Lee and I were comparing notes recently about what we brought with us when we went to take our law school exams.
Since we totally disagree about what’s necessary, we’ll each share our approach. Different strokes for different folks!
Alison’s Packrat Approach
In the unlikely event that the zombie apocalypse happened in the middle of my Contracts final, I was pretty well prepared for a few days of holed-up-in-the-test-room survival.
Here’s what I brought to my average in-class, open-book law school exam:
- The textbook and any supplemental materials
- At least one commercial supplement (sometimes two)
- Printed copies of all of my class notes, in a binder
- Printed and tabbed copies of my own outline(s) and other study materials and at least one other student outline, in a binder
- Scratch paper
- Flags or Post-it notes
- A bottle of water
- A chilled Starbucks doubleshot
- Red Gatorade
- A bottle of caffeinated soda
- Fruit in bite-sized pieces
- Peanut M&Ms
- Clif bars in several different flavors
- A sandwich
- My iPod preloaded with an exam soundtrack
- Highlighters in several colors
- At least three pens
- A backup pencil, in case all of my pens simultaneously lost ink
- An eraser
- A manual watch
- About a million hair ties
- Eye drops
- Extra contacts
- Backup glasses
- My laptop
- A power cord
- An external mouse
As you can imagine, I had to arrive early to claim enough space to spread all this stuff out!
Maybe it was ridiculous, but my theory was you never knew what you were going to want in the heat of the moment.
Since most of my exams were four hours long, I knew I’d want food and caffeine at some point. But would I feel like nuts, or fruit? Who could say?!? So I brought both.
I’m sure Lee will make fun of me, and extol the virtues of Zen simplicity, but I’m standing behind the packrat approach! If you think you might want it, bring it.
If nothing else, carrying all this junk around ensures you get some much-needed exercise.
Lee’s Minimalist Approach
Wow! If there is a natural disaster in San Francisco, we are coming to Alison’s house! If you are that well stocked for an exam, what must your emergency preparedness kit look like!?! (Note from Alison: It’s extensive. If you need to charge your cell phone from my solar charger, just come on over. Not kidding!)
Yes, I must admit that I did somewhat mock the packrats that looked like they were moving into the exam room for an exam.
You wouldn’t guess it (from the current state of my desk), but I find order and lack of clutter soothing. So I never wanted to have a bunch of stuff around me when I was taking the exam. (I had the same philosophy for the bar exam, where I also brought a minimal amount of stuff.)
Although exams can seem like they are going to take forever (3 to 4 hours), time really flies by when you are working hard — so I feel like the packrats wouldn’t have time to take advantage of everything that you brought with you!
All of my 1L exams were closed book. So here is what I took into an exam:
- Power cord
- Ethernet cord (yes my friends, there was no wifi when I started law school)
- Pens (blue only)
- One highlighter (but to be honest, I typically didn’t use highlighters on exams)
- Pencils (only if there was a multiple-choice section of the exam)
- Earplugs (I didn’t like to wear them, but you need them if there is something going on in the room that you need to tune out — like Alison eating fruit and nuts and Clif bars! — just kidding)
- Something to drink, e.g. water (or at that time I was consuming a lot of diet coke, although I have now given up the stuff)
- Jacket (our classrooms could get pretty cold)
- iPod and headphones (that I listened to while I got things set up)
- Advil (because, well you just never know what could happen)
I never brought food with me because I typically ate right before the test (what else are you going to do before the exam)?
For an open-book exam (I had a few 2L and 3L years), I brought in (Note: we were only allowed to bring casebooks and our own materials):
- Binder with my outlines/attack plans
To be honest, I almost never had time to search through my longer non-attack plan outlines anyway, so I never thought I would have time to search through class notes (so I didn’t bring them). I don’t think it hurts to bring them, but you can’t assume you will have time to go through them. We weren’t allowed to bring in commercial supplements, but I don’t think I would have had time to use them either!
I had some crazy stuff happen to me in exams (computers crashing, etc.) but I never needed any stuff to get through it. I just needed my best-exam-taking-self and a few essentials.
But, just to be fair, I do have my own quirky exam needs.
I was a bit anal retentive about where I sat during an exam. I liked to sit in the first 4 rows on the left hand side on the aisle. I never wanted to have to climb over anyone if I needed to get up during the test or talk to a proctor.
So I still got to the test pretty early (silently mocked the packrats who were “moving into” the testing room), listened to my iPod, and readied my Zen workspace.
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What can’t you live without on exam day? Share your tips in the comments!
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