How to Succeed on Law School Final Exams

AEH2-267x400Law school final exams are just around the corner. If you are like most students, you feel behind and underprepared.   But have no fear!  One month can make a big difference in your final exam grades if you use your time wisely.

This post will explain three things to do during your last month of preparation to help you make the most of your study time and catch up as quickly as possible.

It will also delineate three things to not do during your last month of preparation so that you do not waste any time on something that will not improve your final exam score.

What to do to Succeed on Law School Final Exams:

1. Outline.

If you haven’t already started outlining, start outlining now.  Make an outline for each of your law school courses. An outline is important because it helps you to organize all of the information that you have learned throughout the semester into something manageable and learnable. Think of your outline as being your bible for the course.

How long should your outline? How in-depth should it be? These are highly-debated topics, but in reality, the answers to those questions will be dictated by how much time you have to create your outline and learn it. If you have already started outlining and have a pretty in-depth outline that you feel good about, good. Keep it. If you have not started outlining and all you can manage to crank out is a bare-bones outline of the law – trust me, it is better than nothing.

Here is a post on how to make an outline if you have not already!

2. Learn Your Outlines.

Outlining is only the beginning of the process. Once you are done outlining, you have to learn your outlines.  Ideally, you should have them completely ingrained in your head by the time you take your final (and this goes whether you have a closed book exam or an open book exam – indeed, the preparation should not be much different for open book or closed book exams).

How you learn your outlines will depend on your learning style. Visual learners will be benefited by using charts, diagrams, pictures, colors. Auditory learners will be benefited by saying parts of their outline out loud, explaining legal concepts to others, or listening to others explain legal concepts.  The point is this: Make your brain work to learn your outline. Do not just passively read it or have it sitting in front of you while you update your status on Facebook. This does not constitute “learning” your outline. Here are some ideas on how to learn your outline once you are done making it.

3. Practice answering exam questions.

This is so underrated, yet so important. If you practice taking exams before your final exam, you will be at a huge advantage. You will understand the format of the exam. You will be less intimidated by it. You will have an idea of how to approach it, and you might even see some repeat issues.

The best exams you can possibly practice are the ones that your professor puts on file for students to look at. If you can get a hold of these exams (don’t forget the model answers!) you will be in good shape.

(If you are looking for an in-depth guide to answering law school exam fact patterns, click this link!)

What not to do:

If you are looking to succeed on law school final exams, there are a few things that you should not do. Here are many common mistakes that I see students make during the last month of preparation:  

1.  Do not obsess over cases.

Some students think that rereading cases will help them learn the law and succeed on law school final exams. This is misguided. Reading cases takes a lot of time and does not help you nearly as much as simply outlining the law. To put it another way, it gives you way less bang for your buck than outlining. Put the casebook aside for now and stick to outlining.

2. Do not listen to other students who pretend they know everything.

Law school tends to bring out the worst in people and students will go out of their way to intimidate others, hold back outlines, and be generally unhelpful. Do not take it personally (they are only afraid!) but also make an effort to stay away from students like that. You certainly do not need the added stress and negativity.

3. Do not take part in an unproductive study group just because you don’t know what else to do.

Study groups are only really effective for some types of learners. But a lot of study groups simply are not effective at all. If you are going to take part in a study group, then make sure you join one with a leader, a clear agenda, a specific start and end time, and one that focuses on the law and how to apply it. Or, better yet, start your own study group.

If you are looking for more law school study tips, learn more about private tutoring here, or subscribe here for free study tips by entering your full name and e-mail address: 

IMG_3635-400x267Ms. Ashley Heidemann graduated as the #1 law student in her class of 2011 and scored a top score on the Michigan Bar Exam in February of 2011. She offers private one-on-one tutoring for law students and bar exam students nationwide as well as Michigan bar exam courses and seminars . For any questions about her services, please click here to contact us. We are happy to assist you in any way we can. 

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