It is law school exam time. Some students have already started, and many are in the final days of preparation for their first exams. I am getting a number of emails asking me what students should be doing to study for their upcoming finals. In other words, what is the most effective use of time?
What to Do Right Now
First, the most effective use of time is to practice.
I have never had a student say to me, “Man, that practicing really was a waste of time.” Nope. Never.
Every student wishes that they had practiced more, or under time pressure, or in an exam-taking environment. Practicing not only allows you to practice applying the law (the very important “A” in I-R-A-C) but it also tests your memorization and knowledge of the substantive law.
In addition to that you are going to get faster at writing out the rules. So basically it is the “one-stop-shopping” of exam prep.
You should balance practice with memorization. And yes, this is true whether or not this is a closed or open book exam.
- For a closed book exam, you may need to spend more time drilling the rules so you can write them down quickly and accurately.
- If you are taking an open book exam, it is true you will have reference materials there. However, don’t lose sight of how you differentiate yourself from the person sitting next to you. If you are spending all of your time looking up the rules, you are going to be wasting time that should be used writing out the answer. And that is going to hurt your grade.
So make quick-reference materials this weekend (even for your open-book tests) and practice using those materials, and memorizing them.
How to Fit Everything In
Now we know basically what you should be doing in the days leading up to your exam. But how do you balance all of that work?
Well this is a very personal question.
You must self-evaluate the best way that you study/memorize.
Most people seem to be able to effectively memorize material in an hour to ninety-minute blocks. Not four hours (as many law students attempt to do).
You should therefore mix-up the memorization with practice. Memorize for an hour or so then do an essay question. Go back to memorizing, and then another essay.
What Works For YOU?
It is also important to think about how you work best as an individual.
For me, I was able to memorize the best in the first half of the day. So I would make that the primary focus of my morning. Others study better at night. Some study off of flash cards, some mind maps. Whatever you do, come up with a plan and continue to work through the material.
Also, remember how important it is to sleep, eat, and be mentally ready for the exam. If you are exhausted, you won’t have the right mental state to perform at your best. And that is really important! So no all-nighters, no diets of only coffee, and take a walk when you are ready for a break.
Intentional, effective and deliberate studying is your key to exam success!
Best of luck!
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