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.