Everybody is (or should be) sliding into “studying for exams” mode. Time becomes a critical variable now. It is important to find time for all of your tasks. It is also important to be productive with that time. This week's tips will focus on how to get more time out of each day and be more productive during studying.
Tip #1: Evaluate your day for “lost” time. Look for time wasted in the following ways: unproductive time between classes; assignment time stretched to 3 hours when with more diligence it could have been finished in 2 ½ hours; delay in starting a project because “I have all day;” inefficient and scattered errand running or other non-school tasks; completion of chores or other non-school tasks during prime study time. If only ½ hour is captured each day of the week, it nets 3 ½ hours of extra study time.
Law school classmates are sometimes the hardest to say “no” to because they are adept at arguing that not studying is reasonable. After all, if they can convince someone else to waste time, their own wasting time isn’t as obvious.
Instead, walk away from temptation. Focus on one day at a time. All you can ask of yourself is your best. Work as hard as you can each day while allowing time for meals and sleep. Then, you can go to bed knowing that you did all you could do that day.
Bad advice: You can’t do any practice questions until right before the exam because you don’t know enough. Why this advice is bad advice:
- Exams are all about applying the concepts and law that you have learned all semester to new fact scenarios or legal problems.
- You wouldn’t run a 26.2 mile marathon without lots of training and practice. Why would you go into a law school exam without having worked on several practice questions throughout the semester?
- A multitude of practice questions are available that test your knowledge on sub-topics and topics and not just entire courses.
- Do some practice questions at the end of each sub-topic to test your application skills. Can you spot the issues and sub-issues? Can you apply the concepts correctly? Can you apply the rules and exceptions to the rules?
- Practice your approach to questions: how will you analyze the question; how will you marshal the facts; how will you organize your answer; how will you write the answer in the most concise way.
- Become more adept by starting with one-issue questions, then progressing to two- or three-issue questions, then progressing to more extensive questions. Once you can organize and answer shorter questions, you can practice your organization for longer questions.
- Use multiple sources of questions: questions handed out by the professor; questions in study aids; questions you and your study partners write and swap; questions from prior exams.
- Schedule practice question time each week for each course so that you do not forget to practice or put off practice too long.
This week’s tips focus on bad advice that is often given out by well-intentioned students. Critique these pieces of advice carefully and consider the alternatives.
Bad Advice: You don’t have to study as hard for an open-book exam because you can look up anything that you want. Why this advice is bad advice:
- You will have very little time to look up anything during the exam. Open-book exams are traps for the naïve.
- If you are only generally familiar with the material, you will not have in-depth knowledge to spot all of the issues and to support your arguments.
- “Open book” may have a limited definition (Ex. code book but no outlines or notes). "Open book" may have a limited value-added component (Ex. you may not write in your rule book that is allowed in the exam).
- Treat an open-book exam with the same reverence as a closed-book exam.
- Study the material so well that you “own it” rather than being generally familiar with it. Then, you will not need to look up much.
- If it is a code/rule course, you want to have a solid memory for at least a “condensed” version of a code section or rule because you will not have time to look up and read every code section or rule during the exam.
- If a code/rule book is allowed, make sure you have extensive practice in using that source so you are efficient in its use if you must look something up.
- Know exactly what the professor will allow you to bring to the exam and any restrictions on writing in books, etc. Then, plan how to use those resources most efficiently and effectively and only when necessary.
- Make good and creative use of tabs for code/rule books if allowed by the professor.