5 Study Strategies for Your Law School Midterms
If you're a first year law student, you're probably very heavily invested in your first year exams. Although grades are generally based on a single final exam, some professors will offer also midterms.
Here are five study tips to help you prepare for exam day.
1. Find Old Exams and Know the Buzzwords
If your law school professors aren't sadistic, they'll have an archive of previous exams that will give you a fair representation of what they want. The good news is that for first year courses, this pattern is pretty much set. There will be a set of magic buzzwords that will score you points on each subject. Find the old exams and take at least three of them throughout the term. Think "Art of War" and knowing the battlefield.
2. Don't Be a Hero: Use Hornbooks
If you're having trouble following the material in class, you could declare "uncle" and turn to hornbooks. Despite what others say, there is really no shame in doing so. In study aids, the seminal cases have already been briefed for you and you can learn the law more readily because it's basically a story. Some people find the issues much easier to handle. Because you spend less time reading through thick legalese and procedure, you can spend more effort getting the context of the facts. As a result, you learn the important legal elements within context of a memorable case.
However, don't completely do away with the casebook. Some professors get cute and test on very obscure points in a particular case.
Mnemonics and acronyms are invaluable for remembering all of the maddening elements for a particular issue. Even if you can recall a story rather well, some professors will dock you points if you don't spell out every single element exactly as he wants it. Fortunately, generations of law students have created mnemonics for aiding the memory.
4. Don't Brief
Yes, I said it. Don't spend your time briefing cases. It is better to repeat old exams again and again and get very good at issue spotting. Ninety percent of the exams in law school revolve around issue spotting. Briefing is not useless, but it's a skill that will serve you when you do appellate work or if you're asked to write a memo. On a law school exam, your professor is asking you to issue spot and analyze.
5. Sleep and Eat.
By now everyone knows that you need sleep in order to do your best. There are numerous studies that show that sleep deprivation has a detrimental effect of your test performance.
SAT Instructor Chris Ryan, who currently holds the position of Vice President of Manhattan Prep, suggests that students bring some form of sugar water with them into a test that is going to require lots of thinking. Your brain consumes sugar at a massive rate when thinking. Also consider consuming a glucose rich food such as a sweet potato with butter about 30 minutes for the test. Glucose is the primary fuel of the brain (and tastes better than sugar water).
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