Law school exams can be quite different from what students are used to pre-law. Exam questions come in different types, including the most common issue spotters, but also multiple choice and policy questions. As you prepare for exams, you may be asking – am I doing the right thing? Am I doing enough? What are the people around me doing? How do I maximize my time?
There is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to exam preparation. I believe that it is important to look within yourself and determine what works best for you. Oftentimes, the study habits and strategies you have developed over time may be best – after all, they’ve brought you to this point in law school! But it certainly does not hurt to switch it up and try other methods.
Below, I suggest some strategies that you may not have considered. Give some a try and see whether they could be a good replacement or supplement!
1. Create visuals and incorporate colors
Law school is a lot of reading and writing words, so consider adding color and visuals! They can serve as great tools to distill the information you have learned and to show how different elements and components interact. You can replace certain words with easy-to-decipher symbols, draw out flowcharts or tables, and use different highlighter colors. If you are artistically inclined, you can even sketch out scenes for cases or hypotheticals. Doing this can help you absorb the material in a different way and make studying more fun!
2. Write your own problems and hypotheticals
One of my professors asked each student to write their own hypotheticals, and then answer the questions posed. By the end of the class, he had collected hundreds of practice questions, made available to the students for studying. I really enjoyed the process both of brainstorming and writing the questions, as well as going through my classmates’ questions and attempting to solve them. Since then, I’ve continued this practice in my other classes. Doing this, I am able to understand the facts and circumstances that may trigger legal issues; I think about how a legal doctrine may apply to a novel situation that has not been tested in court; I also pose questions that have a clear answer just to test my comprehension of the black letter law.
3. Study with friends
Study groups are quite popular in law school, and you may have already joined one with your friends or classmates. But if you are like me and prefer studying alone, it still may be a good idea to study with other people. I have found it useful to talk something out with a classmate when I get stuck. And whenever I review practice exams with other students, our conversations would inevitably surface more issues, more arguments, and more questions about the materials. Though I’m not a fan of the weekly study group, I have definitely studied with a group closer to the finals period, mostly to talk about practice exams, but also to chat about tricky topics or cases. Of course, professors’ office hours and teaching assistants are great resources as well. Law school is a wonderful community, so don’t be afraid to engage with the people around you!
4. Create rule statements
Writing out rule statements without any aid is a great way to test your knowledge on the relevant law. My process is this: Once I feel that I have memorized all the topics in a class, I sit at my computer and type out all the legal rules that I can remember. I then review them to see what I missed or mischaracterized. As this article discusses, you can bring your pre-written rule sections into an exam if it is open book, and even if not, creating these rules beforehand helps you to anticipate issues and memorize the law, so that you can save time and brainpower during the exam to focus on legal analysis.
5. Set a schedule for review and practice exams
Schedules have proven really helpful for me when it comes to law school exams. Always feeling like I have less time than I think, I try to plan ahead and stick to my schedule as best as I can. I first estimate the time I need to review all the class materials and prepare my outline. Then, I count the number of practice exams I plan to complete for each class, and mark on my calendar when I plan to take and review each one. I place this schedule right on my desk so I am reminded every day. I also note my other commitments during the study period, whether for my study group, family, or just personal downtime (remember to eat, exercise, take a break and sleep!). My schedule helps me stay on track, and, if I fall off, helps me readjust quickly.
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