Exam Advice: A 1L’s Perspective

1L year is definitely a whirlwind experience with a steep learning curve.  Speaking of curve, who’s excited about finals?  The end of the semester may seem daunting, but the good news is that everyone is in the exact same position you are.  Think of it as a rite of passage:  All lawyers remember their first semester exams, and once we turn in that last final, we will have graduated from law school novices to professionals.  Well, close enough anyway. 

The most important thing to remember is that everyone has his or her own style and method of learning.  Do not increase your stress level by comparing your study methods with others; concentrate instead on what works best for you.  As 1Ls, we also have great resources available to help us prepare for finals week.  Here are some tips from Janet Madden, Dean Scivoletto, and our teaching assistants.

From now until the Exam:

1)      Finish up your outlines.  Make sure they are comprehensive enough so that they can be your main study aid.

2)      Make outlines of your outlines, especially if you have an open-note exam.  Have an “attack sheet” or mini outline ready that contains the most important information, so that you can find what you need quickly and easily during the exam.

3)      Do practice problems!  Use course supplements, past exams, and the questions your TAs have posted on TWEN to help you test your knowledge of the material.  (To find the questions prepared by your TA, add “Academic Support Program” as a class on TWEN, click on Fall 2010, and then find your section’s classes.)

4)      Practice typing or writing out the answers to practice problems, preferably in a timed environment.  Try to mimic the exam experience as best you can.  If you have an open-note exam, test your outline to make sure it contains the material you need.

5)      If you have any questions for the TAs, ask them now!  Their office hours end the last week of classes.

6)      Download the ExamSoft software and your professor’s exams now if you plan to type your exams.  The last thing you want is to encounter technical issues the morning of the final.

Healthy Habits during Exams:

1)      Do not change your daily routine, especially in terms of exercise.

2)      Make a timeline of what you are going to study and when.  Budget some exercise time and/or short breaks in order to recharge for the next study session.

3)      Do not skip out on sleep.  Keeping your body well-rested during the days leading up to the exam and on the exam day itself is incredibly important for making sure your brain is functioning at its optimal level.

4)      Eat healthily.  The temptation to eat easy, filling foods is a difficult one to ignore, but if you put in that extra effort to incorporate apple slices and yogurt in between meals of potato chips and ice cream, your body will thank you for it.

On Exam Day:

1)      Relax! You have studied hard, and now it is time to prove what you have learned.

2)      Get to the exam room at least fifteen minutes before the scheduled time.

3)      Do not forget to look up your four digit ID number beforehand.

4)      Read each question carefully.  Read long fact patterns at least twice.  Give yourself time to process the information before you write out your answer.

5)      Make sure you understand the call of the question and write out a short outline or checklist of points to touch on in your essay.

6)      Allocate your time carefully!  Make time limits for each question and stick to them.

7)      After the exam, avoid the postmortem dissection! Do not talk about the exam to compare answers; you cannot change what you wrote, and you will only torture yourself by second-guessing.

8)      Take the night off following the exam to clear your brain.  Get a good night’s sleep so that you awake refreshed and ready to study for the next round.

For more helpful exam taking tips, pick up Janet Madden’s “Preparing for and Taking Law School Exams” handout outside her office, WH-117.

Good Luck!

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