problem question which involves statutes / other legislation, then you need to know the wording of the statute. Perhaps surprisingly, students manage to mess this up even when they actually have the statute book in the exam with them.
(Original post by jessjanellbhons1)
You definitely need to be able to spot the issues in problem questions as mentioned by Forum User. Read every sentence of the fact scenario carefully and try to figure out why the examiner inserted each bit of information.

Knowing which rules and sub-rules to apply is essential, as well as knowing the exceptions to the rules.

But most importantly, you also have to remember the facts of important cases so that you can analogise or distinguish the key facts from decided cases. If you answer the question wholly with reference to generic rules but without analogising with a specific case that is extremely similar to the hypothetical fact scenario, you are not going to score as highly as someone who can draw accurate comparisons with that case.

That is why you should look out for four things when reading cases:
1. Issue(s)
2. Rule(s)
3. Facts
4. Decision

This pdf in particular is a very good read regarding analogising and distinguishing:
Thank you both for your advice- I will try to complete my upcoming problem question and will hopefully score more highly. Thanks again.
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