As exams ramp up at law schools everywhere, you can’t shake a stick without hitting another “How to Succeed on Law School Exams” piece.
Unfortunately, a lot of this advice is contradictory (“You have to outline!” “Outlining is a waste of time, just read supplements and take practice exams!” “Practice exams are a waste of time!”). Okay, probably no one ever said practice exams are a waste of time, but you get the idea.
Here’s the thing…your mileage may vary! What works for one person isn’t necessarily going to work for their law school BFF.
Difficult though it may be, you’ve got to trust yourself, your knowledge of how you learn best, and your intuition. That’s the only way to figure out what’s best for you.
Even the Experts Disagree
I was reminded of this great truth of law school earlier today, when I was on a call with a Harvard Law professor and the head of BARBRI. They disagreed about the best course of action in a particularly scenario, and these are two people who are very well versed in how to take legal exams.
The bottom line: you gotta do what works for you.
My Approach (which involved a lot of cooking)
I remember once in law school when a good friend was over studying for an exam with me. He was super diligent and sat quietly in the living room for 4+ hours reading.
I thought I was being quite productive, until finally he turned to me and said:
When do you actually sit down and study? You’ve done nothing but cook since I got here!
I was taken aback, because this wasn’t technically true. I had done some studying, but he had a point. I’d made us lunch, prepped some food for dinner and later in the week, and even baked cookies. But in between, I’d been reviewing my notes and diagramming the course.
What I intuitively understood was that this was just the way my brain learns best. I can focus intently for short periods of time, but very short. Then I have to take a break.
His brain, on the other hand, was happy to sit in one place and plow through material for hours on end. So that’s what he thought of as “studying.”
In the end, we were each playing to our strengths (and we ended up with the same grade, so obviously each approach worked fine).
But I did have a momentary flash of, “OMG, I’m doing this all wrong!” Which, luckily, I ignored.
Just remember: You know yourself best.
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YES!!! Such great advice! I definitely struggled with this my first year of law school b/c I was sucked into the trap of comparing myself to others. When I realized the “must outline” and “must hole up in library” strategies weren’t the best for me, I gave myself the space to figure out how I learn best. 5-10 minute guitar playing study breaks worked wonders!
Guitar playing makes sense! Distracts the brain and refreshes your mind…
I used to watch DVDs of trashy TV (1L year it was the OC). People thought I was weird, but it was the best way for me to decompress at night. Do what you need to!
Ha! This same classmate who made fun of my cooking-while-studying had a college buddy on the OC, so we watched every episode. And my roommates and I watched every single Sex and the City.
I definitely watched more TV in law school than ever before or since!
From Shopping to Saving
Yes and yes! I also fell into the trap of comparing myself to others. I hate studying at the law library, and I love taking breaks. I have to go and exercise or I just beat myself up for not exercising. Also, last sem I made the mistake of studying with a group and doing PTs together, but I realized that I needed to do PTs on my own and use group studying to clarify concepts instead.
My TV weapon of choice this round of finals was The Vampire Diaries 🙂 Such a great way to destress after a long day of studying!