Most law school classes only have one final exam, and your entire grade depends on it. Those three or four hours determine your grade for the entire course! Quite a lot of pressure on a single exam, right?
This is why it’s so critical that you start looking toward that exam NOW and make sure that you’re doing everything you can to achieve success on exam day!
A lot is riding on it.
Critical Questions for Law School Exam Success
Here are some questions you need to be asking to ensure you’re on track for law school success:
- What’s format of the exam? This is a very important question, because the format of the exam dictates how you study. (Especially what you practice.) If the exam is 50% multiple choice, naturally you need to practice multiple choice questions! If it’s all essays, you can focus your efforts on that.
- Is the exam open or closed book? This is also critically important when preparing your law school study materials. In theory, an outline for an open-book exam should look very similar to a closed-book exam outline. However, with an open-book exam, you may want to generate additional reference materials (attack plans, etc.) to take into the test, and you have to pay more attention to how you’re going to memorize everything you need to know on a closed-book exam. It’s also important to think about how you’re going to differentiate yourself from the crowd. On a closed-book exam, this might mean knowing more. On an open-book exam, you’ll have to shine by showing your great analysis, since everyone has the law to reference. How do you do this? Lots of preparation with hypotheticals and practice exams.
- Where can you get practice exams? Some professors circulate old exams in class, sometimes they’re posted on a website, and others put them on reserve in the library. Find out where they are, and get your hands on as many as possible. This will show you what the professor tests and wants you to know, knowledge that’s critical to law school exam success.
- Have you gone to office hours to talk with your professor about the exam? Do not be afraid to go to office hours! Your professor holds them for a reason, and many law professors will be surprisingly candid about what they are looking for in an exam answer. If you’re nervous, go with a classmate, or bring along a question from your outline or your writing practice to kick off the discussion.
- Are your outlines up-to-date? Outlining is a critical part of preparing for exams. I have written about why it is important to outline, how long outlines should be, and when I think you should start outlining (the answer is yesterday).[insert links] By now, your outlines should exist and you need to be updating them weekly. If not, it’s time to get on it!
- Where can you get other practice materials? What if your professor doesn’t circulate a lot of practice exams? There are many other resources you can turn to. Does your school have an Academic Support Program? If so, check there for a supply of practice exams. Some schools even proctor practice exams for first-year students! Don’t overlook commercial supplements. Many of these have fact patterns and multiple-choice questions you can practice on. Finally, don’t forget about bar study books. They’re full of essays and multiple-choice questions on many of the topics you’re currently studying.
- Are you practicing your writing? I hope so. You are foolhardy if you’re not writing every week. Practice is the only way to ensure you know the law and to confirm your outlining strategy is working for you. Practice early, practice often!
Hopefully these tips will help you feel confident going into your law school exams (the best mindset for success). Good Luck!