Even though Halloween is over, you may be spooked with your final exams rapidly approaching. However, as long as you create an effective final exam study schedule, there is no reason to panic. Although law school can be overwhelming, creating a precise final exam schedule is relatively simple and will help you maintain focus as exams approach.
Before planning, there are a few basic details about your classes and schedule that you need will need to plan for. Specific to a finals schedule, first consider the following questions:
How many days until the first final?
- You need to know exactly how many days you have until your first final so that you can make the most of the time remaining. Personally, I’d recommend a calendar or leaving a note on your fridge as a daily reminder to stay motivated.
What is the style of the exam?
- Are there multiple choice questions? What about short answer? How long will the exam take? Are there past exams you can model your approach after? It is important to know with as much specificity as possible the style of your professor’s exam. This will help you better prepare because you will be able to anticipate how the professor wants his or her exam questions answered.
How many assignments are left?
- How many cases do you have left to read total? When is your legal writing final project due? I highly recommend creating a checklist of every assignment you have left before the end of the trimester. It won’t be nearly as long as you think, and it can be rewarding and cathartic to systematically cross off completed assignments as you progress.
What is the actual schedule like?
- Some law schools give 1L finals exams as a “bar exam” experience, meaning all the 1L subjects are intermingled into one exam. Some students have exams every day, some students have exams every other day. When is your toughest subject tested? You want to make sure you know exactly when, where, and how much time in between exams in order to maximize the time remaining late in the semester.
Also, don’t forget about these steps to creating a study schedule. Now that you have all the information you need, it is time to create your final exam study schedule.
The most important thing is to interleave your study schedule to avoid cramming. Essentially, a law student’s goal is to become fluent in the area of the law tested on. By interleaving your study schedule, you will memorize faster and be able to recall information more quickly on the exam. Most law students understand the law going into an exam, but the top students are able to articulate a complex and nuanced understanding of the law more quickly due to their memorization and familiarity with the rules.
To create an effective interleaved study schedule, students must study multiple subjects per day, usually in 2-4 hour blocks, and never go more than 3 days without reviewing a subject.
Particularly as exams get closer, it can be tempting to skip subjects you are comfortable with and focus on your weak areas. While it is okay to spend more time on your weaknesses, do not neglect other subjects by ignoring them completely. Even if it is only a couple of hours, making sure you never go 3 days without some type of review is the best way to “create fluency” and prepare for exams.
Remember, high performing students are not debating themselves about the exact language in a rule or whether an exception applies in a particular situation; it may seem basic, but these students are able to save valuable time on the exam by recalling information more quickly and providing more thorough analysis with the time saved. Additionally, it is best to try and memorize this information for long term retention as it will pay huge dividends when you begin bar prep after graduation.
Additionally, you’ll need to set aside time to take full length practice exams at regular intervals. I recommend doing this on the weekends so you have time to decompress after the practice test and review your answer for accuracy.
This task can be particularly demanding on students; not only is it time consuming, but most practice exams are exhausting and tedious. However, these practice tests prepare you for the proper mindset you need for an exam. People very rarely concentrate on a single task for 3 dedicated hours and practicing maintaining your focus will help you write better exam answers on test day.
Using these study techniques, you want to block out a daily/weekly study schedule that will serve as your guide. It is important to realize feeling overwhelmed and exhausted is normal. Performance on law school exams comes down to how well prepared you are to process the information on the exam, not how difficult it was to get to that point.
Finally, remember to personalize your study habits. Seek advice from a variety of sources, and try to figure out what works best for you and your learning style. No two students are the same, and you will study more effectively if you individualize your approach.
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