Exam preparation

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Exam preparation

Postby roel » Sun Feb 18, 2007 12:44 am

for how long do you prepare for final exams? are there any practice you make? some tips aside from studying well?

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Postby jhett » Sun Feb 18, 2007 2:24 am

Hmmm... I guess I'll take a break from my moot court brief (kill me now!) to answer some questions.

The first thing I did to prepare for exams was to outline the course. This entails taking all your reading and class notes and compiling it into a comprehensive overview of the course. There are two purposes for this: to physically make yourself go over all the material, and to help you on the exam (you can bring it with you).

Some people make really long outlines (80-100 pages). Personally, I like to be concise (20-40 pages) because then you can actually find stuff quickly in an exam. If your outlines are long, then you should make an outline of the outline. Charts are also useful for some courses, like a common law/MPC comparison chart for Crim.

Of course, you should cross reference your outlines with your classmates (find a couple you trust) and outlines from upper-year students (ask around for them) to make sure you don't have errors. Outlines are prof-specific because they all emphasize different things, so don't use an outline made for another prof. I would start outlining 1-1.5 months in advance of the exam.

If you are lazy, you can completely rely on another person's outline or use commercial outlines. I don't recommend this because concepts only really stick when you are forced to organize and type things down for yourself.

The other big thing is past exams. Most law schools should make past exams available for students. I usually got the 4 most recent exams by the prof. I went over one un-timed to get a feel for how it's structured. Then I would take the rest timed. Timing yourself really works - I vastly improved between my first timed exam and my last. I try not to do more than one per day because it's mentally exhausting. The timed exams should be done within the last couple days before the actual exam. Also, some profs give out memos describing what they look for. They even give hints as to probable exam material during class. Pay attention!

Lastly, most people benefit from exam prep in a small study group. You can bounce questions and hypos off each other. Some people might prefer studying by themselves, so don't feel pressured to join a group if it doesn't help you.

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Postby roel » Sun Feb 18, 2007 7:38 am

thanks for the tip jhett. 1 1/2 months? it seems i only have less than a month left to review. Aside from what you mentioned, how about your lifestyle? do you have to change your lifestyle during the preparation to do well in the final exams? what are the DOs and DONTs during exam preparation?

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Postby jhett » Sun Feb 18, 2007 6:59 pm

Well, outlining takes a while, so if you start about a month in advance and pace yourself, you should be able to complete the outline a few days after the end of classes.

As for lifestyle... make sure you are well rested. If you have morning exams, keep waking up early so that your body does not get used to waking up late. Schedule your time carefully and try to stick to it. Study 6-8 hours per day - after that your mind gets tired and studying becomes less effective. The days leading up to the exam I was less busy than during the semester. I just made sure I knew what I was doing each day and did just that and nothing more. Basically, if you plan things out, you will be far less stressed and more confident.

Oh, a note about the exams themselves. They usually involve a long fact pattern, after which you are asked to spot all the issues. For example, a contracts exam may involve a long story about a contract between two companies. Then you have to talk about all the issues that would arise in litigation - parol evidence, statute of frauds, ambiguity, damages, etc. The key is to remember the cases you studied - at least one will be similar to an aspect of the fact pattern. In fact, many times there will be multiple cases that disagree on an issue. You must mention all sides of the argument, not just one. It doesn't really matter what side you ultimately pick, as long as your argument is well reasoned and well supported. This also applies to policy questions (e.g. the question will ask you to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of a proposed statute).

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Postby lilpogo » Mon Feb 19, 2007 1:47 pm

Thanks for your posts jhett. Very informative.

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Postby roel » Tue Feb 20, 2007 7:15 am

jhett, thanks again for that information. I started making my outline yesterday.. what are the necessary information i need to put in my outline? what would be my basis whether or not i will put such information in my outline? the outline i made includes 5 articles or provisions in it (law on agency).. it took me a long time to finish 5 provisions... it didn't appear to be an outline.. it is just like another copy of my book.. lol... please help me again..

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Postby patentlaw » Tue Feb 20, 2007 9:29 am

A law professor blogged about how he grades law school exams, I'd say his explanation is pretty close to how I think my exams were graded: --LinkRemoved-- just to give you an idea of what you may be graded on.

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Postby jhett » Tue Feb 20, 2007 11:20 am

There is no one correct way to build an outline, but a good idea is to organize it using your course syllabus. It might help to start with someone else's outline to get a feel for it.

This forum has a couple example outlines, but it may be hard to read without the formatting...



As for patentlaw's link, I also think that it's in line with how most profs mark their exams.

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Postby NYU 1L » Tue Feb 20, 2007 3:08 pm

This is a very informative website that explains law school exam grading


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Postby jhett » Tue Feb 20, 2007 5:23 pm

This is a very informative website that explains law school exam grading

Ah, so that's why I kept seeing profs chuck papers around the stairwell when I got back from Christmas break.

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Postby roel » Thu Feb 22, 2007 2:34 am

:lol: ... thanks for the replies.. i hope they don't do it in our school.. There must be another way.. like the ebay stuff mentioned maybe.. thanks again..

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Postby TheMeager » Wed Apr 11, 2007 12:48 am


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Re: Exam preparation

Postby peeker82 » Wed Jun 30, 2010 5:39 pm


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Re: Exam preparation

Postby TTT-LS » Wed Jun 30, 2010 7:56 pm

Last edited by TTT-LS on Wed Jul 14, 2010 11:53 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Exam preparation

Postby yinz » Wed Jun 30, 2010 8:22 pm

TTT-LS wrote:Just to offer another perspective, I prepared for exams in the three to four days before each exam.

Maniacal genius.

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Re: Exam preparation

Postby edcrane » Wed Jun 30, 2010 10:16 pm

TTT-LS wrote:Just to offer another perspective, I prepared for exams in the three to four days before each exam. With only a few exceptions, I did no other prep at any point in the semester. During the 3-4 day run-up, I'd condense my class notes (which were pretty detailed) into a long outline--usually of about 50-60 pages. I'd then condense that outline into a 20-30 page short outline. These processes helped me re-learn everything from early on in the semester and really get a good view of how the different parts of the course interacted.

Once I'd built the short outline, I would then take the last day or two to go through practice exams (writing out full answers, or at least outlines thereof--and preferably discussing the same with classmates). In some cases, I would also integrate some info from old outlines or hornbooks into my short outline. At that point, I'd more or less discard the long outline. The last thing I'd do for most classes--particularly those with lots of BLL--was build a two to three page rules document. That document contained the barest or bare bones info needed to remind me of all of the relevant rules/code sections/doctrines/etc. More often than not, I would only refer to this last document during the exam, if I referred to anything at all. As the description above suggests, this process required me to work about more or less all day every day in the lead up to each exam, with a little time for a few short breaks, 6-8 hours of sleep, meals, etc.

The plan above is definitely not for everyone, but it worked quite well for me. One way to modify the plan above for slightly more exam prep during the semester would be to take Thanksgiving break or spring break to outline everything to date, and to do practice exam questions based on the material already covered. That would give you more time to condense and do practice questions in the 3-4 days before each exam.

This is essentially my strategy, though I usually spend a bit more time making my long outlines (maybe 20 hours each) and do so a bit earlier so that I have some additional time before the exam to think about policy issues (if applicable) or play video games.

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Re: Exam preparation

Postby D.Wilde » Thu Jul 01, 2010 10:46 am

I used a similar method to TTT-LS. It got a little stressful when everyone around me kept heading to the library every day to outline for a month before exams, but I've known for a while that I synthesize material better if I do it all at once right when I need it.

This method is not for everyone, but if you are someone who likes seeing it all come together at once, rather than interspersing your prep with classes and studying for other courses, then I recommend something like this.

Also, I definitely second edcrane's suggestion of taking some video game time. My highest grades came from courses where I took several hours the afternoon/evening before the exam to just relax and play some xbox. Whatever you do, clear your head for a bit. It really helps.

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