The second semester of 1L year can feel at times better, and at times worse than the first. On the one hand, you should have a better idea of what to expect and how to manage your work. On the other hand, your professors probably expect that you can handle more work, and at many schools, you may have an extra course to tackle. As the semester comes to a close, the increased volume of work and pressure of finals can start to feel overwhelming. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to reduce your stress!
Think About What Worked For You, And What Didn’t Work For You Last Semester
Before you jump into anything and start spinning the wheels, take a few minutes to think about what worked for you, and what didn’t work for you last semester. Whether you did well or could use some improvement, there are probably some things that you could add to your preparation, and things that you could skip this time around. Consider whether your methods last semester really helped you feel prepared for exams – if they didn’t, it’s time for a change. For example, did your outline actually help you study, and write out answers – or would you be better served by drawing out flowcharts for each topic? Was your study group actually helpful to you, or was it just a place for you to procrastinate?
Start Early, And Make A Schedule
Hopefully by now you know that cramming is typically not the best law school preparation method. If you can, start preparing early so that you can plan out enough time to prepare for each exam. Once finals actually begin, there typically will only be a few days between each – so be sure to take this into consideration as it likely won’t be sufficient to wait until one exam is over to begin preparing for the next one! Try to set goals for when you want to have your study materials done for each course, and when you want to take practice exams to be sure that you actually do them. You should also consider when you might need to go to office hours and when your professor has availability, as it becomes more limited during the end of the semester.
Understand How Your Exams Will Be Structured, And Plan Accordingly
It is likely that each exam will be slightly different, and you should be sure to understand what is expected on each of them in order to study effectively. Consider how the exam will be structured for each class and plan your study time accordingly. If the exam is closed book, make sure you plan enough time to memorize attack plans and any relevant cases, if you need to cite to them in your analysis. If the exam is open book, you should have attack plans mostly memorized as you likely won’t have too much time to look through your materials. Be sure to have them in a concise, easily accessible format just in case you do need to refer to them during the exam!
Get Your Questions Answered Early
Another benefit to outlining and studying sooner rather than later is that you can identify which areas you need clarification with, and get help sooner rather than later. Often as it gets closer to exams, office hours get busier, so you may have limited opportunities to have your questions answered. Some professors may even set cutoffs for when they will see students in office hours or respond to email questions. Try to prepare study materials early and keep a list of questions as you go along so that you can remember exactly where you needed help. You should also try to take a look at some practice exams early for the same reason. No matter how perfectly you think you understand the material, it is inevitable that a practice exam will raise something that you don’t understand fully. Looking at these early can help work out any areas that are more difficult for you to analyze with plenty of time to get help!
Take Care of Yourself
It can be very easy to neglect taking care of yourself when you’re so wrapped up in final exams, but failing to take care of your body won’t help you on your exams, no matter how much studying you think you’re getting done by neglecting this. You need to be healthy and well-rested to retain the information that you’re studying, and to have enough stamina to take multiple, hours-long exams. No matter how busy you feel, be sure that you at least get enough sleep and eat well during the end of the semester and exam period!
The end a semester can quickly become hectic and overwhelming. Taking some time to plan ahead and take care of yourself can make a huge difference in effectively managing your finals weeks.
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