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How To Study for a Law School Exam

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In most instances, your grade in a course will depend entirely on one law school exam. If that sounds like a lot of pressure, well, quite frankly, it is, but there's good news! Some people in your class have to get A's, so you might as well be one of them.

The following five steps will help you ace any law school exam:

Difficulty: Hard
Time Required: Three months

Here's How:

  1. Study all semester long.

    Be a diligent student throughout the semester by doing all the assigned reading, taking great notes, reviewing them after each week, and participating in class discussions. Law professors love to talk about seeing the forest for the trees; at this point you should focus on those trees, the main concepts your professor is covering. You can place them in the forest later.

  2. Join a study group.

    A great way to be sure you're understanding key concepts throughout the semester is to go over the readings and lectures with other law students. Through study groups, you can prepare for future classes by discussing assignments and fill in gaps in your notes from past lectures. It may take you a little while to find fellow students you click with, but it's worth the effort. Not only will you be more prepared for the exam, you'll also get used to talking out loud about cases and concepts--particularly great if your professor uses the Socratic Method.

  3. Outline.

    Leading up to the reading period, you should have a good grasp of major concepts, so now it's time to pull them all together into the "forest," if you will, in course outlines. Organize your outline based on the syllabus or your casebook's table of contents and fill in blanks with information from your notes. If you don't want to leave this until just before the exam, do it gradually throughout the semester; start a document with the major concepts, leaving large blank areas that you can fill in with information as you review it from your notes at the end of each week.

  4. Use past exams of professors to prepare.

    Many professors put past exams (sometimes with model answers) on file in the library; if your professor does so, be sure to take advantage. Past exams tell you what your professor considers the most important concepts in the course, and if a sample answer is included, be sure to study the format and copy it as best you can when you attempt other practice questions. If your professor offers review sessions or office hours, be sure to come prepared with a good understanding of past exams, which are also great for study group discussion.

  5. Improve your test-taking skills by learning from your past exams.

    If you've already been through a semester or more of law school exams, one of the best ways to improve your performance is by studying your past performances. If you can get copies of your exams, look at your answers and the model answers carefully. Note where you lost points, where you did the best, and also think back to how and when you prepared--what worked and what may have been a waste of your time. Also be sure to analyze your exam-taking techniques as well, for example, did you use your time wisely during the test?

What You Need

  • Casebook
  • Notes
  • Outline
  • Time

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