Friday, December 11, 2009

On the eve of your first law school exam...

Here's the top 5 survival tips I gave my 1L Study Group. Given the number of referrals this blog has been getting for "fail out of law school" and "law school makes me feel stupid" and "study law school exams," I thought it would be appropriate to repost here.

Yes, I am killing two birds with one stone. I'm a 3L- what do you expect?

Without further ado, five things to remember on the night before your exam (before you start hyperventilating).

1. You will never be more prepared than you are right now. It may not feel like it, but I assure you- you can only be so ready for a law school exam. Review the night before your exam, but keep in mind that there are only so many things you can cram into your head at this point. Get some sleep, go for a run- maintain your sanity. Sane people are statistically better students than half-crazed sleepless maniacs (having tried both methods, I recommend the one where you don't get delirious).*

2. Get organized. 90% of test taking is just answering the question put in front of you. Read the entire test. Take notes. Know the question. When you're halfway through writing, go back and check: Did I answer the question? Did I give a clear roadmap to my answer? Am I actually taking the correct exam? If the answer is no to any of these question, go back and start again.

3. Not every answer is obvious: And that is ok. You didn't come to law school for 'obvious' or 'easy,' and you have the tools to figure this out. Some questions will be straightforward, some will seem big and overwhelming....this is natural. Some questions will also make you think your professor is drinking the crazy juice again. This is a universal experience. Start with what you know, and work your way up from there. This is just a puzzle. You have the pieces, and you'll be able to put them together- the important thing is to start with the manageable bits, and go from there.

4. If you encounter an unmanageable bit: take a deep breath. Read the question one more time. Go back to something else if you need to. If, after all of these things are done, it is still unmanageable, remember that it is unmanageable for many people. Do your best, and, if you do nothing else: stay calm. Next year, you can terrify your 1L study groups with horror stories of The Worst Exam That Ever Was.

5. After the exam, let it go. There's a very real temptation to rehash with your classmates. The trouble is (a) you can't know if their answers are more right than yours, and (b) you can't change anything about the exam now. Remember that your emotions (good or bad) after the test are not actually a good indicator of how well you did--there is a curve, and nothing about this is predictable. Don't psyche yourself out. Let it go. Embrace the uncertainty. Make room in your brain for Civ Pro.

6. Finally, find the humor. Here's an inevitable fact, 1Ls: taking law school exams sucks. This will not be fun. (I know, I know, everyone says its all puppies and kittens and lollipops, etc., etc. Lies!)

However, law school generally sucks a lot less if you can find something to laugh about. There is always humor. Law school is a bizarre, sadistic, initiation rite, managed by evil nerds and populated by socially awkward, type A personalities: it's basically the darkest, most boring sitcom even invented.

On a scale of "Genocide" to "Carrot Top naked" law school exams rank somewhere between "root canal without anesthetic" and "taking a mayonnaise bath with Guy Fieri." If you do not come equipped with a healthy sense of humor, the whole situation is going to be a lot worse. Guy Fieri is going to want to cuddle. Carrot Top will go on being Carrot Top. Basically, it's going to be terrible(r). Humor is your survival kit when all else fails.

Alarming numbers of law students graduate all the time- you will get through this, and boy will you have a story to tell when its over.

Get some sleep tonight, eat your Wheaties, and good luck, 1Ls!

*If you are a 2L or a 3L, this likely doesn't apply to you. I know you. We've been sitting together in the back of the class playing Farmville. This is definitely not the most prepared you will be, and it is certainly not the most prepared I will be. Let's go buy commercial outlines and cram like maniacs, mk? I'll trade you Tax for Admin Law.


Virgin In The Volcano said...

Great, now as I study for corps, every director and shareholder will be taking a mayonaise bath with Guy Fieri.

My Bestfriend's Little Sister(MBLS) said...

I wish someone had told me this in my first year of law school!

just jenn said...

ethics exam was totally puppies and kittens - to be eaten, of course. otherwise, i'd agree.

p.s. best comment on my 1L exams ever: "this person needs to learn how to take a lawschool exam."

Amanda said...

switch farmville for bejeweled and you got it! :) I'm all, why should I reinvent the wheel? that order of the coif overachiever wrote a LOVELY outline! :) that i'm currently cuddled up reading. Beats formatting the rest of my outline just to throw it away in 2 days.
Save the trees!

All rights reserved to my snotty and generally self-deprecating writing. And if your comments bother me, I'll delete them. That's right, pumpkin.
...How dreary—to be—Somebody!
How public—like a Frog—
To tell one's name—the livelong June—
To an admiring Bog!
-- Emily Dickinson