My first final is one month away. Although I have taken four finals, I am still scared. Taking a final that is worth a sufficient part of your grade is HUGE! The nerves are high! Finals were the most stressful time of my life because your grade is dependent on how well you do compare to others. Luckily, I ended finals better than what I thought I would do. I corrected my study habits earlier on and found out what worked for me prior to the final. So, what do I do to prepare?
I plan a study schedule one month from my final
Yes, I make a final study schedule when I am a month out from my final. One thing I realized in law school is that some people just get it and they do not need much study time.
I am not one of these people. I have to do extra things to make sure everything sticks in my head in preparation for the final
Making an Outline
I have mentioned it a couple of times, but I will mention it again here. I hand-write all my class notes. After I write my class notes, then I type them into my One Note available on Microsoft. Throughout the semester I try to keep up with my outline prior to the final (do not wait until the last minute). I try to outline when the professor finishes a full topic.
- There are 3 types of outlines that I have heard of and tried to use
- The big outline: This outline has all your notes including cases
- The skinny outline: This one is a smaller outline that has a condensed version of notes
- The attack outline: This is kind of like a skeleton outline. There is barely anything on it. It serves kind of as a refresher of the information you should already know.
When I make my outlines and I do not understand something, then I make a list of topics to talk to my professors in their office hours for clarification after I exhausted all my other resources. Exhausting other resources included watching BARBRI videos and sometimes Quimbee videos on subjects that I am confused on. BARBRI is amazing! Most of the time when I am confused on a subject (usually property & civil procedure) they clear up any confusion that I have and leave me with a better understanding afterwards.
Writing my Outline
I have also said this a lot. Yes, I hand-write my outline. It is not the full outline though. It is more of a skinny outline. I do this because if I write something multiple times, then I will most likely remember it than if it is on a computer screen or words on a paper.
- This also allows me to use different color pens to make it more visual and be able to recall things
- I have a different color for each class (just like when I have different colors for when I case brief).
- Black/white is for Contracts
- Blue is for Civil Procedure
- Green is for Property
- Orange is for Legal Writing
- Pink is for Torts
- When I write out my outline for these classes I always use these colors with the Paper-Mate Ink Joy Gel Pens
- I buy a ton of lined paper and I just go through the outline that is on my computer and put the big take away points and condense it down.
So, last semester I did not use sheet protectors until I drew this big beautiful graph for the freehold estate system and water got it and partially ruined it. After this happened, I started to put the sheets of paper into the sheet protectors to prevent destruction of my notes.
I have a finals binder and I separate everything out by classes. I put all the sheets of paper in here to help keep me organized. After I take my final, then I put the sheets into a bigger binder to reference when I start studying for the bar.
I am a visual learner, so even after I write out all my notes I still write on a white board and write everything out. I will put a whole concept on the white board, memorize it by talking it out-load, and then erase it and see if I can write up everything that I just tried to memorize.
There are some study aids at the library and also on amazon that you can buy. I highly recommend doing practice problems. You can do this for multiple choice and essay problems. Multiple choice you can check yourself quicker, but to write out an essay answer I would recommend bringing it into your professor and asking how you can improve or if that is how you should organize an essay. I would do this ahead of time.
When do you stop?
If you do not know it the night before around dinner time, then I would go to bed. The two sayings that I said that got me through my other finals were “if I don’t know it now, then I won’t know it in a few hours”, and “If I am going to fail, then I might as well get a good nights sleep” (I didn’t fail any of my finals).
There has to be a certain point to where you call it a night and know that you have done all you can do to prepare.
I review one time right before my final, but then after that I would put in my music and not look back before entering the exam. I try to have a peace of mind before entering into a three hour final.
During the Final
Timing is very important when taking a final. My school has it to where the final is three hours. This sounds like a lot of time, but it is not. Use your time wisely. Don’t spend all your time on multiple choice and leave little to no time for the essay or vice versa. IT IS ALL IMPORTANT. Try and get as many points as you can.
I usually write out a “cheat sheet” (no, this is not cheating). At the beginning of the exam I write out my skeleton outline, so that when I am going through my essay I make sure that I did not miss anything like an exception to the rule. I would not spend more than 5-10 minutes on this. This is mainly for organization purposes. I practice writing this out before I actually go into the final.
After the final
DO NOT talk about the final after with your peers or professors. You do not want to stress yourself out, and in some schools that is an honor code violation. Do not do what I did either. I beat myself up about what I put or what I forgot to put and this will drive you insane. Put that energy towards the next final because there is nothing that you can do to change your answer once it is turned in.
Finals are very scary (for me at least). I am always scared that I will be below the curve, but last finals I was way above the curve in all my classes. Get some sleep when you turn in your last final. You will need it! Reward yourself! Don’t stress out about the time period between turning in the final and receiving your grades because it will take a while for them to get back. So, enjoy your free time. You made it through finals in law school. That is definitely an accomplishment!