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APUS Legal Studies Program Writing Guide

Exam Essay Questions

Essay Format

Most exams in Legal Studies courses include Essay questions. Whether you are taking a timed or untimed exam, like all work product which you submit in your Legal Studies courses, your Exam Essays should be written in well-constructed prose, using well-written paragraphs, correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Remember that paragraphs should have introductory and concluding sentences, with a well-organized body between them. You should proofread your work before you submit it. Be sure to use quotation marks when you are including the words of otherswhether they be brief or lengthyin your writing. Accompany the use of quotation marks with a citation that includes the page on which the quote can be found in the reference source. The rules concerning plagiarism apply to your Exam Essays.

All of the substantive points you make in your Essays must be supported by references which you cite in Bluebook format. Remember to “tie” your references to the points, assertions, or conclusions which they support. In that regard, you can use citation sentences which appear immediately following the point which they support, or you can use sequentially numbered footnote references throughout your Essay, and then list the references in the corresponding footnotes at the bottom of your Essay. Confine your research to scholarly references! Make your textbook and the APUS Library the starting points for your scholarly research. 

Essay Content

No matter how well-written and well-supported your Essay, if you do not answer the questions posed, you will earn minimum or no credit for it. In other words, be sure to answer the question! Read the question before you begin and read it again after you have a draft of your essay. If you write about the “exceptions to the Fourth Amendment warrant requirement,” and your essay neglects to discuss the specific exception “A” and specific exception “B” which were assigned by the Essay question, you should expect a low score on your Essay. What “buzzwords” are used in the Essay question? Define? Analyze? Explain? Compare and contrast? Give examples? Delineate the rule, the rationale underlying it, and its exceptions? Your instructor will be looking for the extent to which your Essay “hits” each of the specific Essay instructions. Don’t gloss over any elements of the question, as you will pay the price for overlooking required elements. Remember that an “explanation” is not the same as a “definition.” To be sure, you will probably need to define a term before you can explain it; if in doubt, elaborate on your answer. On a more mundane but equally important note, ask yourself whether your Essay meets the minimum and maximum length requirements, if any.

Essay Grading

You will find the Grading Rubric in your Classroom (likely in the Resources area); this will govern the manner in which your instructor grades your Exam Essays. Not surprisingly, your understanding of the topic and the manner in which and completeness with which you address all aspects of the topic will be graded under a “Quality of Response” category. You will find helpful descriptions of the qualities of an exemplary essay, such as the use of accurate and illuminating examples, explanations of key concepts, the use of correct terminology, and satisfaction of all assigned elements of the essay question. The use of sources, cited in Bluebook format, and the quality of your writingorganization, punctuation, use of perfect grammatical conventions, etc.will also be worth a specified percentage of credit. It is a good idea to read the Rubric before you begin to write your exam, but you should also consult it again after you draft your Essay to ensure that you have satisfied all elements of the Rubric and that you fall into the Exemplary point value column. 

Finally, write your Essay “outside” of the exam environment, save it, and then insert it into the box and/or upload it, per the instructions on the Exam. If you lose your work because your computer “freezes” or your internet connection suddenly fails, you risk receiving a zero for the Essay. And finally, meet the deadline for submission! Your instructor will not even be able to view your essay if the essay is not in the essay box on the exam at the time you hit the “submit” button! Hit it in a timely manner!

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