When it comes to law school exams, it takes a certain amount of preparation and strategy to excel.
Alison Monahan, the founder of The Girl’s Guide to Law School®, which is a leading resource for women (and some men) embarking on a legal career, recently offered some tips through National Jurist on how law students can effectively exam prep to maximize success.
REVIEW YOUR NOTES
Taking notes during lecture is a must. Often times, students take notes only to never look at them again.
Law students should always review their notes and integrate them into their exam prep, Monahan says.
“Once you have reviewed and ‘cleaned up’ your notes, spend time integrating the information into the outline you started at the beginning of the semester,” Monahan writes. “In this way you continue to build that final review outline and continuously reinforce the concepts and legal principals you are learning in class and from your readings.”
In terms of actually writing notes during lecture, law students can integrate some strategic note-taking as well.
Shirlene Armstrong, a law grad from Wayne State University Law, calls it “active note-taking.”
“Being an active note-taker means taking notes that will contribute to your comprehension of the material on a critical-thinking level,” Armstrong writes for Law School Toolbox. “This means that instead of just writing down what your casebook or professor says, connect topics that you are learning about now to subjects you have gone over in the past. This will not only keep you engaged, but it may also give you an extra leg-up when it comes to exams.”
KNOW WHAT TYPE OF LEARNER YOU ARE
Learning can come a lot easier in law school if you can figure out what type of learner you are.
“By the time you get to law school, you probably have a good idea of what works for you,” Monahan writes. “That said, studying in law school is not the same as it was in your undergraduate, or even graduate, program. Try out a few things and see what works best for you. A little time investment, in the beginning, will help save you a lot of wasted time down the road, and hopefully, allow you to become an efficient legal studies machine.”
One learning style many find helpful is study groups.
However, Monahan says, there’s an effective way of group study and an ineffective way. Monahan talks about her own experience of group study in law school and how her group came together to effectively exam prep.
“We didn’t study together throughout the semester,” she writes. “We did all our work and prep throughout the semester independently and only came together in the last few days before exams. We each brought a significant amount of work and knowledge to the study sessions, and each benefitted from the efforts of the other members. Generally, these sessions were intense review sessions complete with diagramming, dry-erase board sessions, and snacks.”
Integrating all these strategies into your exam prep can be helpful. But once you come upon the exam, Monahan says, it’s important to streamline your study habits.
“I love flashcards and outlines; however, by the time I got to the last day or so before the exam, I had reduced my number of cards and pages dramatically,” she writes. “I might only have 10-20 flashcards with particularly elusive legal concepts on them, or maybe a few overview cards. If I used an outline, it was less than five pages. Just enough to keep all the connections fresh in my brain. These tools were the output of my semester of note-taking, outline integration, final-push group study sessions, and hard work generally.”
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