Instructions for the Final Exam

This take-home examination consists of two essay questions, each of which is assigned 60 points.

This is an open-book examination.  You may consult your class notes, your outline (if you prepared one for this class), the materials that I assigned for this class (including the information available on and linked to the class web pages), and any references specifically described in the exam.  Once you download your exam, you may not engage in any outside research, speak with your classmates about the exam, or consult any sources other than those listed above.  By taking the final examination, you agree to these limitations.

Please organize and edit your answers, and please be concise.  Do not provide background information except as necessary to answer the questions.  Your answers must be typed, double-spaced with one-inch margins, paginated, and may not exceed 6,000 words for the entire exam.  (This is approximately 20 pages of double-spaced text.) Please provide a word count at the end of your answer.  Finally, please include your current exam number (not your name) on each page of your answer.

You must download the final examination from Westlaw's TWEN website.  The exam will be available online beginning Wednesday, February 25th, at 12:01 a.m.  You must upload your answer no later than 30 hours after you download the exam.  All answers must be uploaded no later than Thursday, March 12th, at 11:59 p.m.

Please note that you will need internet access while you work on this final examination.

A Few Tips for Successful Exam Writing

1.  Read the instructions and all of the questions carefully before you begin to write your answers.  This may sound trite, but every year a few students single-space instead of double or include in their answer to the first question analysis of issues that are raised in the second question (and not presented in the first).

2.  Pay close attention to the way I have shaped the question and be sure to answer the question.  This also may seem obvious, but you would be amazed at the number of students who spend too many pages generally discussing the law, but never quite get around to analyzing and answering the precise question presented.

3.  Do not discuss the law in the abstract.  Rather, integrate the law we have studied into your analysis of the questions and use the law to explain and support your conclusions.  An example of what not to do would be something like:  “The California Legislature incorporated the English law of riparian rights in 1850 when it enacted a statute that adopted the common law of England as the law of California.  In the famous case of Lux v. Haggin, the California Supreme Court held that this statute . . . ."  In short, avoid lengthy background exegesis and get to the heart of the matter.

4.  Save time to read and revise your answers.  This is not a time- constrained, in-class exam.  Use the 30 hours to make sure that you have answered the questions, clearly explained your analysis, and written a cogent set of essays.  Also, follow Strunk and White’s advice to “omit needless words.”  The shorter answers are often the best answers because they get right to the point and engage the reader (me).

5.  Proofread and edit.  With the luxury (burden) of 30 hours, your answers should be free of typos, misspellings, and grammatical errors.  Having said that, I understand that it is difficult to read one’s own writing and catch every mistake.  Thus, I will not mark down a paper for a few errors here and there.  An excessive number of mistakes or an overall sloppiness in the prose and organization, however, will diminish the fluency of your essay.

6.  Keep in mind that this is formal writing.  I therefore recommend that you minimize colloquialisms and abbreviations.  For example, one year in my first-year Environmental Law class a very good student consistently referred to EPA as “the Man.”  I understood what he meant, but the soubriquet struck me as silly and pointless.  I also believe that on a 30 hour take-home exam, you should not find it necessary to use too many shorthands.  Acronyms (such as SWRCB, DWR, MWD, or SDCWA) are fine, but “ct” for “court or “pl” for plaintiff are not.

7.  Express your opinions.  There are few right or wrong answers in the field of water resources law, and this is not a multiple choice or true/false examination.  I will assume that you “know the law” because you will have access to all of our course materials.  Instead, I will test you on your analytical skills and your creativity in supporting your answers.  So, take a stand, argue your position, write in a strong voice, and show me your best stuff.

A Note on Grading

Your grade will be based on my subjective evaluation of your answer.  The points that I assign to each answer simply reflect this qualitative assessment.  Thus, on each 60 point question, 60 = A+, 55 = A, 50 = A-, etc., I use points, rather than the corresponding grade, because I have to combine the grades for both questions and I must award the final grades in conformity with the grading curve.  Quantitative scores are the easiest way to accomplish these two objectives.

Although the sample answers do not reflect this because I read hard copies rather than the e-versions that you have, I usually make extensive comments in the margins as I grade each paper.  These comments are to let you know what you did well and not so well, to raise questions that occurred to me as I was reading your answer, to respond to your arguments, and to point out arguments that you might have made.

As I said above, there are seldom right or wrong answers to these questions.  There are more and less persuasive arguments, however, and the grades that I assign will reflect my evaluation of your focus on the most important questions, the rigor and creativity of your arguments, and the cogency of your answers.

California Water Resources

The Final Exam

On this page you will find the instructions for the final exam, as well as two past exams and accompanying sample answers.