April 3, 2016

4 Steps to Studying for a Law School Final

studying for finals in law school. law school finals. law school studying. law student studying. law school exams. law school tests. law school blog. law student blogger | brazenandbrunette.com

Today I set down to make my planner out for this week and noticed that there's only three weeks left on my syllabus. Which means it's officially freak-out time... It's stressful when you feel like you have all the time in the world to get your life together and then realize that you actually only have 6 more classes! In undergrad I rolled my eyes when I saw people stressing over finals before classes have even ended, but this is law school and every thing you do sucks up all your time. 

I'm a big fan of using as many senses as you can when studying so I'll read my notes out loud so that I'm seeing, hearing, and saying everything that I need to know. It probably helps that I live alone so I"m not bothering anyone when I do this. In undergrad, I probably would've said that this is overkill, but for law school you really need to have all of your rules down. For every test last semester, I was typing right up to the 5 minute warning. When you have so much to say, the three hours really flies by (just like it did for the LSAT) and you don't have time to sit and try to remember all of the elements of a rule.

Step 1: Outlines

Last semester I didn't really put forth too much effort studying before classes ended and I did okay. This semester, my goal is to start studying sooner so that I won't have to feel like I'm cramming right before. The greatest thing my school has ever done is that they planned out the 1L's final schedules so we all have only one test per day, with our tests only on Monday's and Thursday's which gives us ample time to switch gears between tests.

So today I cracked down on getting my outlines together. I've found a happy medium and will only make myself work on it for 30 minutes at a time, and then get a break to either do a load of laundry or watch one episode on Netflix. It might seem counter productive to not get in a "study zone" mindset and do nothing but outline all day, but I've realized that if I don't give myself rewards while I study then I start to burn out quicker. A good thing to try to do is to spend one day at the end of every month updating your outlines so that by the time finals are here, you're cleaning them up (step 3).

Related: How to Make an Outline

What's funny is that my best friend is currently taking business law in undergrad, so I'm having to teach him hot to outline — rule, elements, where the rule came from, exceptions. Once he started to do this for a test, he realized that just basically copying his notes helped him remember what he'd already learned and further burned into his brain the rules. 

Making outlines also makes you go back through your notes and see where there are gaps. Now you can either look in your book right around what you're working on, or see if your professor has uploaded any supplements that might help. In the end, my outlines usually come out to between 10 and 15 pages. If this sounds like a lot to you, remember that outlines really spread out the spacing and some lines will only have a few words on them. If this doesn't sound like enough to you, remember that this is supposed to be only what you need for your tests. If your outlines are too long then there will be too much information for you to memorize. 

studying for finals in law school | brazenandbrunette.com

Step 2: Flashcards

Another reason why I'm finishing my outlines so early is because this is really just step one. After I get my notes condensed down to an outline, I'll make flashcards on Quizlet to start studying the rules. I like this because I can make sure that I have everything memorized backwards and forwards and also can easily see what I have trouble remembering. Again, just the repetition of writing out what you need to know for the flashcards helps burn it into your brain.

If you pay for Quilzlet, they have this great feature called long-term learning where you are given 20 cards from a certain class to work on, and as you begin to master those more are added. It will also keep track of what percentage of your cards that you don't know, know okay, know, and know well. If you don't trust yourself to remember to study, there's even a feature that will remind you to go over your cards.

Step 3: Make a Case List

Some professors don't require me to cite the cases where a rule of law come from, so this isn't entirely necessary for those. However, a lot of word problems on my tests ended up being very similar to a case that we had read before. My case list is very simple. One sentence summarizing the cases and one list giving the rule. For the professors that don't require me to cite cases on a test, I don't really bother with memorizing this in it's entirety, just refresh myself on what the cases were about. 

Some of my professors would use cases in a multiple choice question where this really helped out. For example: if you knew that the correct answer for a civ pro question was that a court couldn't hear this case because of subject matter jurisdiction, you might have choices B and C say that but B says because of so and X case they can't hear it under subject matter jurisdiction and choice C says because of Y case they can't hear it under subject matter jurisdiction. Here obviously knowing the cases will really help. 

Step 4: Memorize Outline

Then I'll start to condense my outline down. Usually any definition that I have in there gets taken out because I've already memorized it through notecards. Or if my professor has given us a list of elements and underlined only a few words of each element, eventually I will know enough context of the elements to only have those few specific words left. By now, you should also understand concepts enough that you don't need any examples or hypotheticals in your outline. Once I can start taking out smaller details, my outline shrinks to a few pages. Now the only information left is the bare necessities. 

On the day before my test, I will literally memorize this outline and work on writing it over and over again. When I get my actual test, I flip over to the back of the test and write down this simplified outline exactly. If I start to get confused on a topic or get writer's block, I can just flip to this outline and know exactly where to go. I did this last semester and it really helped me having my own little cheat sheet on the back!

studying for finals in law school | brazenandbrunette.com

Also, check out my Finals Posts Round Up post for more tips to help with your finals!


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