When the end of the semester is approaching, it’s time to realistically assess where you are in your exam preparation. This can be a stressful time for most law students because not only does the end of the semester bring exams, but it also typically brings paper deadlines, presentations and oral arguments. It seems overwhelming, but with some careful planning you can get ahead of things and more effectively manage your work. Below are some things you should be doing as finals approach.
Know when your finals are
First things first, you need to know what your finals schedule is like, if you don’t already. By now, your school has likely released the finals schedule, including days and times, and you should put all of your exams and deadlines on a calendar. The timing of your exams will significantly impact your study schedule. First years usually have their exams spaced out nicely for them, but upperclassmen don’t! 2Ls and 3Ls need to know well in advance if they have back-to-back exams, or even just a day or two in between, so they can study in advance if needed.
Know the format of your finals
Next, you need to get some clarity on what the format of the exam will be, and what information will be tested. It is possible that your professor has not yet made final decisions, but they should be able to give you some idea of the general format of the exam. Exams can range from typical issue-spotter essays to short answers to multiple choice, and the format should inform your study methods greatly. Now is also a great time to look for your professor’s old exams to get a better of idea of what they may look like.
Create a calendar (and a plan) for yourself
Now that you know when all of your exams and deadlines are, it may be helpful to make yourself a list of everything that needs to be done for each class. This should include any legal writing briefs or papers, as well as finishing outlines and doing practice exams. From there, you can plan your remaining work around your class time. Now that the end of the semester is approaching, it is more important than ever to make a schedule and stick to it!
Set a deadline for finishing outlines
By now you are surely familiar with how important outlines are for exam success. While it is ideal if you can outline in pieces as the semester moves along, now is the time to really drill down on outlines if you haven’t yet. Based on your exams schedule, you should set a deadline for finishing your outlines so that you have enough time to do practice exams. A good rule is to have them finished up by the time classes end, and before reading period begins. That way, you can use reading period exclusively to memorize and do practice exams.
Get your questions answered
If something isn’t quite making sense to you, now is the time to get clarity from your professor. As the semester comes to a close, office hours will begin to fill up, and you may be limited in the amount of time you have to get answers. Asking questions sooner rather than later ensures that you have the time you need to tie up loose ends.
Do actual practice exams
While it can sound intimidating, doing actual, timed practice exams is key to preparing for finals. For most students, law school exams (especially essay exams) are far different from anything they’ve seen before, and the time constraints are often tight. Working through full practice exams ahead of time is the best way to make sure you are ready for test day. No matter how much you think you understand, you still need to make sure you can apply what you know to a new set of facts. This is often where students struggle, so be sure you don’t skip this!
Make sure you’re getting sleep
No matter how much you study, you will not be prepared to perform well on an exam if you aren’t getting any sleep. Sleep is a crucial component to memory and maintaining focus, and without it all of your hard work may not be enough. Sleep habits can be hard to change, and it can be difficult to catch up if you are behind. You should start to be more conscious of your sleep habits as far in advance as possible, that way you are already in a healthy routine come finals.
Get errands out of the way
You may also want to consider getting errands out of the way well in advance of finals, to the extent that you can. If possible, it might be a good idea to stock up on household necessities now, so you can eliminate the need to make ill-timed trips to the store when you’re in the thick of studying. This is also relevant for things like doctor and car appointments. If you are able to, try to schedule these things before you get completely caught up with finals prep.
The end of the semester can be a challenging time for many students. By planning ahead, you can prepare yourself to perform well and reduce stress when it comes time for finals.
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