7 Tips: Prepping for Finals in Law School

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Law School finals are beastly. The preparation that goes into studying goes far beyond the scope any student experiences during undergraduate years. 

Side note: I walked into senior year finals at Baylor in pajamas. [No, really – I did. You try studying for Anatomy & Physiology while working on a Medical Genetics Term Paper and a Biomedical Engineering Presentation.] 

Law school is different. The stress levels are palpable. I’ve told you it was different, but this is where the pack starts to separate. Finals prep begins to show rifts in friendships as well as study groups, mostly because your friends are your study buddies. By this time in the semester, you should know who to study with, and who to walk away from. I don’t mean for this to sound rude, but some friends are too distracting to be around while you study. Take a step back and analyze how helpful certain friends are to have in your group sessions, who is better to maybe work one-on-one with; in other words, assess your study effort and align it with your educational needs. 

At first, it feels like you’re being rude; rest assured, you are not. Preparing for finals is practically an art form, and here are 7 tips for acing those exams!

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  1. Create and fill out your course outline!
    • It simply is not enough to write up an outline. During those formative undergraduate years (and maybe for some of you lucky ones who learned to study in high school) you learn that an outline is a quick overview of topics; items to peruse and memorize. In law school, it is crucial to understand that a damn good outline is one that has not just the cases and posturing, but how the cases link to examples covered in class or questions asked (and answered) by the professor. 
    • Start by making each topic a heading
      • Each Case, A Sub-heading
        • Each sub-heading should have key notes for law concepts
          • Then, include hypos from class
            • Especially highlight the sections that introduce new applications that build upon previous concepts
    • This is how you need to study. You must break down each concept into its component parts and then use those parts to build an analysis for any hypo
    • It is not enough to study the material – you need to work with it! Apply it. Change the facts in a scenario, and answer the updated question. Mess with everything so that you know your material, cold!
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  2. Reserve Study Rooms (a.k.a. – Find your STUDY Space!)
    • I prefer to study in the Gryffindor Common Room, but your preference may be completely different. I am happy to study virtually anywhere, so long as the ambient noise is conducive. You need to figure out if you prefer the chatter of a coffee shop to the hustle and bustle of group studying in a single library room. I recommend finding your own groove before letting people into the mix. Whether it’s a Starbucks (free wifi) or your bedroom and childhood desk, make it work for you. Study hard, my genius friend. 
  3. Schedule block study time-frames.
    • How many times have I mentioned that you need a calendar? Answer: Soooooo many times! 
    • If you haven’t listened to me yet, then please hear me now – plan your life! The next three weeks of my life are dedicated to a myriad of activities and tasks, but they are planned! Do not study for 6 hours straight. That simply is not an effective means of retaining information. 
    • Block off your study time in (at most) 2-hour chunks. Your brain will thank you for not over-loading it with the material that you (be honest) have slacked on reading these last two weeks. 
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  4. Meal Prep
    • Yeah, I know this sounds weird. Who has time to cook? Well, I do. Most days, because it’s cheaper to feed myself versus eating out and ending up with a greasy pizza or a box of donut holes. 
    • Take the time to prep several meals in advance. TRUST ME. You will likely be much more productive if you have sustenance for the hellacious study binges you are about to endure. 
    • If you prefer, buy a pack of Uncrustables (my go-to fave for a lazy day sandwich) or a bunch of frozen meals. The point is, make sure you are eating. If your brain is weak, you will be too, and the studying you are putting in is wasted effort. 
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  5. Designate study group hours on particular days.
    • I am adding in this suggestion because I believe that individual study time is critical to success in your legal education (or any other educational venture). The problem is that this is your 1L year and so many peers are terrified of alienating other students. Here is what I say to you – “Get over it.” 
    • Yes, you need to make friends in law school. You need to make sure that someone’s got your back (and you have theirs) when you need to miss class. By all means, make friends. But do not hinder your own success by trying to bolster those around you. You will sink. 
    • Study groups are great for sharing outlines or bouncing off hypos. If you enjoy studying with others, then this is a powerful tool to review material. A word of caution, however – do not use this as a social hour. Finals are upon us, and we have ZERO time for wild tangents or shenanigans (barring, of course, during break time!)
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  6. Schedule break times. 
    • Speaking of break time…learning the law is a brain-buster. You’ve got to give that organ a rest. I have learned that doing so is easier said than done. Take my experience last week – 
      • I was working on a case brief and ended up having to search for it on Quimbee. Then, after reading through the case and cross-referencing example cases…well, it was 3 hours later and I had no idea how I’d gotten there. I fell down a rabbit hole attempting to learn a concept that another friend managed to explain in less than 5 minutes. My point is…distraction comes easy. It is even easier to get pummelled with cases where you find yourself doing more research and then realizing it is dark outside. Was the sun up when I got to the library? How much time has passed?
    • So avoid the mess of forgetting to schedule a break. Your brain truly cannot process more than two hours’ worth of new information. There’s no need to stretch it too far in one day. Remember, it’s a marathon! 
    • I prefer 1-minute dance parties, coffee runs, mini-shopping experiences (like picking up a bottle of Peach Moscato from World Market!), or reading a chapter of a favorite book. 
      • The key here is to re-read. Otherwise, you will get sucked into the pages. It’s a dangerous game trying to pick up new and entertaining reading material before finals. But if you do, well hey – enjoy.
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  7. Rest up! 
    • I will never, ever, recommend studying the day before an exam. You should certainly read through your outline and maybe quiz yourself on a few hypos. Aside from that – do something fun. Watch a movie. Go for a run. Learn to make paella. Whatever works for you to get your mind off of the exam. 
    • Make sure that you rest enough and push the stress away. A clear mind is better than a stressed one. The anxiety of an exam can weigh you down, therefore it is imperative you lighten the mood. 

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Preparation is key to success in pretty much anything. 
In our fundamentals class, a 2L student shared this piece of wisdom:

Proper Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance.

No truer words have been spoken. You made it this far. You got into law school. Now, you need to fight for your right to stay. So focus that drive and ambition; give it everything you’ve got, because if you don’t – you’ll only be left with regret. 

Happy Studying!

Much love, 
CerebellumChef

 

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