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It’s All In The Method: Preparing for Law School Exams

‎J.D. Indiana university Robert H McKinney School of Law

As a first year law student, you are at an interesting place in your life. On the one hand, you are now considered part of the academic elite, the top of the educational food chain. You are expected to be, and are, highly intelligent. On the other hand, however, you have absolutely no idea what is in store for you. You are now in a situation where you have no answers and every answer you think you have will be wrong. You have no idea what your exams will require of you and no idea how to prepare for them. You are, in essence, starting school for the first time because this is not the schooling that you knew before.

The most difficult part of the first year of law school is figuring out how to study for this new type of exam. The thing is, everyone has his or her own way of performing this task. What’s more is that, unless they have taken pre-law classes that have taught them otherwise, they are likely doing it wrong. The good news for you in this is that you are, at the very least, close to the same starting level as everyone else. Many of these students will act like they are the best, the smartest, or the leader of the class. The truth, though, is that no one is.

Now, it’s time for the advice:  First of all, relax. Don’t worry about anyone else. Let them worry about themselves, and you worry about you. Second, find a book to be your guide on study habits. I recommend Law School Confidential by Robert H. Miller. I used it, and it helped me develop the study skills  that I still use today. Third, incorporate your own style of studying into the suggestions from whatever  book you choose. Everyone learns differently and you need to stay true to what got you here. Fourth—and this is very important—prepare yourself for monotony. A semester of law school is a spirit-draining process. Part of what makes law school so difficult is that you cannot easily gauge how you are doing. You just keep doing the same thing over and over and there seems to be no end. Be confident in the process that you have discovered and keep up with the work.

Finally, and this deserves its own paragraph, take as many practice exams as possible. Your professors will usually provide them. Look at the model answers and try your best to mimic them. You should also take them to your professor and see if he or she will critique them. The reason I say that studying for exams is the hardest part of law school is because these exams are so different than what you’ve known in the past. You do not yet know how to take them. If you can get down the process of law school exam essay writing, you WILL be ahead of the curve when grades come in January. Now…off to the races with your new method!

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