Law School Exam Study Tips
Getting ready for exams is stressful! We are here with some law school exam study tips to hopefully make the experience less terrible!
Law School Exam Study Tips
1. Make a study plan.
Are you going to study at school? At a local library? With a group? Alone? Many students just say, “I am going to study.” But then when classes end and study period begins they are scrambling to get into a routine. To avoid this debacle set aside some time to look at your schedule to determine the dates of your exams. Then, decide where you will study or with whom.
2. Decide what you will study when.
You don’t want to be in a situation where you spend too much time studying for one exam and not enough for others. Get a big calendar and say you’ll study for, for example, Real Property and Torts for three or four days prior to the exam. The day before an exam, only plan on studying for that exam. (You will be too unfocused to study for something else!). If you are reading this well before the exam, start focusing on the classes you are having the most trouble with early.
3. Get your outlines done prior to classes ending.
I know—to some of you this sounds crazy. But really, this will make all the difference in the world. Once your outlines are done, your job is to memorize your outline and practice exams, problems and hypotheticals. If you still have outlines to complete you are going to have substantially less time to do everything else. If you are having trouble starting your outlines, see this post.
4. Figure out your learning style.
Try to learn or memorize part of your outline. There are a variety of techniques to learn your law school outlines. By trying out different techniques, you will figure out the most effective learning style for you. For example, I (Ashley) am visual. I learned best from covering up portions of my outline then trying to re-jot them down from memory. I would go through an entire outline until I was sure I knew it. If you are auditory, however, you may benefit from saying your outlines out loud.
5. Learn your outlines early.
We often say, it is not enough to have outlines, you have to know them! Start reviewing them early and often. You will learn and internalize the law. And you will be much more prepared for your final exams than your classmates.
6. Make attack outlines for some topics.
Many students find “attack outlines” incredibly helpful. You don’t necessarily need one for each class or topic but we recommend that you utilize this tool for the topics you struggle with. For instance, if negligence is something your torts professor spent 6 weeks on and you aren’t sure of the big picture yet—make an attack outline for this. You can make attack outlines when you are looking for an active review strategy. Or, you can make attack outlines to bring in with you to the exam.
7. Get a hold of Professor’s old exams prior to classes ending.
Some schools keep old exams on in reserve in the library, available for copying. Other professors post exams online. If you are fortunate enough to have old exams to look off of, print them early and set them aside. Having these ready to go will save you a step once you need them.
8. Take practice exams often.
Take exams early and often! The best source of exams is your professor’s old exams. So check to see if they have any on file. You may notice your professor tends to re-test certain issues. Or use a certain format. Or always, for example, have a policy question at the end. These can be invaluable to find out.
If you are wondering how to take law school practice exams, see this post.
9. Eliminate distractions.
This tip goes hand-in-hand with the rest. If your outlines are done—print them! Then you should get used to studying from your printed outline. This will not only encourage you to do things like tab it or organize it, but it will hopefully keep you off your computer and thus off the internet. Many successful students do not take their computer with them to study group or the library because they are too tempted. Keep this tip in mind with your phone usage as well. Don’t keep your computer at home and then get to the library to play on your phone. If you have to, take steps like leaving your phone in the car.
10. Put your family and friends on notice.
If you are a 1L this tip is especially for you! Law school exam period will be unlike any other exam period you have previously experienced. Likewise, if your significant other, friends or family are new to the law school world too they should be warned that you will be busy and most unavailable during these weeks. You obviously need to take breaks, but it will be easier to manage your time and obligations if you are not constantly being asked to visit or go out.
So many students try to sleep less in order to study more. This is a terrible idea! When you don’t sleep, you are unfocused. It is difficult to learn or understand material. It is hard to concentrate. Get sleep. Wake up refreshed and relaxed and able to tackle outlining, memorizing your outlines, and practice exams.
12. Talk to someone.
It would be ideal if you could get some feedback from your professors. But, in the event that’s not an option, seek out someone else. Whether it be a student who previously took the course, a mentor or a tutor, talking about what to expect and getting some feedback will help you deal with anxiety and likely perform better. If you are looking for a tutor—get in touch with us!
This post was written by Meagan Jabbori and Ashley Heidemann, who both contributed their best law school exam study tips!
Ms. Ashley Heidemann graduated as the number 1 law student out of over 200 students in her class of 2011 at Wayne State University. She now works as a tutor for law students and the bar exam. She also offers a Law School Preparatory Course for students interested in learning the skills necessary to achieve a high GPA in law school