Yippee? I know, not quite. There are ways to prepare for exams, and here they are!
1) Be calm. I’m serious, remain calm. Anxiety and stress are yet two more foes for exams, so please do not indulge them. The more anxious and stressed you are, the less likely you are to remember things. Who wants that?
2) Take One Thing At A Time. This is part of the answer to “ok fine , but HOW do I remain calm? Have you TAKEN law school exams? Do you KNOW what kind of pressure I am under?” Yes and yes. And honestly, If you feel yourself becoming overwhelmed; stop, breath, grab some chocolate and make a to do list. Then, tackle one thing at a time. That’s all you can do. Stop stressing about how many exams you have, and how many more cases you have to read, and how you haven’t started outlining and oh my god I haven’t even done a practice hypo yet………and just resolve to tackle all of this one step at a time. That’s all you can do, AND once you resolve to do that, you will feel calmer, and trust me you will get more done. Because stressing about how much you have to do doesn’t ACTUALLY get any of it done.
3) Practice, Practice, Practice. Yes, I know how much work you have to do. Yes, I know that writing out practice exams is not exactly your idea of fun. Well, suck it up. However, please believe me when I say that nothing prepares you for your final exams like practicing for them. PRACTICE MAKES PREPARED. You wouldn’t go on stage and sing without first practicing (drunken karaoke aside! And really, let’s not treat exams like karaoke!), if you were on a sports team and had a game coming up, again, you’d practice. So why are exams any different? Some schools have exam banks where professors put up old exams – use them, practice them, love them. If your school does not, seek out upperclassman, or look to books like LawTutors’ MiniEssays for help. But the key is, you have to practice issue spotting, practice writing the rules out, and practice the analysis. There are no short cuts to this.
4) Outlining. There is no perfect outline. You don’t get extra points for completing one, or for color coding it. The purpose of an outline is to help you review. You probably have about 100 pages, give or take, of class notes. You can’t just sit there and re-read them, not only is that boring, but it’s not of any help. You need to DO something with those notes. Outlining is that process; take the class notes and condense them, figure out what is important, etc. You can also use, as part of this process, charts, flashcards, flowcharts. All of those things help you review and condense the information you have. Also, think about what your exam will look like, and what your professor is expecting, and prepare accordingly. For instance, for my constitutional law course I had a professor that really liked it when you argued both sides, and really really REALLY liked when you could compare and contrast her facts to previous cases (in the legal world we call that an ANALYSIS). So, how did I prepare? I made a list of cases, arranged by topic, including a few lines of important facts, as well as the holding. My entire list was about 5 pages long: it wasn’t intended to be comprehensive, but merely to give me a quick reference guide when I was reviewing the night before.
5) Don’t Memorize. Say what? Sure, some rules you have to memorize, and some language is important – this is a given. But this is not college or high school – merely memorizing rules or cases will not get you that A exam. What WILL get you that A exam is knowing what to DO with the rules and cases. Again, we call that an analysis. This means you can’t just memorize words, you have to understand them. A little trick I learned – if you can’t explain it to someone else, you don’t know what it means. So, what I would do is take your class notes (which should have applicable rules in them), and rewrite them, in your own words. Or, rewrite them with examples. If you can’t paraphrase something, or think of your OWN example, you probably don’t get it as well as you need to, so this is an area you should focus on. If you can’t “get it” on your own, seek out a professor, a TA, a tutor or an upperclassman. Even classmates can help, but be weary, they don’t always know more than you!
So, hopefully that will help you survive until June! Good Luck!