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Messages - tacojohn

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I took my first final on Wednesday, Civ Pro, and have honestly not managed to think about my answers to the questions at all.  I don't think it will be so easy after my contracts final tomorrow though, because that's the class I've put the most work into, and our prof basically told us she puts way more issues into her questions than we'd ever have time to fully discuss.  I'm not sure whether this makes me feel better or worse.
It should make you feel better.  After the exam, when you're still coming down from the "high," repeat that mantra to yourself.  "It was impossible to hit everything."  Believe me, if you have two more finals coming up, how you deal with the aftermath of a test like this could decide how where you're going to be at the end of the semester.  A lot of people can get shell-shocked by something like this, and let it affect them in later exams.  Don't let it be you.

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I posted this on my blog, but I'll x-post it here.  Feel free to rip me here or there if you disagree.

Taper

I know thereís a great temptation to work 24/7.  If that works for you, fine.  Personally, after about 8-10 hours of this type of work, Iím useless.  Iím staring at words, mindlessly typing in an outline, stuck on the most basic problems in an outline.  So unless I have mindless-type work to do, I just give up.  I make dinner, play video games, even go out.  If youíre able to put in 16-18 hour days, more power to you.  But not everyone can and not everyone needs to.  And if you continue to sit there and stare at something you canít get mostly because youíre just tired, then youíre just stressing yourself out for no good reason.

Practice makes perfect

Outlines are great.  Itís wonderful to synthesize information like that, and if you do it right, the end result is really rewarding.  Iím also of the opinion (that I think is a minority view) that a good outline is very useful on the exam, not just as something to get you thinking about the test.  But many a law student with a great outline has walked into a test feeling like they knew they were prepared, and walked out feeling shell-shocked (rightly so when grades come out).  I disagree that there is nothing like law school exams, but they do have major fundamental differences than other types of tests.

I donít think Examples and Explanations or commercial practice tests do you justice.  Go find your profs old tests and work them out.  I never right answers out, I just sit in my apartment and talk to myself.  I might type out some notes like major conclusions, but I donít try to put myself in a testing environment.  I just bounce ideas around and use my outline.  Outlines are great tools, but you need to know how to use them, and practicing with a profs old tests is the best way, in my humble opinion.

Dealing with the Aftermath

When you walk out of your first law school exam, you will be flooded with numerous emotions.  Iíve had some pretty intense test taking experiences.  In a post that is long gone, I did say that law school finals donít quite match up to the International Bacculareate exam period, but itís a solid number two.  You will likely be feeling a high and a low, like you aced it, and like you failed.

First things first: pay attention to no one and book it out of there.  I donít have a problem with this because Iím an extremely quick test-taker and am almost always done before time.  But get away from the scene of the crime.  I know thereís a tendancy to sit there and dwell on it, but try not to.  Leave the test room.  A lot of people like to go out to lunch or dinner after an exam.  I like that idea, and I found it helpful sometimes.  It was certainly great after my Torts exam, which really meant we were running downhill for the rest of finals.  But donít talk about the test.  Go home and sleep on it.

When you wake up, before you get back to studying think and ask yourself these two questions:

   1. Was I satisfied how well I prepared?
   2. Given how well I prepared,  was I happy with how I did on the test?

DO NOT COMPARE YOURSELF TO OTHERS!  I canít stress that enough.  Just because someoneís outline was bigger, or someone finished before you, or someone found the comment in the FRCP that answered the question better is irrelevant.  This is all about intrinsic rewards.  Law school exams are crap shoots really.  Yes, some people will do consistently better, but the difference between say the 25th percentile and the 50th percentile is at some level luck.  All you can do is satisfy yourself.

So if you walked into test feeling like you knew the material cold, give yourself a check there.  If you didnít, did you feel like you were able to BS your way to something that at least sounded good?  Then give yourself a check there.  When grades come out and you get the chance to talk with professors, you can find out what you actually did right and wrong.  But for now, are you happy with what you did?  Remember though, you are going to miss things and make mistakes.  The time pressures of the exam make that almost a certainty.  So donít say ďI missed x issue, so I wasnít happy.Ē  Perfection is an impossible standard, and itís created by someone else, so it totally defeats the purpose of the exam.

Just be yourself

Donít worry what anyone else is doing.  If you think this advice is bull, not only to I urge you not to follow it, let me know.  You can vent at me right here if you want.  Iím a firm believer that in exams, especially law school exams, the spoils go not to the ones who have the most knowledge, but the ones who are motivated, confident, and in the right frame of mind when the test software boots up or the blue book is opened.  Trying to put your square peg into someone elseís round hole is bound to be uncomfortable, and very likely to screw you up when it comes time to show your stuff.

Happy Testing!

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General Board / Re: 1L - Decided to leave...should I even take exams?
« on: December 02, 2006, 02:18:42 PM »
Don't people who withdraw count towards the curve anyway?
Typically they are removed from the curve.

84
General Board / Re: Most BORING class? (1L)
« on: December 02, 2006, 02:15:50 PM »
This is mostly professor-based.  However, I think most people are prejudiced against property and civ pro coming in, which leads to the bad reviews.  Con law is the only class that can really overcome that.  A good con law teacher can make it interesting for everyone, and a bad con law teacher can ruin it for even the most enthusiastic student.

85
General Board / Re: Exam Day
« on: December 02, 2006, 02:13:35 PM »
I've never had to turn in my outlines and never heard of a professor asking for them.  In a limited open book exam, you typically aren't allowed to physically bring in commercial study aids.  I'm pretty sure if you want to type out Gilbert's word for word, you can do it.  BUT DON'T ASK HERE.  ASK YOUR PROFESSOR.  No question is too stupid when not asking it means risking getting kicked out of law school.

86
General Board / Re: outlines?
« on: December 01, 2006, 10:53:04 AM »
No, as long as your plan is something other than sitting on your couch eating Cheetos, just do what you think will work.

87
General Board / Re: Great new rankings
« on: November 28, 2006, 07:25:42 AM »
My problem with Cooley's rankings is not that Cooley is much higher.  It's that no T4 schools are.  I imagine that T4 have some similar characteristics, but Cooley has picked a set of circumstances that set it apart from everyone else, like was said above, three different measures of the physical size of the law school.

88
General Board / Re: BigLaw Suit Requirement?
« on: November 24, 2006, 03:59:12 PM »
I hear seersucker is coming back.

89
General Board / Re: How Does Everyone Pick Their Classes?
« on: November 02, 2006, 03:11:48 PM »
I pick subjects that I'm interested in for the most part. (most of the time the subject and the professors go together) However, I also pick subjects that will be taught on the bar too. I mean am I really interested in Gratuitous Transfers? No, but I'm very interested in passing the bar. If you don't pick classes that will be tested on the bar then you're doing yourself a diservice. However, you need to balance those classes with what you're actually interested in.

First of all (and this is a lesson I learned the hard way), you are never doing yourself any sort of "disservice" or damage by making personal choices on how to carry out your education.  This is especially true when everything you need to know for the bar will be retaught to you again later in a bar review course.  If someone wants to take two fulls years of Legal Issues in Underwater Basket Weaving, more power to them.

As far the the OP's concern, I look first at the professor.  Check ratemyprofessors.com or some similar site, ask classmates who have taken a professor's class, and if you found that a professor was very enjoyable or taught in a style especially conducive to your learning, then load up on his or her classes, regardless of what the topic is.  After that, I looked at time of day, and subject matter.

I also payed a little attention to grade distributions.  If you're looking to take a run at making law review or a better job after graduation, it pays look look at things like which teacher is an easier grader, and which classes are curved or not.

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General Board / Re: Prof. opinion vs. the law
« on: November 02, 2006, 02:38:14 PM »
Also listen closely to the professor when he tells you how to "break" certain doctrine or codes that seem to be very bright line rules.  Those are classic issues that profs put into exams that only a few people will get, and others will gloss over and only mention because the answer is so obvious based on only the BLL.

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