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“…we have still not reached the end of all our trials. One more labor lies in store boundless, laden with danger, great and long; and I must brave it out from start to finish.” – Homer, The Odyssey
Classes have ended but your work is not done. Although the task that lies ahead will not involve an encounter with Sirens (as far as I know), preparing for and taking law school exams will take focus, stamina, and effort from start to finish. Here are some tips to help you through the next two-and-a-half weeks.
Know What You Don’t Know
Be realistic about where you need to focus your efforts. Students tend to concentrate on subjects or material they know well or enjoy, but everything is fair game on an exam. Just because you hate a topic, that doesn’t mean it won’t show up on the test. Be sure to take time to study, and really learn, the material you are not quite comfortable with.
Study for Open-book Exams
Tabbing your book, color-coding, making binders, etc. does not count as studying. Yes, it helps to have your material organized in the event that you need to rely on it during the test. But remember, you need to know the law and be able to use it on the day of the exam. So study, practice, and study some more.
Attend Review Sessions
If your professor has a review session, go to it – res ipsa loquitor, or in non-legal terms, duh. Your professor taught you, wrote the exam, will grade you, and is offering time to go over what you may need to know right before the test? This one is a no-brainer. Make sure to attend.
Do What Works for You
Successful students take all types of approaches to studying for and taking exams. Some people like study groups, or flashcards, or sitting in the front left corner of the exam room. Don’t be afraid to do what you think will be best for you and don’t waste time comparing yourself with other students.
Keep Moving Forward
No matter what you did during the semester, whether you worked hard or coasted or somewhere in between, now is where the rubber meets the road. There is nothing to be gained in wishing you did more in October, or that you focused more on duty in negligence the first time around, or didn’t go out the night before Thanksgiving. Don’t dwell on the past. Let it go, focus on the present, and put the work in now to do your best. (Of course you can, and should, make adjustments next semester, but we will get to that…next semester.)
Set Yourself up for Success
Some people get caught up in the external stressors of exam taking. You can control many of these stressors if they affect you. For example, if you are nervous about traffic or the Broad Street line running on time, leave your house early with plenty of time to get to the exam room. Or, if you can’t stand ambient noise, make sure you have earplugs. If you are unnecessarily panicking about typing your exam, make sure you know how to use the exam software. Whatever may cause you unneeded stress on exam day, acknowledge and address it now. If you need help or have questions, you can always stop by Exam Central on the second floor of Klein.
Plan Your Answers
Here’s an exam day tip. Good writing best displays your understanding and application of the material. So take a few minutes and think about your answer before you start typing. Having a solid idea of what you want to say can save time, facilitate an organized and readable answer, and guide you to make changes where they are needed as you write.
Finally, remember to maintain your health and wellbeing. Rest, eat, take study breaks, etc. Preparing for and actually taking exams will take up the bulk of your time for the next few weeks, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t time each day for you to take care of yourself.
“There is a time for many words, and there is also a time for sleep.” – Homer, The Odyssey
Good luck on exams!