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Your Guide To A Stress Free Final Exam Period

3L, Florida International University College of Law

Ok, so the title was misleading. We all know that stress is inevitable during law school, especially during final exams. In fact, we know it can be a great motivator. With the right planning, you can make your final exam period as painless as possible.

Step 1: BREATHE! (And plan). It’s March. Ideally, you have taken meticulous notes, are about 2/3 of the way through your outlines and have already started identifying your sources for hypotheticals. Did you have a panic attack yet? Even if you plan your study time with religious fervor and have had no qualms about missing the big game for your outlining time, chances are something has slipped through the cracks. Life happens. First thing is to realize that is ok. That is a part of life. And to quote moms across America, “there is no use crying over spilled milk.” Take about 30 seconds for the panic attack and move on. Make a plan. Even if you aren’t the planning type, this is the time to abandon your disdain for calendars and consider color coding. Count backwards from your exam day and account for a REASONABLE (you’re in law school, you should be familiar with this standard) amount of time for organization, review, study, and hypotheticals.

Step 2: CONDENSE! Some law students will swear by using old outlines to study. I tell everyone who asks me whether or not they should outline the traditional way, to at least try it once. The important part is to know yourself and know what makes you learn best. It is also important to be flexible with your study method from class to class. Typically, I opt for the traditional outlining method. I gather my notes, casebook, and typically an Examples and Explanations or an Emanuel to start outlining. I am aware that my weakness is in the initial note taking. No matter how hard I try, I always manage to miss something during lecture. It is important to be self-aware. I know my notes will have some gaps. I know I have to spend more time going through the casebook or through a study aid in order to fill those holes. Remember, the traditional method of outlining has been tested by generations of law students but don’t be afraid to deviate. The civil procedure flowchart I created my first year is still one of my most prized possessions. Whether you choose to outline, flowchart, or flashcard, the bottom line here is to review the information you have learned and take the time to fill in any gaps in your knowledge.

Step 3: CONDENSE MORE! Now you have identified your substantively weak areas and done what you needed to do to address them, whether it is visiting a professor in office hours or bringing your questions to a study group. Now it is time to read through your prepared materials several times and condense even further. You may consider condensing general topics on to one sheet of paper. For example, you should be able to condense the key tests of negligence into one sheet of paper. If that seems like an impossible feat, maybe consider one sheet per element. Another approach I have used is transferring the major points for each heading on a syllabus onto whiteboards or poster boards. I can review them during a study session and take pictures on my phone so I can review them later. It may seem silly, but I can definitely retain things later if I see them on a picture of a whiteboard. I can recall the classroom I was in, what snacks my study group brought, and ultimately the correct rule of law!

Step 4: PRACTICE! PRACTICE! PRACTICE! You’ve done all the leg work, now it’s time to apply the law. Use the hypotheticals in the E and E’s with your study group to discuss how the plaintiff and the defendant would argue. Carry the Law in a Flash cards with you on the subway and never waste a moment of study time. Now with WK’s new mobile app and kindle titles you don’t even have to worry about remembering to pack a study aid, you can pull up what you need on your mobile device.


CONDENSE!! Easily the most overlooked part of outlining. Sure, bringing a 78 page monstrosity to an open book, open notes test sounds great, but even with a Table of Contents and tabs, it's just not practical.


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