How are you doing? Most of you have exams beginning this week. Some of you are balancing exam study with papers/projects. Here are some ways to make the remaining days of the semester more productive:
- Each day make a detailed “to do” list. A detailed “to do” list will help because (1) you will not forget tasks; (2) you will be more efficient and effective with your time; and (3) you will be more realistic about what you can accomplish during the day. Include all the tasks that you need to complete broken down in small steps. Schedule next to the task the time period when you will complete it. Include non-school items with times as well.
- Take short breaks throughout your studying to let your brain “file away” material that you are working on immediately prior to the break. Confine short breaks to 10 – 15 minutes.
- Take longer breaks after 3 or 4 hours of intense studying. Depending on the course or task, you may have to adjust your study stretches before a longer break is needed. If possible, go for a walk to defuse stress during your long breaks.
- Take at least an hour break for a meal during study periods that are not up against an exam session. Sitting down and relaxing over a healthy meal will aid your studying more than standing up at the counter wolfing down a microwave dinner.
- The night before a morning exam or the morning before an afternoon exam, restrict your studying to light review. Read your outline through a few times or complete a few practice questions. Avoid cramming up to the exam because you will increase your stress level and get minimal retention of the material.
- After an exam, take a 2 - 4 hour break if at all possible. Your brain will be worn out. A relaxed break will allow you to go back to studying later with a refreshed mind and more positive outlook.
- If you get sick or have a personal crisis, contact Associate Dean Bean to discuss your options. If you are too ill to focus or too upset to think, you do not do yourself any favors by taking the exam.
- Put a paper draft aside for a full day if possible before you re-read it. You are less likely to miss errors in logic or to miss style, punctuation, or grammar problems. A fresh pair of eyes on a paper is invaluable to a better finished product.
- Choose your study locations wisely. Avoid distractions such as television, computer games, and chatty studiers. Avoid places that will increase your anxiety level.
- Avoid talking about the exam afterwards. You gain nothing by rehashing the exam questions. You cannot change anything. You will become more stressed if you think you missed an issue (and the other person may be wrong). You will waste valuable energy that you need for studying.
- Get plenty of sleep. Staying up late to cram is non-productive. You are very likely to go into the exam less alert, more stressed, and more confused about material.
Are you feeling stressed? Do you need a break from studying?
Enjoy a complimentary chair massage from Advanced Massage Therapeutics on Wednesday, April 21, or on Monday, April 26. Massages will be offered from noon to 6:00 in the Washer Lounge. You may sign up for an appointment time. Walk-ins are also accepted!
On Tuesday, April 13, your exam number was mailed to your louisville.edu e-mail address. If you did not receive your exam number, please contact Barbara Thompson in Student Records.
Please do not delete your exam number until you review your spring 2010 exams.
You cannot perform legal analysis without discussing the facts. Remember, most law school essay questions are written in the form of a lengthy fact pattern or story. The facts within these stories create the issues that you must discuss. Almost every fact in these stories must be reproduced and discussed in your examination answer. While it is true that your professors will know the facts in the problem, your professors do not know whether you understand which facts are relevant to resolving each issue.
To ensure that the facts are making their way into your essay answers, place a line through each fact as you use it. Do not cross the fact out so that it becomes illegible, however, because a single fact may be relevant to more than one issue. After you finish your essay answer, look back at the fact pattern. If there are facts left over, one of three things has occurred: (1) the facts are truly irrelevant and do not need to be discussed; (2) the facts are relevant to an issue or issues that you have already discussed; or (3) the facts are relevant to an issue that you have not addressed at all.
Caution: Listing facts is not the same thing as discussing them. True legal analysis occurs when you explain to a reader why a fact (or facts) leads to a legal conclusion. Consider the following examples.
Example 1 - John told the plaintiff “I will hit you if you come around here again.” Therefore, the battery was not imminent.
Example 2 – John told the plaintiff “I will hit you if you come around here again.” Generally, words alone cannot satisfy the imminence element of an assault. More specifically, these words merely inform the listener that he might be “hit” at some point in the future. The words “if you come around here again” placed a condition on the plaintiff being struck, which means that the plaintiff might never be struck by John. The fact that John might never strike the plaintiff means that the battery cannot be imminent.
If you were not sure, example 2 is the better answer! This is a somewhat obvious example to illustrate the point. The pattern in the second example – note a fact (or facts) and then explain why you have brought it to the reader’s attention – consistently appears in well done legal analysis.
If you are planning to take a make-up exam, please submit your request to take a make-up exam form to Student Records by Monday, April 19.
Skeletal Outlines - You will be nervous when the examination proctor says “Begin,” so the worst thing you can do is to start writing out your answer immediately. Instead, consider writing out your skeletal outline as soon as the exam begins. A skeletal outline is merely an organized list of principles and issues, created by you, which relates to a given area of the law. Think about the outline you have been creating all semester, but now reduce it down to a page or two – this is your skeletal outline. Writing out this list will give a few moments to compose your thoughts before digging into the exam.
Instructions - Read the instructions! This is the most obvious advice imaginable, but every exam period several students will, for example, answer 3 short exam questions, only to discover that the instructions said “provide an answer to 1 of the following 3 hypotheticals.” Most students get flustered at the start of an exam, so this type of mistake is more common than you might imagine. When the exam starts, take a deep breath, slow yourself down, and read the instructions.
Organization - Before answering an essay question, you must outline and organize your response. Too many students read the first sentence in an essay exam question, recognize an issue, and are so overjoyed at finding an issue that they spend the next 20 minutes responding to it. The problem with this approach is that the fact pattern was probably over a page long, and the writer just spent more time than was necessary in responding to a relatively straightforward issue. While different students outline differently, students who perform well on law school exams take the time to read through the entire essay question, create a list of the various issues contained therein, and then take a few more minutes to separate out the major issues from the minor ones. This approach will give you a better sense of how much time you have to complete your entire answer.