« on: May 28, 2006, 09:54:02 AM »
I don't discuss specifics about grades, but I graded onto law review and I made Dean's List last semester. I don't have all my grades back from this semester, but I'm doing pretty well. As far as study habits go, I do what I'm comfortable with and I ignore other people's suggestions. At the beginning of 1L, I tried out different methods - outlining, practice tests, book briefing, regular briefing, etc. I figured out what I liked. I use different methods for different classes. I don't spend a lot of time on an outline for closed-book exams, for example, because I don't need to use the outline. I spend more time doing flashcards and practice questions. Everybody told me that I should avoid flashcards, but I'm comfortable with flashcards, so that's what I use. I don't like study groups so I avoid them for the most part. On exam day, I stay away from the law school, listen to some music, and do a few flashcards. If there's a topic I'm still uncomfortable with, I review it a few times. Basically, I don't freak out during the two weeks of exams. I don't try to fit a square peg into a round hole, either - I use study methods that I like and that make me feel prepared. I don't think you'll do really well if you force yourself to outline or do whatever everybody tells you to do when you learn better by using other methods. It's all about confidence.
When it comes down to grades, I think strategy on exam day is more important than study habits. Read the directions. Ask questions about the exam. Answer the questions in a way that will maximize points. I took one exam where the professor specifically said that there were more questions than anybody would be able to answer and he was more interested in thorough analysis for a few questions than crappy analysis for every question. Still, there were several people bragging that they answered every question afterwards. I answered three out of I think seven questions and one person told me that I was nuts for doing that, but I did a thorough analysis like the professor requested. My grade was very good. If the question asks for six cases, come up with six cases. That doesn't mean write twice as much about three cases. If you even manage to name six cases you'll beat out the people who misread the question or who didn't follow directions. I think a big part of exams is anticipating the mistakes of others and not making those mistakes.
I use IRAC on exams except when the professor requests another format. I break between paragraphs so my exam isn't just a 15-20 page blob. That sounds like a stupid format thing, but if you're grading 90 exams, would you be able to carefully read 15 pages with no paragraph breaks? I'm very methodical and formulaic. I pose the issue in question format. I state the rule, usually citing to a case or a string of cases. I use signals when I cite to cases in an exam just as I would in a brief. That makes it easier for the professor to see why I'm citing to a particular case for a rule. If I were really anal, I'd jot down the pincite in my outline, but I'm not that anal. When I do the analysis, I do as much fact-to-fact analogies as are necessary for the issue. If it's a minor issue, I might do one sentence. If it's a major issue, I might do a couple paragraphs and then break up those paragraphs into sub-issues. Sometimes professors say they don't want conclusions, so I omit the conclusion. If the question asks for a conclusion, I give a conclusion, but I don't spend a lot of time on it. Since I'm usually presenting both sides, I'll just randomly pick a side and say, for example, "X will probably not be charged with larceny because of Y." Y being one of the claims that I stated in my analysis. There aren't usually many points to be had in the conclusion, it's all in the analysis, so I don't worry about it too much.
As a final note, I type about 80 wpm. I would recommend, if you take computer-based exams, doing soming typing tutorials and improving your typing speed. If you're just as good at taking exams as I am, but can't type as fast and thus can't cover as much ground, you'll get a lower grade. It probably won't be a significantly lower grade, but why not do the best you can? You'll also be more comfortable during the exam if you're comfortable typing fast.