Exam Overview and FAQ

2021 Information re Exam TBD

2020 Exam for Online Sections

Please note, some of the following information below has recently changed in response to the COVID-19 crisis (May 2020).

The examination offered to the students in the online sections is administered in a take-home, “open book” format.  It will be emailed directly to students on May 7, 2020 after 1200h UTC.  Answers may be submitted on any day prior to July 1, 2020, either in MSWord or PDF format, via email to the address indicated in the exam instructions.  Grades will be distributed on a rolling basis; the sooner you take the exam, the sooner we will inform you concerning the result.  Certificates will be issued in late July, after all of the exams have been graded.

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Students’ responses to the examination are graded by the Harvard teaching fellows.  No teaching fellow grades exams from students in the teaching fellow’s own section.

When evaluating answers, the teaching fellows use the following scale:

  • 5 = excellent  (For examples of “excellent” responses, see the model answers for the 2013 and 2014 Harvard exams, available here.)
  • 4 = insightful
  • 3 = good
  • 2 = satisfactory
  • 1 = unsatisfactory

To pass the exam, a student must receive an average of 2 on his or her responses to the questions.  If the teaching fellow who grades the exam assigns a average grade between 1.8 and 2.2, inclusive, Professor Fisher reviews the exam.  This review by Professor Fisher is final, and no other grades can be reviewed or appealed. Students who pass the exam and satisfy the course-attendance requirement are issued certificates of completion.

Because of how our notification system is built, we have not been able to inform students of their numerical grades.  Email notifications inform students if they have received a passing grade, not the grade itself.

The exam is intended to be rigorous but fair. In 2013, the exam-passage rate was approximately 80%; in 2014, the rate was approximately 85%. Those rates did not vary significantly by country of residence, age, or occupation.  In particular, non-lawyers passed the exams at roughly the same rate as lawyers.

Past Exams

The format of the 2020 exam will be slightly different than previous exams because of the expanded time window for completing the exam.  However, considering previous exams is still the best way to prepare.

Instructions for the 2019 online exam are available here.

Instructions for the 2018 online exam are available here. The 2018 Online Exam is here.

More past examinations are available here.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who can take the exam?

  • All students admitted to the online sections of CopyrightX 2020 can take the exam; however, only those who have attended at least 10/12 of the weekly sessions will receive a certificate (provided the student receives a passing grade).

Is there a charge for the exam and certificate?

  • There is no charge.

Should I take the exam?

  • While this is largely a personal preference, we encourage students who have gone through the course to take the exam not only because it marks a fulfilling and substantial point of closure, but also because it gives students a well-defined goal to work towards. The certificate of completion for the course is only available to students who attend at least 10/12 online sessions and pass the final exam.

When is the exam?

  • The 2020 exam will be available starting on May 7, 2020.  Students will have until July 1, 2020 to submit their answers.

How will the exam be administered?

  • In the past, the CopyrightX exam has been administered using an online text editors similar to the “Google Docs” software. Each section student has been assigned a unique “pad,” or instance of the text editor, located at a unique URL sent to them via email.  This year, to accommodate the longer time window and grading on a rolling basis, all students are asked to submit their answers in either MSWord or PDF format, via email to the address indicated in the exam instructions.

What is the exam like?

  • You can find relevant information about the exam, including the exams from the past years and sample answers for some of them, on the course website here. The CopyrightX team encourages you to try taking the previous exams and then compare your answers to the sample answers provided.  If you have any questions about your answers to the practice exam, feel free to ask your teaching fellow.  The exam format for 2020 will be modified slightly to account for a much longer time window for taking the exam.

What is the format of the exam?

  • You can see the format of past exams by perusing them on the website.  There has historically been one longer doctrinal question, one shorter question on comparative copyright law, and one shorter question on theory of copyright law, but this format is subject to change.

What is the word limit?

  • The word limit has changed each year and is typically allocated per question. In the past, the issue-spotting, doctrine-focused question was limited to 2500 words, while the two theory/policy-focused questions were allowed 1200 words each. However, these limits may change, and the appropriate instructions will accompany the exam. The word limit is designed to allow you to answer the question but rein in unnecessary wordiness; whenever possible, please try to show your analysis and explain your conclusions instead of simply stating them. Please see sample answers to get a sense of the level of detail that is expected.

If the exam is open book, does that mean I can refer to my “cheat sheet” with the steps of a copyright infringement suit, relevant tests, and case law?

  • Yes!  The exam is entirely open book, which means you can refer to your cheat sheet, the Internet, and other resources you would like. However you should not consult other people with respect to the exam, and you must follow the academic honesty policy. Furthermore, be sure not to get bogged down in doing additional research. You have all the information you need to take the exam from the lecture videos, assigned readings, and class sessions. Ideally you would use your notes to outline your answers and then use reference materials to fill in the necessary details (e.g., names of cases or statutory provisions etc.).

Can I take the exam next year or retake the exam if I don’t pass?

  • Unfortunately, no. The exam is only available to current students of the course and cannot be retaken in the future.

How do students usually fare on the exam?

When will students be notified of the exam results?

  • In 2020, students will be informed of their exam results on a rolling basis, depending on when they submit their exam answers.

Will I receive feedback on my answers?

  • No.  The CopyrightX team is not able to provide feedback on your answers, only your overall grade.


Last updated: May  6, 2020

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