If you’re in law school and you’re tempted to beat yourself up over the joinder analysis you did on your Civ. Pro. final or the duty argument you failed to make in Torts, stop. Here are the reasons why this is a bad idea, and what you should do instead.
Rehashing exams is an utter waste of time.
I’m sure you already know this, but there’s nothing you can do about what you wrote on your exams now that they’re over. For that reason alone, you should cut out the rumination. It’s wasting your time!
Fixating on things you cannot change is stressful.
There’s no point stressing yourself out over something that already has a fixed outcome. You did your best, and now your exam is out of your hands. Let it go.
Start making a list of what to improve.
If you’re feeling bad about your exam performance, why not try something useful instead. Ruthlessly critique your own study and in-class habits from last semester and ask yourself why you missed what you did on the exam (or what you think you missed—sometimes students are wrong about missing issues and actually did just fine). What could you have done differently? Make a list with the aim of doing better next semester.
Did you go to every single lecture, or at least get notes for any unavoidable absences? If not, start there. Did you start outlining soon enough? How was your outline, is there anything you could have changed to make it work better for you? What about practice, how many essays did you write out in the months leading up to your exams? If your answer is zero, you have some big potential for improvement on this point alone.
Commit to doing better next time.
Now that you know all the things you should have done differently, actually commit to changing your habits for the next time around. Start by going to see your professor to review your exam as soon as you get it back. Everyone can benefit from this. Even if you will never have this same professor again, their insights could be very helpful and generally-applicable enough that it could help you on future exams.
If you’re not sure what to focus on improving next semester, here are some suggestions that all law students would do well to follow:
- Make your own outlines and attack plans, and start them early.
- Seek out practice exams, and see if you can write each one your prof. releases.
- Set aside time each week for memorization, the more you do early, the better.
- Practice, practice, practice! This really is the most important step.
- Don’t forget to review all the practice you do
- Remember, there’s help available if you need it, don’t be afraid to reach out
You only get a very short time before spring semester picks up the pace. And, believe it or not, the second semester will probably go even faster than the first one.
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