No matter where you are in your law school career, finals probably always seem stressful and overwhelming. If you’re a 1L, you might struggle to identify the most effective ways to prepare. If you’re an upperclassman, you’re probably balancing studying for exams on top of a whole lot of other commitments. There is no single, right way to prepare for exams, but there are a number of things you should consider to perform your best. [Read more…] about 5 Ways to Prepare for Law School Finals
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There are two words you will hear over and over again when you begin law school: “outlines,” and “finals.” These words strike fear into every first semester 1Ls’ hearts. At least, they did for my class. From the moment school started, I felt like I was behind on outlining. It took me until my second time taking the bar to truly understand what outlining is, and why it is so helpful.
Before I get into why it’s important to prepare for finals early, let me give a brief overview of outlining.
In school, you are given a lot of cases to read. You’ll find that it’s easiest to remember them if you break them up into case files. Outlining is the art of organizing all that law and facts into smaller nuggets that are easy to remember and regurgitate on the exam if they relate to a particular issue. Everyone will find a different way to outline that works for them. Some of my classmates could only outline with notecards, others had to type them out. My style depended on the class, the final, and the professor, and usually changed multiple times per class before I figured out what worked best for me in that moment.
So, now that you know what outlining is, let’s jump into the two biggest reasons why you should prepare for finals early.
I think it’s safe to say that during law school, nothing tops the pinnacle of complexity like finals season. Yes, it’s generally difficult to make the transition into this new world of stress-filled days complete with legal jargon and a side of anxiety, but finals season no doubt ups the ante on this experience. Now the good news is that by the time you make it to your 2L year, you’ll likely begin to hit your stride as you may be equipped with the resilience and armor needed to fight your way through finals. However, by the time you get to your 3L year, finals season may become the most daunting uphill battle because, despite surviving four semesters of this fight, you may find yourself in a position where you just don’t care. When you just don’t care, it’s hard to maintain focus and find the resilience you need to complete extensive hours of outlining and studying. When you just don’t care, it’s hard to remember that you need to succeed in 3L year if you want to achieve your J.D. When you just don’t care, it’s hard to fuel the momentum you need to get through this trying season. But I get it. It’s easy to not care when you’re so close to the finish line and you’ve already surpassed two years of struggle. Heck, you’re probably even entitled to a moment of not caring, but finals season isn’t the time to do it.
So how do you find the motivation that you likely threw out the window the moment you stepped into 3L year? Admittedly, it’s difficult to pull this motivation out especially when you’ve been successfully coasting all semester and doing the bare minimum just to get by, but trust me, if you’ve made it this far it’s there. Finding this motivation and maintaining your momentum will just be a process of mind over matter. Simple right? Jokes aside, garnering this momentum won’t be without difficulty but maybe the below three suggestions can get you on the right track.
It doesn’t take long for even the greenest law student to discover that a good course outline is important in law school. Law school hallways are often filled with gossip about who has a great outline, where you can acquire outlines from top students, or which commercial outline is best for a particular class. Outlining is indeed essential to law schools success, but it shouldn’t be the only strategy you rely on when preparing for finals. In addition to creating, reviewing, and practicing with your own course outline, you should plan to incorporate some additional strategies into your finals preparations in order to ensure that you have fully mastered the material and skills you will need to succeed on your exams. Here are three additional strategies that go beyond traditional outlining to help you prepare for finals: [Read more…] about Beyond Outlining: 3 Additional Strategies to Help You Prepare for Finals
One of the tricky things about law school is that the final exams don’t just require you to memorize the material. Unlike undergrad, where exams and papers generally tested your ability to memorize and explain the concepts, memorization of the blackletter law is merely the first step in law school. Law school final exams require you to go beyond memorization by applying the rules you’ve studied to a whole new scenario that you’ve never seen before. So instead of seeing a straightforward question like “Recite the facts of Pennoyer v. Neff and explain the court’s holding,” you’re going to see a lengthy, dense set of facts that often concludes with a vague instruction such as “discuss all claims.” So if you have no idea what you’re going to see on the final exam, how can you prepare? By anticipating the facts! [Read more…] about Finals Prep Strategy: Anticipate the Facts
Now that you’ve gotten some tips on how to sustain your motivation throughout finals weeks and maintain a pace that will help you perform your best, let’s get to part two of our series: managing your time during an actual exam. Law school professors (and bar examiners for that matter) tend to set for tight time limits on exams because writing under pressures requires you to know the law very well and forces you to think quickly. So, while it may initially seem like you have a long time to complete that four-hour exam, the minutes will fly by when you’re struggling with a complicated fact pattern or laboring over a difficult multiple choice question. Points-wise, it’s vital to spend a meaningful amount of time on each question posed, so good time management is an important test-taking skill. Use the strategies below to help you manage your time and maintain a steady pace throughout the exam: [Read more…] about Pacing Yourself Through Finals, Part 2: Test-Taking Time Management