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  • Writer's pictureTommy Sangchompuphen

Applying Occam's Razor to Bar Prep

I want to share a concept that's as sharp as it is simple—Occam’s Razor. It’s a principle that I had learned long ago. But I had forgotten about this concept until I heard it on the news yesterday when a CNN anchor used the term when discussing closing argument strategies in the Trump hush money trial.

Occam’s Razor, rooted in the wisdom of 14th-century logician William of Occam, tells us that the simplest solution is often the correct one. And guess what? It can be a game-changer for tackling the bar exam.

More specifically, Occam's Razor is a problem-solving principle that advocates for simplicity. It suggests that when faced with competing hypotheses or solutions, the one that requires the fewest assumptions should be selected. Sounds straightforward, right? Let's see how this old-school wisdom applies to the modern challenge of the bar exam.

During the bar exam, the questions are crafted not to trick you but to test your ability to apply the law to the facts presented. Here's where Occam's Razor comes in handy:

🔎 Sticking to the Facts: Always focus on the facts given in the question. If you find yourself bringing in outside knowledge or making assumptions, pause and reassess. Are these details necessary to reach a conclusion based on the law and the facts at hand?

🔎 Avoiding Overcomplication: It's easy to fall into the trap of overthinking during the exam. If your answer is becoming overly complex, take a step back. Simplify. Remember, the most straightforward answer that directly addresses the question is often your best bet.

🔎 Streamlining Your Analysis: Each question is bounded by its "four corners"—the limits of its fact pattern and the legal issues it presents. Your job is to apply the relevant law to these facts. Extraneous information? Unnecessary. Keep your analysis clean and your reasoning tight.

🔎 Choosing Between Two Answers: When you narrow it down to two possible answers, pick the one that involves fewer assumptions and simpler logic. This aligns with Occam’s Razor by providing a solution that fits directly within the parameters set by the question, minimizing complexity.

Adopting Occam’s Razor isn’t just about simplifying your answers—it’s about enhancing clarity, precision, and, importantly, saving time. In an exam where every minute counts, being able to quickly identify and apply the simplest and most direct solution gives you a strategic advantage.

Remember, the bar exam is a test of your legal analysis skills, not your creativity. Trust in the facts and the law, and let Occam’s Razor guide your hand.


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