Law school final exams pose many challenges, one of which is maintaining an appropriate pace, both during the actual exam and throughout finals week. Part 1 of this series will give you suggestions on how to manage your studying during the weeks leading up to and during finals and Part 2 will provide you advice on how to manage your time during the actual exam.
We all know that law school takes a high-stakes, all-or-nothing approach to testing. The time and effort you’ve invested over the course of a semester will come down to a single three to four hour exam, so you need to be at your best. Most law schools spread their finals out over a two week period that is preceded by a dead week, where no classes are held. This long stretch of final exam prep and administration seems important, maybe even necessary, to adequately studying for exams, but it also poses some challenges. It can be difficult to maintain an intense focus and high level of work effort over an extended period of time, and, if you don’t pace yourself appropriately, you may start to feel fatigued, unmotivated, and burnt out. Keep the following suggestions in mind to help you sustain your motivation and perform your best throughout finals week.
Planning ahead is crucial to staying energized during the long slog of the reading week and finals weeks, and it actually starts prior to the semester. When you’re registering for classes, take a close look at the exam schedule and be realistic about whether you can manage multiple finals in a short period of time. Taking back-to-back finals is no easy feat, and it may affect your performance on one or both tests, so plan your schedule carefully. You should also plan ahead for child care and time off from your job as early as possible, and make advance arrangements for anything else that may require your time and attention during finals week. As exams approach, sit down with a calendar and make a schedule that includes when you’ll study, where you’ll study, and what subjects you’ll study.
Synchronize Your Schedule To Testing Hours
How you perform during the three to four hours of the exam will dictate your entire grade, so you need to be able to focus during that specific time period. During the reading week and throughout finals week, try to synchronize your schedule to the testing hours to get yourself used to perform at a high level during that time frame. That means that you should be getting up early if you have morning exams and that night students should spend the evening hours studying.
Space Your Studying
Some cramming right before each exam is usually inevitable, but to the extent, you can try to space your review sessions for each subject appropriately. Spaced review or distributed practice promotes retention, which is particularly important when you have multiple subjects that you are studying for over a limited period of time. If you’re one to two weeks away from an exam, aim to study for each class every day or so. In other words, rotate the subjects and classes you study for throughout the week rather than cramming for a single class over several days. When your first final is a day away, you can start to focus solely on that exam. If you have back-to-back exams or exams that are very close together, you may have to prioritize your study time, but to the extent you can, continue to rotate between subjects to help you feel prepared for both.
Vary Your Study Methods
Studying for exams is tedious, and that tedium can impact your motivation and focus as the weeks drag on. To help break up the monotony of studying, be sure to vary your study methods as much as possible. Just as rotating the subjects you review promotes retention, switching between activities and topics will keep your mind sharp and improve your memory. So don’t just plan on reading and re-reading your outline over and over again. Instead, shift between reviewing your outline, working through hypos, writing out the key rules, talking through difficult topics with a study group, or whatever other methods you prefer.
Get Some Sleep
Between wrapping up classes, the reading week, and two weeks of exam, you could be in finals mode for a month! To sustain the intensity you need to excel, you have to take care of yourself. No one can be at their best if their pulling all-nighters or studying for sixteen hours a day over an extended period of time. Getting a good night’s sleep and taking regular study break will help your mind stay sharp and reduce the likelihood that you’ll burn out before your last exam.
Remind Yourself That This Is Short Term
Law school exams aren’t difficult just because they’re high-stakes or because they cover a large amount of material, they’re also difficult because they require you to sustain a high level of concentration and work effort over a long stretch of time. When you’re starting to feel weary and stressed, remember that this won’t last forever. Try to get yourself in the mindset that you’ll work hard during this short-term period because you know that you’ll be able to rest and relax at the end of it.
Maintaining a good pace during final exams – finding that balance between serious studying and taking time to recharge – will help sustain your focus throughout the long weeks. Use the suggestions above to help you combat the fatigue, boredom, and stress that can accompany finals week so that you can prepare effectively and perform your best when it matters most.
Check out these other helpful articles:
- All You Need to Prepare for Law School Exams
- Exam Prep Made Simple: Organize Your Thoughts
- It’s Almost Finals! Are You Getting the Most Out of Your Study Time?
- Creative Ways to Organize Your Study Materials
Looking for some help to do your best in law school? Find out about our law school tutoring options.
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