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Exam tips…

October 3, 2007

Being on the quarter system, my first round of exams are coming up in about a month. So, I decided (mainly to remind myself) of some lessons I learned from my first year of law school. [DISCLAIMER: AUTHOR HAS COMPILED THESE TIPS THROUGH PERSONAL USE. HE MAKES NO PROMISES THAT THESE PIECES OF ADVICE WILL GUARANTEE LAW SCHOOL SUCCESS. ALWAYS FOLLOW THE ADVICE OF YOU LAW PROFESSORS OR ADMINISTRATORS]

5.) Outline, outline, outline:
-The most important part of the outlining process is actually making it. In fact, I rarely looked at mine. Rather, I used the outline to organize the information thrown at me by the professor. It is good review, and it allows you to manage the cases, statutes, and policy issues. Another effective thing about outlining: make sure that you start earlier in the marking period, and build upon your original draft. This alleviates a lot of pressure towards the end of classes. Also, you might want to try to discuss outlining structures and techniques with people who have experience with such matters. Many law schools offer examples from the 2L and 3Ls. However, being in a first-year institution, I did not have that luxury. Luckily, my school did offer outline drafting workshops. I’m sure most schools have something like this. Go. It may not be the way you want to do it, but it could be helpful anyway. For example, outlining Civil Procedure can be a lot different than outlining for Torts. Most importantly, do not go overboard. You do not need an outline that is longer than the casebook–keep it concise.

4.) Take meticulous notes in class:
-I was horrible at taking notes as an undergrad. I essentially wasted a lot of money on notebooks that were never written in. In law school, I realized this weakness ahead of time. Thankfully, notes in law school classes are simple as long as you write down everything. I understand how terribly inefficient this may seem at first. Yet, it is a whole lot easier to write down everything, and get rid of the useless stuff later. Plus, by then, it is a study tactic; when you are able to separate good facts from bad, you can demonstrate to yourself that you understand the material well enough to find irrelevant pieces of information.

3.) Actively and throughly read homework assignments:
-Here is a tip I disregarded many times. When you first start law school, you essentially read the facts and the holding. When you get to class, you learn very quickly that professors emphasize the reasoning and policy behind a decision much more. Also, professors want to know why the facts affect the case outcome. One of the ways to really get the most out of reading a case is to go over it with a critical eye. Use your own personal judgment. Think to yourself: Would you have ruled this way? Why wouldn’t you have? When you try to get into the head of a judge, you start to realize how judicial decisions are made. You also learn a lot about the way you think. You may be a conservative/liberal and not even know it. Also, MAKE SURE YOU READ THE NOTES AFTER THE CASES. Engage yourself when the casebook authors present you with questions changing the case fact pattern. These are how exam questions are born. Also, read the notes cases found in the small print. Typically, they are more entertaining, and they give examples about how courts rule on the legal questions you just read about. Also, professors do ask about the notes in class. Trust me, read them.

2.) Find a/some study partner(s)
-This was one of the most effective parts of my 1L year. I had one study partner, and it was probably the smartest decision I made as far exam prep went. Though many students are self-sufficient, having someone to bounce ideas off of is really helpful. Also, taking notes in class can be tricky. Sometimes things get missed; sometimes you read the wrong material or miss a note case that really drives a point home. This part of your study regime is really up to your discretion. My study group consisted of two people. We had the exact same schedule, and we met at the most convenient times. Also, we did not break up any work. We did all the same work for the outline and went over everything together. During exam week, our conversations were restricted to two subjects–exams and what we were going to do afterwards. However, if you work better in a large group, you should try that. But, judging by my own experience, the less people, the better.

1.) Find the study techniques that work best for you.

Even if everything that works for you contradicts everything everyone else tells you to do, go with what you are comfortable. Some people write extensive briefs, some people write in the margins. Some people write voluminous outlines, some people don’t. It is important that you try different methods and pick the ones most suited to your needs and strengths. This advice should not be taken to mean–forget about what everyone else does. My best techniques were derived from advice given to me by professors and administrators. I took what they taught–tried and true study suggestions–and adapted them to my learning style. For me, this made all the difference.

I welcome any other advice people may have. Please feel free to comment.

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