Exam Overview and FAQ

2019 Exam for Online Sections

The examination offered to the students in the online sections is administered in a take-home format.  It will be made available online at 2pm EDT (18:00 UTC) on May 1, 2019.  Students have 96 hours to complete the exam; the exam will close at 2pm EDT (18:00 UTC) on May 5, 2019.  (Most students are able to complete the exam in 8 hours or fewer.  However, there is no limitation on the amount of time that students may devote to the exam within the 96-hour period in which it is administered.)

The instructions for the 2019 exam are available here.

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Past Exams

Instructions for the 2018 online exam may be found here. The 2018 Online Exam is here.

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

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.

More past examinations are available here.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who can take the exam?

  • All students admitted to the online sections of CopyrightX 2019 can take the exam; however, only those who have attended at least 10/12 of the weekly sessions will receive a certificate (provided they pass). Others who take the exam (but have not met the minimum attendance requirement) will receive an email informing them of their 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 exam will be available on the course website at 2pm EDT (18:00 UTC) on May 1, 2019. 

How long do I have to complete the exam?

  • You will have 96 hours to complete the exam–that is, 96 hours from the time the exam is released, regardless of when you download and start working on it. This means that the exam will not accept responses submitted after May 5th at 18:00 UTC. Most students finish the entire exam in eight hours or less. You can and should, of course, take frequent breaks.

How will the exam be administered?

  • The CopyrightX exam will be administered using an online text editors similar to the “Google Docs” software. Each section student will be assigned a unique “pad,” or instance of the text editor, located at a unique URL sent to them via email. Further details regarding the relevant technology and usage instructions, along with a link to the exam itself, will be emailed to students on May 1, 2019, and will be available on the course website at that time.

What is the exam like?

  • You can find relevant information about the exam, including the exams from the past three years and sample answers for two 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.

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.

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 this year this, 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. 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?

  • We expect to notify students of their exam results by email during mid-June 2019.

Will I receive feedback on my answers?

  • No.


Last updated: April 19, 2019

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Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School Harvard Law School