Common Errors on Exams

Cite this Article
Thomas A. Lambert, Common Errors on Exams, Truth on the Market (December 31, 2009),

I’ve been grading Contracts exams for the last week or so. This is where I earn my pay. It’s an awful job. The students take only one exam for the entire semester, so I really have to be careful to make sure I’m evaluating everyone fairly. Painstakingly reading and effectively ranking 75 three-hour essay exams is tedious beyond belief.

Adding to the tedium is the severe frustration I feel when students make the same basic mistake over and over. The one that really drives me nuts — especially because we went over the rule ad nauseum and I repeatedly warned the class not to make this mistake — is when a student says that a particular transaction is governed by the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) because the parties to the deal are merchants. Even worse is when they tell me the UCC doesn’t govern because one or both of the parties is not a merchant.

Ugh! I honestly don’t know how I could make it any clearer that Article 2 of the UCC (the part we study in the basic Contracts course) governs all contracts for the sale of goods, even non-merchant sales. Every year, I increase the number of times I make this point in class. I’m now approaching 500 or so repetitions. (OK…That’s an exaggeration. But I really do emphasize this rule!)

I suppose students make this mistake with such frequency because one of the UCC’s most notorious provisions — Section 2-207 — makes merchant status relevant for one matter (the question of whether additional terms in a written acceptance or confirmation become part of a contract). We spend quite a bit of time on 2-207’s intricacies, so this must be the genesis of the confusion. In any event, it’s maddening! (Though not as maddening as losing your students’ exams on an international flight….)

Do other Contracts teachers have the same problem? And how about other common mistakes in other subjects? Let’s commiserate!