Academics News

Academic Success Tip - Beware of Bad Advice

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 go on a black diamond ski slope without lots of practice.  Why would you go into an 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.

Alternatives:

  • 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:  ones 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.

Academic Success Tip - Beware of Bad Advice (Cont'd)

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 very limited definition (Ex. code book but no outlines or notes).  "Open book" may have a very limited value-added component (Ex. you may not write in your rule book that is allowed in the exam).

Alternatives:

  • 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.

Academic Success Tip - Beware of Bad Advice

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:  When you have someone else’s outline for the course, you don’t have to make your own outline.

Why this advice is bad advice:

  • Having the outline of someone else who did well in a course does not mean that you will do well in the course.  You will only do well if you know the material in-depth and understand it and can apply it.  Having an outline from an anonymous source is even less positive because you do not even know if the student who created it did well in the course.
  • An outline matches someone else’s learning styles and may not match how you learn material.  It also does not tell you how to apply the material to new fact scenarios – the very essence of law school exams.
  • Outlines of other students are shortcuts that avoid your having to process the information yourself.  Processing the information through your own outlines increases understanding and retention of material.
  • Outlines from prior years may not include changes in the law, changes in the professor’s approach to a subject, and changes in textbooks.  Unless you are carefully taking notes and outlining, you may miss important changes since the last time the professor taught the course.
  • When each member of a study group outlines one course and then gives her/his outline to the other study group members, the same type of problems can result.  Each study group member will know the course s/he outlined very well.  Each study group member will only have a partial understanding of the other two or three courses.

Alternatives:

  • If you have not already done so, begin NOW to process material and make your own outlines.  Use any outlines you have depended upon up to now only as comparisons.
  • Consider whether you can condense material before you put it in your own outlines so that you will not have to condense your outlines later.
  • Be efficient and effective in making your own outlines: do not include everything – include the important things that give you the bigger picture and inter-relationships.
  • Consider whether flowcharts and other visuals will be helpful for you as a way to condense the material and understand the “big picture” of the course.

The Bar Exam - What You Need to Know!

Mark your calendars for Monday, October 26!  Learn what you can do now to prepare for the upcoming Bar Exam.  This presentation is open to all Brandeis law students, but will be more applicable to upper-division law students.  This workshop will cover the various components of the bar exam in multiple states, planning, a day in the life of the bar examinee, and strategies for the essay and multiple choice components of the bar exam.  For those upper-division students with class beginning at 12:35 or 12:45, you are invited to stay until you need to leave for class.  The presentation will be in Room 275 from noon to 12:50.  Food will be provided.  

Academic Success Tip - Beware of Bad Advice

This week’s tips will 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:  Save up your absences and use all of them the last two weeks of class so that you can focus on exam studying.

Why this advice is bad advice:

  • Important topics are often covered at the end of classes because the topics are more advanced than some of the material you have had previously.  You will be dependent on another student’s version of the material if you cut classes.
  • Your professors are likely to tie the course together in the last weeks of class.  You will be dependent on another student’s version of the course if you cut classes.
  • Your professors are likely to talk about the exam in more detail during the last weeks of class.  You will be dependent on another student’s version of the exam instructions, tips, and study guidelines if you cut classes.
  • You will go into exams with less personal understanding of the material covered at the end of the semester.  Some professors emphasize material covered at the end of classes very heavily in the exam questions.
  • If you follow this advice, you will also not be reading your cases.  You will only be more behind in understanding the course than you were previously.

Alternatives:

  • Plan your time management for the coming weeks so that you get all of the tasks done that are necessary for success – including going to class prepared.
  • Do not stop reading your cases.  You need to understand the material through the last class.  Become more efficient and effective in your reading.
  • If you do not know how to structure your time for the remainder of the semester to get each task done, visit the Academic Success Office for help.

Academic Success Tip - Exam Preparation (Cont'd)

The calendar no longer supports the idea that exams are a distant event.  There are only seven weeks remaining before the end of classes.  This week's tips focus on exam preparation.

  • Walk away from temptation.  Law school classmates are sometimes the hardest to say “no” to because they are adroit at arguing that not studying is reasonable.  After all, if they can convince someone else to waste time, their own wasting time is not as obvious.
  • Focus on one day at a time.  All you can ask of yourself is your best.  Work as hard as you can each day.  Then, you can go to sleep knowing that you did all you could do that day.

Academic Success Tip - Exam Preparation (Cont'd)

The calendar no longer supports the idea that exams are a distant event.  There are only seven weeks remaining before the end of classes.  This week's tips focus on exam preparation.

  • Keep your eyes focused forward.  Do not look back over your shoulder to bemoan what you wish you had done in August, September, or the beginning of October.  You cannot control the past, but you can control the future.
  • Learn to say “no” diplomatically.  Family and friends, especially if they are not in law school, do not understand how important studying is for exams.  After all, in the past you just crammed for a week or two to get A grades.  Explain to them why it is so different now and ask for their understanding. 

The Bar Exam - What You Need to Know!

Mark your calendars for Monday, October 26!  Learn what you can do now to prepare for the upcoming Bar Exam.  This presentation is open to all Brandeis law students, but will be more applicable to upper-division law students.  Presented by T. Leigh Hearn of Kaplan PMBR, this workshop will cover the various components of the bar exam in multiple states, planning, a day in the life of the bar examinee, and strategies for the essay and multiple choice components of the bar exam.  For those upper-division students with class beginning at 12:35 or 12:45, you are invited to stay until you need to leave for class.  The presentation will be in Room 275 from noon to 12:50.  Food will be provided.  

Academic Success Tip - Exam Preparation

The calendar no longer supports the idea that exams are a distant event.  There are only seven weeks remaining before the end of classes.  In light of the seriousness of the time in the semester, this week's tips will focus on exam preparation.

  • Stop fragmenting your efforts and refocus.  If you have been coasting through class until now, stop.  If you have been focusing on extracurricular activities to the exclusion of academics, stop.  If you have been partying instead of studying, stop.  You need to prioritize your efforts for studies now.
  • Take responsibility for wherever you are in your studies.  If you are in good shape, congratulate yourself and plan the next step before you are tempted to rest on your laurels.  If your studying is in shambles, do not blame your present situation on your professors, study partners, family, or whomever comes to mind.  Own it and move forward.
     

Academic Success Tip - Campus Health Services

As a student of the University of Louisville Brandeis School of Law, you may take advantage of the many services offered through the Belknap Campus Health Center.  Campus Health provides confidential, affordable, effective and student-focused medical, mental and health education services to all students in the university community.  For example, Campus Health Services provides confidential psychiatric services at no-charge to any student for a variety of mental health issues including:

  • New or existing depression or other mood problems
  • Panic attacks or other forms of anxiety
  • Eating disorders
  • Sleep problems
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling totally "stressed out" or overwhelmed
  • Problems with alcohol or drugs

Other campus health services include counseling, primary care, personal nutrition counseling and self-management support, prescription assistance, and Yoga and Pilates classes.  To learn more about the services you can take advantage of this semester and throughout the school year, visit the Campus Health website at https://louisville.edu/campushealth/.  The Student Health Center is a 5-minute walk from the law school and is located between the Student Activities Center and the Houchens Building and behind the Floyd Street Parking Garage.