10 Tips for Prepping for Your Exams
With finals coming up soon, we have put together 10 tips on how to help you organize and prepare for your upcoming law school exams. While this post is geared towards first year law students, the points below are applicable towards anyone in law school or preparing for the bar.
1. Don’t Panic & Don’t Stress
First and foremost do not panic on your exam. If you have been studying, and practicing all year, you’ve got that knowledge in your brain. Something come up on the exam you weren’t expecting? Take a breath, and think logically how you should answer based upon everything you have learned about in the course. Studies have shown that increases in stress level can negatively impact your performance, so take a breath and relax.
2. Review & Consolidate your Outlines
Over the past year, you should have been briefing cases, outlining your courses, and in the end distilling that massive amount of information your professors have given you into bite size digestible pieces of information. Consolidating the information will help you better retain the information during exam time (If you can get the course into 1 page, that is excellent). For more info, check out LifeHacker.
3. Create Flashcards
Similar to the above, flashcards can be a great way to test yourself on the various topics or caselaw. However, if you can it may be better to create your own as this gets back to the idea of consolidation.
4. Complete Practice Exams
Most (if not all) law schools will house past exams either in the library, or on the school’s intranet. Sometimes, they will even include selected answers from previous students. Go through these exams, and practice taking them yourself. As you take them, you’ll start to understand what areas you may be weak in.
5. Get feedback from your professors
Oftentimes, professors will make themselves available during office hours. As you go through and have questions about past exams, or questions about your outline, take the time to reach out to your professors and ask them for their opinions (you’ve paid to attend law school, you might as well take advantage of everything).
6. Don’t predict what will be tested as a replacement for studying everything.
This can’t be stressed enough. While you may think you know what specific area will be tested, or have looked through your professor’s past exams and think a particular area is ripe for testing don’t shift your studying away from the course material. Otherwise you may find yourself on test days lacking the basic knowledge of the course material.
7. Study all topics that have been covered in the course
Separate from predictions, some students tend to focus on one area of the class because they are the most familiar with its principals. Separately, you might know of someone who has completed over 1,000 multiple choice questions, but 2 practice essays. In either event, practice the stuff you know, but also identify and eliminate your weaknesses. The goal on exam day should be that you walk into your exam, and you don’t care what the professor is going to have on the paper.
8. Attend review sessions
Most professors will host review sessions at the end of the semester, where they will answer everyone’s questions in a group setting. This is a great opportunity to go listen to what other students may be thinking about. Make sure though to bring your own questions as it can spark further conversations about a particular topic of interest.
9. Go beyond memorizing cases and focus on the application.
Some people tend to focus on just memorizing the case law, and being able to cite to it. They can rattle off the principles of over 100 cases. However, that doesn’t help if they can’t actually apply the case law to the facts, and come to a relevant conclusion. Remember, you are in law school with the expectation that upon graduation you will be able to listen to your clients’ problems, identify the appropriate rules, determine how that rule applies to the issue at hand, and thus come to a conclusion.
10. IRAC IRAC IRAC!
Issue -> Rule -> Application -> Conclusion.
IRAC is the basic tenant of law school exams. Do you know why? Because it is a concise formula that forces you to go from problem to solution. It is also easily recognizable for law school professors (and judges if you are practicing). It is something that you will be using throughout your life as an attorney. Get used to writing with the IRAC formula. Check out some guides here.
Good luck on your exams!