Law school exam season can be extremely stressful so the BLSA executive team has put together some of our best tips for how to prepare for and write exams. All of these are suggestions that have worked for us, hopefully it works for you. The most important tip is listening to yourself and discovering what works best for you.
- Figure out what study habits are best for you--not everyone studies the same way (some people prefer study groups, others prefer to study alone or in pairs); it's imperative that you study in an environment that is conducive to your success.
- Put your phone on silent while studying, that way if anyone calls or texts you, there's no alert to distract you from your study session.
- Start with secondary sources - just like with research, reading cases first will waste your time. Start with upper year notes and treatises and supplement with readings where necessary when building your maps/summaries.
- Do all your readings before classes. It will make it easier when the professor will go over it, you'll not be lost during the lecture and during your reviews after classes, you'll only go to the parts where you didn't understand during your first reading.
- Study every day, even if it is just reading your notes.
- Find a routine, what is better for you - waking up early and studying or studying late. Consistency is key. Create a solid study routine and be sure to hold yourself accountable (even if that means staying on campus to complete readings before going home where you’ll face the temptations of Netflix & sleep).
- Try to always be up to date, will be easier to study for exams through the weeks before them. Synthesize class notes each week--taking time to review your weekly class notes and synthesizing the really important points for the exam. Start creating a summary 4-5 weeks before the exam. Your summary will be far better quality than if you wait 1-2 weeks before exam period when the stress really kicks in. Plus, the head start will give you a chance to talk to profs or study groups about the concepts you don’t understand.
- Use the syllabus/course outline as a guide for formatting your study notes. This helps you see the “big picture” of the course and create connections between readings & the course topics.
- Be a part of a reliable study group where you'll have fun studying with them but will also be serious about studying. Play trivia with questions about the class's content with your study group.
- Go to professor’s office hours at least once a month. Nobody knows the course expectations better than the professors themselves, so don’t be afraid to meet with them and get an idea of what they’re looking for, clarification of anything you didn’t understand during classes. Don't be afraid to ask questions when a particular topic or idea is unclear.
- Make flashcards with the classes content, with case law's summary, principles, make links between them.
- SLEEP! Aim for at least 7 hours per night.
- EAT! We can forget to eat under stress.
- Don't forget to take breaks in between study sessions.
- Exercise, it will make you relax and give you energy and focus for after.
- Listen to your body--if you feel as though you can't review anymore, that means it’s time to stop. Law school is extremely time-consuming and it's important to be on the ball, but never to the point where you're on the verge of burning out: listening to your body is key
Exam Preparation Tips
- Eat healthy foods and get a good night’s rest before your exam. If you aren't sleeping enough during exams, you are not managing your time well. It's not possible to be focused and studying for properly for 14-16+ hours a day; if you're studying efficiently, fitting in 8 hours to sleep shouldn't be a problem, and will work wonders for your retention and your stress levels.
- Practice using your materials - once you've put together your summary/map, write a couple mock exams with it to make sure you are familiar with the content and not missing anything.
- Time yourself - running a timer while you're studying that you pause while distracted can help you better gauge how efficient you're being.
- Have a table of contents for your study notes so that during the exam when looking for certain concepts/topics it can be found quickly and efficiently.
Yes, you are in Law School and it is really competitive and you are working on your future, but please find a way to make your years in Law School fun and exciting. These are going to be the most important years of your life. The unforgettable stage of your life: you will discover yourself, new fields, change your standards, meet new people. Please, I don't want you in 10 years to look back and only see it as a though and hard time of your life. Make it fun while being efficient in your study!!
Shequille Rollocks, National Director of Advocacy