First off, congratulations! You have officially survived half of your first semester of law school. Want some more good news? Not every course requires a midterm! With the exception of Contract Law due to ABA standards mandating it as a full-year course, midterms are typically assigned at a professor’s discretion. Still not feeling celebratory? Then read through the rest of this post to not only guide you through the 1L midterm process, but also to put yourself in the right mindset, so that you will feel both well prepared and calm on your scheduled exam day.
Stage 1: Prepping
You should receive notice of your midterm date on the first day of class. Your professor will either announce that the midterm is a designated percentage of that course’s final grade, or it will be noted on the syllabus. Mark it down on a calendar immediately. The whole point of discussing the midterm on the first day of class is to ensure students are well aware of it in advance and can begin prepping ahead of time.
If you have not been diligent in creating or maintaining an outline, give yourself at least two weeks before your midterm to start drafting one. Use your syllabus to create headings and to refresh your memory on which excerpts of the casebook you read. Any assignments listed prior to the exam date are fair game for test material. Review your notes for important cases, statutes, themes or specific subjects your professor focuses on, and incorporate them in your outline. If you have been meaning to buy a supplement, now is the time to do so.
Positive Takeaway: Prepping for your midterm provides several key advantages; primarily that it makes studying for the final easier. Instead of waiting until the final and scrambling to implement a plan, the midterm forces you to review two-months worth of class material, gives you time to create a solid outline, and alerts you to missing items such as: class notes from a particular day, concepts you are not grasping, or supplements you want to use for the final.
Stage 2: Midterm Day
On the day of the midterm, double check that you have packed all of the items you need to succeed: pens, highlighters, laptop, charger, outline, casebooks and supplements (if open book), etc. If you must, take a cursory glance over any last minute materials that need reviewing. Right before the exam, take three deep breaths and try to relax. Remember, while you should always strive for the best grade possible, midterms are usually only worth 10-20 percent of your entire grade. Some professors even distribute them as pass/fail assignments! Keep this fact in mind if you feel yourself start to panic, but do not let it encourage you to slack off because it will become noticeable during your final grade performance.
Positive Takeaway: Your first midterm is a great crash course for what to expect on your finals, including a professor’s preferential exam format and how law school finals operate in general. Specifically pertaining to Contracts, the midterm provides a nice overview of the course thus far since the final is cumulative and as an added bonus, you are halfway done with one of the toughest courses you’ll encounter during your 1L year!
Stage 3: The Aftermath
Whether you flourished or failed your midterm, speak to your professors regardless of the grade. Your midterm grade provides many invaluable benefits: asking how you can either write better or improve on the final; possessing an actual visual of where you are not understanding the law or the areas you really need to study more for; what portions of exam taking slow you down; testing if your outline actually works for you or if you need to change the format; if your grade reflects the amount of prep work you put into it, you can mimic that routine for your final; and it provides a good reason to gain some face time with your professors.
Positive Takeaway: It is all positive! Everything you decide to do after you receive your midterm grade will aid you in doing your best on the final. The only downside will be if you take no steps to amend your study habits or grades at all. Do not let this easy, golden opportunity to improve, or maintain that ‘A,’ slip away.
To recap, midterms are for your benefit. They force you to review material you would not otherwise review until the final, which in turn saves you copious amounts of time during actual finals. They show you what areas you need improvement in, ranging from subject material to study habits and legal test-taking skills. Ultimately, they provide two chances to receive your best grade: once for the midterm itself that can serve as a good booster for your final grade in the course, and the second during the actual final where the mistakes you made on the midterm, can then be avoided. Therefore, do not view them as a source of panic and stress. Rather, consider midterms as the optimal resource to use as a study guide.
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