Even though it’s only September, the months in a given semester go quickly, so I wanted to offer my advice regarding how to prep for finals early. This is sort of an extension of my post about steps to better grades. In law school, your final grade is solely based on your final exam. So, it’s wise to begin prepping for final exams early. However, if you just start studying for finals, you’ll likely burn out and lose momentum when you should be kicking into high gear (aka mid-November). So, I’m sharing my top three tips that can accompany my three tips to better grades.
- Talk about the material with friends and family. Discussing material aloud with other people will allow you to gauge how well you know the material. I had a criminal law TA who said, “I taught the course to my wife. Teaching it to someone who had minimal understanding allowed me to understand the material, find the areas that I didn’t get as well, and solidified my ability to discuss it, which helped the essay portion of the exam.” This advice was some of the best that I received my first year of law school. My sweet mother talked to me for five hours on the phone as I walked through my torts outline. This process was long and tedious, but I knew which areas I needed help with before the exam. Discussing the material with others throughout the semester will kick-start finals review.
- Take “reading notes” and “class notes.” Some people do this, but some people only really take reading notes or rely primarily on class notes. Personally, I find having reading notes that I take based on what I think is important from the reading and separate class notes based on what the professor thinks is important allows me to see where I’m missing points or if I’m pulling out the right highlights of the reading. If I’m not, there’s a chance I will miss points on the exam because my professor and I aren’t considering the same facts important. Ninety percent of a law school exam is issue spotting (they make you think it’s analysis. Let me just say: if you don’t spot the issue, you cannot do the analysis). Recognizing how your professor reads or addresses legal issues is key to getting a high grade on the exam.
- Outline beginning at the end of October. You’ll hear a lot of different things in terms of outlining. You may even wonder, “what the hell is an outline?” An outline is just what it sounds like — an outline of the course. You go through major concepts, tests, etc. and outline the course as it is taught to you. I prefer outlining later rather than earlier. Some people disagree, which is fine, but I find that whatever I outline last is what I remember most. If you begin too early, it’s not as fresh because you probably won’t look at the beginning of your outline until a week or so before the exam. Outlining later forces you to review early concepts and understand how and where they fit in the whole course (spoiler alert: sometimes outlines are best ordered different than how you learn the material).
How do you prep for class or finals?