Law School Discussion

Law Students => Current Law Students => Topic started by: KoalaTamer on December 15, 2009, 09:06:29 PM

Title: Anyone ever screw up an exam after tons of studying?
Post by: KoalaTamer on December 15, 2009, 09:06:29 PM
Just curious--did anyone ever study, work hypos, outline, and take practice exams relentlessly throughout the semester only to have all the hard work flushed away by overlooking a large piece of information given in a question on the actual exam?

Why must a course's grade be completely based on a single set of essays written during a 3-hour period under extreme time pressure???
Title: Re: Anyone ever screw up an exam after tons of studying?
Post by: kenpostudent on December 15, 2009, 10:07:44 PM
I'll let you know in 4 weeks! I feel your pain, though. It's SO easy to do. I'm sure I missed something big on at least one of my finals.
Title: Re: Anyone ever screw up an exam after tons of studying?
Post by: TheDudeMan on December 16, 2009, 09:28:46 AM
OP: Are you a 1L?  If so, you will have to learn the lesson we all did.  Study smart, not hard. 
Title: Re: Anyone ever screw up an exam after tons of studying?
Post by: kenpostudent on December 16, 2009, 09:39:46 AM
I hear that! My studying this semester was remarkably inefficient now that I look back on it. Next semester will be much better: no more long case briefs; I'll outline the course as I go instead of waiting to near the end, spend more times on practice exams, ect. I probably did OK, but not stellar on finals. Despite the learning curve, I don't think I'll get a grade lower than a B. We'll see.
Title: Re: Anyone ever screw up an exam after tons of studying?
Post by: TheDudeMan on December 16, 2009, 10:01:11 AM
Eh, you can't always outline as you go.  It's a whole picture concept.  Personally, I never outlined.  I found a good one on the outline bank, and then I'd improve it and just study it.

Also, use supplements.  You will learn far more from a supplement than you will from an outline for major courses, especially things like evidence.

Good luck!
Title: Re: Anyone ever screw up an exam after tons of studying?
Post by: kenpostudent on December 16, 2009, 10:31:42 AM
The only problem with using supplements is that there are no supplements for real life. What happens when you have real clients with really tough issues? I suppose if you work for a larger firm, you can always ask for assistance from another attorney. However, what if you are working for a small firm or are a solo practitioner dealing with a question of first impression or some issue where your client's situation puts his best outcome in derogation of common law?  To win those cases, you really have to learn how to argue. Supplements, if over relied upon, short circuit the process of becoming a skilled attorney. Don't get me wrong, I use supplements during deadweek to fill in holes in my outline. I didn't find them too useful this time around, though, because the profs test on what they have taught rather than what the supplement teaches.

As to outlining as you go, I think it's possible if you use One Note because you can quickly and easily transfer class notes and case briefs into an outline. While the final outline is not complete until the very end of the semester, you work on it piecemeal during the semester so the final outline is just a matter of moving things around.
Title: Re: Anyone ever screw up an exam after tons of studying?
Post by: TheDudeMan on December 16, 2009, 11:34:48 AM
It definitely shows that you are a 1L.... Newsflash... Law school does not equal practice.  If you think your exam hypos prepare you to practice, Bigfirm or not, you are insane.

To win cases you have to learn how to use all resources (and supplements/treatises are the FIRST place you start).  You don't go researching case law from scratch. You take a look based on your topical area as to what cases are most relevant in your jurisdiction.

Title: Re: Anyone ever screw up an exam after tons of studying?
Post by: SEC_2L on December 16, 2009, 12:16:10 PM
My quibble with your supplement advice is that so often law school professors have a specific take on things that you will not find or at least see emphasized in a commercial outline/ supplement. I prefer either taking awesome notes all semester and making your own outline a mont hor two before exams (than you can supplement as you finish the course) or just paying reasonable attention all semester and then using the outline of someone who took that class recently and did well.

It definitely shows that you are a 1L.... Newsflash... Law school does not equal practice.  If you think your exam hypos prepare you to practice, Bigfirm or not, you are insane.

To win cases you have to learn how to use all resources (and supplements/treatises are the FIRST place you start).  You don't go researching case law from scratch. You take a look based on your topical area as to what cases are most relevant in your jurisdiction.


Title: Re: Anyone ever screw up an exam after tons of studying?
Post by: kenpostudent on December 16, 2009, 12:23:04 PM
It definitely shows that you are a 1L.... Newsflash... Law school does not equal practice.  If you think your exam hypos prepare you to practice, Bigfirm or not, you are insane.

To win cases you have to learn how to use all resources (and supplements/treatises are the FIRST place you start).  You don't go researching case law from scratch. You take a look based on your topical area as to what cases are most relevant in your jurisdiction.



Of course practice is different than law school! Don't forget, I already have a career and work for an accoutning firm. I am well aware of the differences between academia and real life. However, law school is meant to teach a thought process more than anything else. I agree that treatises are a great place to start for research. I also agree that some supplements are useful. I don't believe in relying upon them, though. I use them only after I have exhausted all other resources... with the exception of the E&E. I think those are great practice for exams and periodic review throughout the semester.
Title: Re: Anyone ever screw up an exam after tons of studying?
Post by: TheDudeMan on December 16, 2009, 12:36:22 PM
Well, let me know how your 1L grades turn out, because many of those in the top of your class won't have outlined anything on their own.  Sure, the prof. can test nuances, but 90% of the time, knowing the black letter law and how to apply it will get you the best grade.  For better or worse, law school is about shortcuts to a certain extent.
Title: Re: Anyone ever screw up an exam after tons of studying?
Post by: kenpostudent on December 16, 2009, 12:43:59 PM
I guess when you say "Supplements", I should start with a definintion. I don't consider treatises supplements. When I say "supplements", I mean commercial outlines designed for law school. A treatise by a respected scholar is always invaluable. However, I avoid canned briefs, commercial outlines, or nutshells. One caveat: I think BarBri outlines are great for filing in noteholes. Yet, even BarBri covers many things that my professors don't. For instance, BarBri study aids and outlines reference duress of goods as pretext for a false confinement claim: i.e. A takes B's laptop and hides it "somewhere in the building". According to BarBri, B can bring a false confinement claim against A because a laptop is sufficiently valuable to make leaving the premises without it an "unreasonable means of escape." I asked my torts professor about that and she said that the only claim A would have against B is a trespass to chattels claim, but not false confinement. I'm not going to say BarBri is wrong because they are probably not. Yet, my professor would have given me little to no credit had I analyzed a fact pattern according to BarBri's guidance on an exam in her class. Yet, I can find treatises in the library that support the "duress of goods" rule for false confinement.

My other problem with supplements is that they ignore what your professor actually covers. I used a variety of supplements to study for exams, AFTER I made my own outlines. I probably added at least 3 pages of material to each outline from supplements throughout deadweek. NOT ONE shred of that material was tested on a final. Why? Because the professor didn't cover it. The stuff that was tested was exactly what was covered. My own outlines and notes were the most useful for preparation.

I'll get off my soapbox now. Yet, I just think that overreliance on supplements breeds laziness and poor-reasoning. True excellence is achieved by struggling with the material, grappling with it until you fully understand it. I don't see a reason to short circuit that process.
Title: Re: Anyone ever screw up an exam after tons of studying?
Post by: KoalaTamer on December 16, 2009, 05:04:10 PM
OP: Are you a 1L?  If so, you will have to learn the lesson we all did.  Study smart, not hard. 


That's the thing--I did study smart, and I also maintained good sleep habits, ate healthfully and exercised, etc., so it's not like I was "out of it" on the day of the exam. There was absolutely nothing preparation-wise I would have done differently. I just effed up during the actual exam, even though one of the things (I thought) I had learned from taking practice exams is how important it is to read every bit of the prompts thoroughly. However, I had also learned not to waste a second of time. On the exam, my professor had quoted a part of the state penal code for our convenience near the beginning of the prompt. Near the end of the prompt was what looked (almost) just like another part of the state penal code, and I skimmed it, figuring it also was just there for convenience. Big mistake--it was altered. It was just one part of the question, so it's not like I completely bombed it, but my grade won't be as good as it could have been had I focused more on the "careful reading" that I'd learned from practice and a little less on the "don't 'waste' a second of time." (Ironically, the altered statute from the penal code was about--wait for it--mistake of law.)
Title: Re: Anyone ever screw up an exam after tons of studying?
Post by: kenpostudent on December 17, 2009, 03:41:40 PM
Careful reading is part of the essential skills of an attorney. Fortunately, doing it under time pressure is generally only necessary for exams.
Title: Re: Anyone ever screw up an exam after tons of studying?
Post by: KoalaTamer on December 17, 2009, 08:07:54 PM
Careful reading is part of the essential skills of an attorney. Fortunately, doing it under time pressure is generally only necessary for exams.

I know--the time pressure was my problem. I'm extremely thorough and detail-oriented by nature, and I found I wasn't getting enough substance actually into the essays in my practice exams because I was spending too much time reading and outlining. I guess I just took it too far in the opposite direction.
Title: Re: Anyone ever screw up an exam after tons of studying?
Post by: kenpostudent on December 18, 2009, 08:54:53 AM
Ya, I know how that goes. I missed a portion of one Civ Pro question on bifurcation and trifurcation. I just forgot to talk about it. I hope it's not worth major ponts. I hit every other part of the question but just glossed right over that. Some exams just have so much going on that it's nearly impossible to get to everything.
Title: Re: Anyone ever screw up an exam after tons of studying?
Post by: Denny Shore on December 25, 2009, 11:57:50 PM
It happens.  Usually, it can be traced back to one of two things: studying badly or over-studying.
I've known people who have blanked, but that's always been temporary (a few minutes).
I found that when I studied with serious, focused students that kept it short to be most beneficial.  There was a study group member who was a distraction because she kept asking questions about issues or elements unrelated (confusing restrictive covenants with negative easements for example) and changed hypos to fit the answer they want.
Prepare intelligently, do what brings you the most success, and don't be afraid to take a break.  I saw far too many students transform from normal, intelligent individuals into manic, jumpy loons who couldn't string together complete sentences.  I also saw far too many people "taking it easy" and ending their study sessions by closing a few bars.
Title: Re: Anyone ever screw up an exam after tons of studying?
Post by: byebyeny on December 26, 2009, 05:28:03 PM
I studied a ton for my final and I feel like I miserably failed it. I did write a lot on the essay part but for some of the short answer questions, I had no f-ing clue what they were about. Im just hoping the curve is going to save me. Law school exams suck big time.
Title: Re: Anyone ever screw up an exam after tons of studying?
Post by: TheDudeMan on December 26, 2009, 05:30:29 PM
You make excuses constantly.  Nobody cares why you bombed (if you did in fact bomb, though you probably did fine).  If you did bomb, fix it.  If not, relax.
Title: Re: Anyone ever screw up an exam after tons of studying?
Post by: byebyeny on December 26, 2009, 05:33:56 PM
can you offer some constructive advice on how to do well on law school exams?
Title: Re: Anyone ever screw up an exam after tons of studying?
Post by: Denny Shore on December 27, 2009, 03:50:20 PM
Whatever.
When you find out what you scored, meet with your professors to do an exam review.  Ask good questions (like "What were you looking for there?", not "How do I write good answers?") and you'll probably figure out where you went wrong (either with prep or execution). 
For what it's worth, after two of the three exams I took this semester, most folks thought they bombed.  Try to bear in mind, your raw score isn't as important as what other people did in relation to your old score.  It is not uncommon for students "raw" score to be below 70% and still get B's based on the curve...

Good luck!
Title: Re: Anyone ever screw up an exam after tons of studying?
Post by: KoalaTamer on January 09, 2010, 06:07:13 PM
So...the lesson I learned from this whole ordeal? Exactly what some of you (as well as my mentor) said: don't dwell on how you think you did on an exam. Just wait to see your actual score. That test I thought I completely blew? I ended up with an A. I definitely didn't deserve an A, but, as the previous poster said, the curve can be your friend.

I hope this gives some comfort to future 1Ls (or current 1Ls still waiting on their grades).
Title: Re: Anyone ever screw up an exam after tons of studying?
Post by: kenpostudent on January 13, 2010, 09:40:17 AM
Yep, I got grades back yesterday... straight As. I guess I didn't blow any exams.
Title: Re: Anyone ever screw up an exam after tons of studying?
Post by: Lemming # 231 on January 26, 2010, 10:56:29 PM
Well, let me know how your 1L grades turn out, because many of those in the top of your class won't have outlined anything on their own.  Sure, the prof. can test nuances, but 90% of the time, knowing the black letter law and how to apply it will get you the best grade.  For better or worse, law school is about shortcuts to a certain extent.

Meh.  It depends on the student.  The problem most have isn't with knowing the black letter law, it's with the application of it to the hypothetical in question.  The top student in our class refused to touch a commercial brief or canned outline.  For class work and prep materials he stuck with doing his own briefs, looking at the Restatements, his own outline and reputable hornbooks (for the subtle issues.)  Talking to him about it, he made a few points: a) briefing and outlining were in themselves exercises in being clear on the law and its application, b) a lot of students were getting so many supplemental sources that they just confused themselves with it all and c) he memorized the law that way through learning it, rather than the other way around, which meant that anything he had memorized was something he truly understood.

Title: Re: Anyone ever screw up an exam after tons of studying?
Post by: KoalaTamer on January 27, 2010, 01:11:12 PM
Wait--you know the top-ranked person in your class? My school is very adamant about not disclosing ranks and not even discussing grades with one another.
Title: Re: Anyone ever screw up an exam after tons of studying?
Post by: Lemming # 231 on January 27, 2010, 02:08:28 PM
Wait--you know the top-ranked person in your class? My school is very adamant about not disclosing ranks and not even discussing grades with one another.

It wasn't not too hard to figure out.  The test scores, by anonymous # are published for all to see.  Same # showed as the top score for every damn test we had.  I find it hard to believe students at your school don't actually discuss their grades with one another.
Title: Re: Anyone ever screw up an exam after tons of studying?
Post by: kenpostudent on January 28, 2010, 07:46:10 AM
Well, let me know how your 1L grades turn out, because many of those in the top of your class won't have outlined anything on their own.  Sure, the prof. can test nuances, but 90% of the time, knowing the black letter law and how to apply it will get you the best grade.  For better or worse, law school is about shortcuts to a certain extent.

Meh.  It depends on the student.  The problem most have isn't with knowing the black letter law, it's with the application of it to the hypothetical in question.  The top student in our class refused to touch a commercial brief or canned outline.  For class work and prep materials he stuck with doing his own briefs, looking at the Restatements, his own outline and reputable hornbooks (for the subtle issues.)  Talking to him about it, he made a few points: a) briefing and outlining were in themselves exercises in being clear on the law and its application, b) a lot of students were getting so many supplemental sources that they just confused themselves with it all and c) he memorized the law that way through learning it, rather than the other way around, which meant that anything he had memorized was something he truly understood.



I find that very believable. Law school material simply is not that hard. Doing well is just a matter of organization: first, the macro organization of the course into a sound but manageable outline, and secondly, organization of an exam answer that the professor will reward. You don't need supplements and hornbooks for that. You just need good time management and discipline. However, I do prefer supplements that focus on application: CALI exercises, Questions & Answers, BarBri materials and E&E. You don't really know the material until you've had to apply it. If you wait until dead weak to apply the material, you're really behind the 8-ball. It's hard to grasp all the subtlties and nuances when you start so late. I think the key to success is very short briefs, outlining as you go, and lots of hypos. I try to take a practice exam at least once a week during the semester, too. By the time dead week comes around, I've seen just about every issue that can be tested multiple times. Repetition is really the key.