November 6, 2016

Tips for Studying for Law School Finals

the keys to law school finals are to point chase by using buzzwords, organization, and supporting your arguments |

Good news! It's now time to start cracking down and studying! Yep, in law school you study for finals 6 weeks in advance. If you're freaking out it's ok no one even told me this until my second semester last year. Now after going through two finals, I'm here to share what I learned when I went back and reviewed my finals with my professors and the advice they gave me.

You can't get all of the possible points

Remember those game shows where they put the person in a wind tunnel that has money flying around and they get to keep whatever they can grab? Yeah that's what essay questions are like because it's literally impossible to talk about all of the issues. Even the person who gets the best grade in your class will miss an issue or two.

The takeaway from this? Don't waste too much effort trying to make sure that you talk about everything you learned that year. If you do, you'll end up spending a ton of time getting your first essay perfect and then by the time you're on your last question you'll only have enough time left for a meh answer. Also, don't freak out when after the final you hear sometime say that they mentioned a rule of law that you forgot to write about, because chances are you wrote about something that they didn't so you should be fine.

Buzzwords are your friend

This is true for finals and for the Bar, too! With so much going on in one answer, professors don't have time to go searching to see what all you talked about. So if you mention how Joe never handed over the deed of the house to Jane, but never actually use the word delivery, you just screwed yourself. A nice professor might give you partial credit, but more likely your professor well be like Well, she never talks about delivery in that whole answer and not give you any points for that. 

This is where your short outline will come in handy because it is basically just a list of all of the buzzwords that you need to make sure you're using. You want your professor to scan your paper and notice these so he can start throwing out points like Opra giving away cars.

Point chase

Do everything you can to rack up as many points as possible. You don't have a lot of time so don't worry about having the most elegant answer. Hit it hard and it hit fast, and don't worry too much if it's a little sloppy. In my example above, that analysis of delivery will get you some points, but you'll get even more points if you can throw in a sentence with the definition of delivery or with a quick one or two sentence analysis on whether the exception for constructive delivery. Again, your short outline will help you remember all of this so you don't miss anything.

And just because a professor says that a question is worth a certain number of points doesn't necessarily mean that's all you can get. On one of my short essay questions for my first contracts class, my professor actually gave me 13/10 points because I had talked about everything that he was wanting me to, but then luckily I made and supported a relevant argument that he hadn't even thought of. This isn't super common, but you'll want all of the help that you can get so really try to mention a little about a lot in your answers to quickly rack up points.

Support your arguments

For one of my finals, my professor asked us what was one philosophy that we learned in class that we disagreed with. I went on this rant that I thought was actually pretty good. Turns out that I got 2/8 points on that one. My professor let me see the 8/8 answer and it was obvious that the philosophy she was arguing against wasn't any worse than mine, but she had mentioned what the book had said and why she disagreed with it. She also mentioned briefly a case that we had read and said that she would have had a concurrent opinion on it if she had been a judge and why.

Using cases, the book's author's opinions, or your professor's opinions to support your arguments are always going to be much stronger than just stating your own opinion. I'm not sure if you'll get a question like this, but if you do I promise you it'll help to throw in whatever you can remember and then make it work for you.

Be organized

Ok so earlier I said that it's ok if your answer is sloppy but I need to clarify. Simple sentences are ok but being all over the place is not. Remember that just because you get all of the answers right doesn't mean you'll get the highest grade because of the curve. So when it comes down to the difference between a B- and a B, organization can help you out. Again, your professors are going to be looking for certain words, so it's to your benefit to point them to these buzzwords. So by saying the issue is this; the elements to a rule are this; the majority view is this; you're making it easy for your professor (which they appreciate).

Remember to pick out one issue, state that issue, then do an analysis by stating the rule and applying it to your fact pattern (like what you had to do in your memo). Discuss everything relevant to that rule and then move on to a new paragraph and repeat. Also, keep in mind that the conclusion is the least important part of an issue-spotter answer. Think of yourself as a judge, you can rule either way and it'll be correct, but the most important part is your analysis

Final Thoughts

Wether you end up with a C or an A on your finals, meet with your professors to review your answers. There's always something good to keep/perfect and something to improve on. If they'll let you, reading a "model answer" from a top grade receiver of your class can be really helpful to show you how small changes can make a big difference in your grade. 

Just remember that the first goal is to pass and then the second goal is to improve on yourself. I know these tips are a lot to consider when you already have so much to remember to put in your answer to begin with. Don't stress too much if you don't point chase enough. Think of these as the sprinkles on top, not the main dish. 

If you've gotten other feedback from your professors that I haven't mentioned, feel free to comment below or email me so that other students can benefit from your words of wisdom :)

finals tips |

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


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