For most people, December is a cozy time for family and holiday cheer. However, if you’re a law student, this time of year is anything but “merry and bright.” Whether it’s your first time taking a law school final, or you’re an old pro at this routine, the final exam period is often stressful, to say the least.
But this year, you’re in luck! We’ve come up with some ways you can make this round of finals your best yet. Check out our tips below to ensure that you make the most of your finals and glide into winter break stress-free!
No, we don’t mean steal chicken broth from the store! One of the best ways to set yourself up for success during finals is to honestly assess how much studying you need to do. One easy trick to accomplish this is to check out your syllabus and mark which lessons and concepts you’re a little fuzzy on. When you’re making your outline, focus on those topics you identified as problematic.
Equally important as knowing your own weak spots is finding out what your professor, in particular, cares about the most. Law professors are like snowflakes; one civil procedure could spend weeks on the Erie doctrine, while another might cover it in a day. By focusing on what your professor emphasized, you can better plan your preparation and feel confident when test day comes. Ask other students who have taken the class what the professor likes to test on, or check out old student outlines (make sure the law is up to date, though!) to get a lay of the land.
More is Not Always Better
In law school, finals can seem like an arms race. Everyone nervously eyes each other entering the classroom to take the final to see who brought the longest outline. However, having a long, detailed, comprehensive outline doesn’t mean much if you don’t know what’s in it. The key to success in final exam preparation is to condense the information in the outline and your textbooks into your brain so that you can quickly analyze the professor’s fact pattern.
Normally, the best way to learn and retain information from outlines is to slowly pare them down, until you are left with what’s called a “skeleton” or “attack” outline, which lists just key terms and concepts that you need to discuss in your essay. If you don’t have time to condense your outline in this way, a quick trick is to make a table of contents out of your long outline and use that as a “cheat” attack outline.
Practice Makes Perfect
As much as law students hate taking them, the best way to prepare for a law school final is to take as many practice tests as you can find. Students shy away from taking practice exams – it genuinely can feel demoralizing to take a practice test and realize how much studying you need to do – but taking practice exams, especially exams written by your professor, is by far the most effective studying during finals crunch time.
One thing students forget while dreading practice tests is that you don’t even have to take the full exam! Start with just one practice question, and outline your answer without paying attention to the time. You can work your way up to the full practice exam this way without feeling overwhelmed. Another tip is to seek out feedback on your practice essays. Many professors are happy to look over your essays during reading periods before finals start, and this feedback can be critical to ace your test.
After an entire semester of cold calls, late nights, and too many pots of coffee, it can be easy to fall into toxic patterns of thinking. It’s indisputable that law school finals are important, and it’s also true that the all-or-nothing aspect of having your GPA ride on the results of one test is panic-inducing. However, dwelling on these facts won’t change them, and it certainly won’t help your grade.
Remember to take time to do things you enjoy and take care of yourself, even while you’re in the thick of studying. Eat well, drink water, and for goodness sake, go to bed at a reasonable hour! Finals are important, but your mental health always takes precedence.
We all know the pressure that comes hand-in-hand with taking a law school final, but using the tips above will help minimize this stress and allow you to focus your time and energy on what’s most important: studying. For more helpful tips on finishing your time in law school, check out our other articles on the AdaptiBlog!