Learn the Strategies for Exam Success
Studying for law school exams can be overwhelming and stressful. Your class rank and GPA are at stake, and it’s the one time of year when everything feels high priority. Whether you’re facing winter exams with holiday distractions or spring exams when exhaustion sets in, fear not. We’re here to help you make exam days your best days of the term. Here are the top ten tips, organized into three key strategy areas, to help you conquer law school exams.
Learning How to Learn the Law
1. Go beyond the classroom to fill in the gaps.
Law school classes are designed to prepare you for real-world practice, not just exams. While you learn legal rules indirectly through the Socratic case method, it’s essential to take extra steps to fully grasp the law’s structure. Create flowcharts to visualize how the different issues interconnect. Identify critical dependencies in the rules to accurately apply them to hypothetical situations. If flowcharts aren’t your style, make outlines or lists. The key is to solidify your understanding beyond what’s covered in class.
2. Memorize the “black letter” law and more.
To excel in exams, you need to apply the law to hypothetical scenarios. However, the exams won’t provide the law for you. Once you grasp the concepts, it’s time to commit them to memory. If you prefer a comprehensive approach, consider creating flashcards. Make two sets: one for issue spotting and another for rules. Drill yourself on identifying issues based on facts and recalling the corresponding rules.
3. Revive case briefing for effective exam preparation.
Building expertise in law requires a mental database of legal applications to various facts and issues. Think of it as developing familiarity with how the law is applied, just as you would after years of practice. Create flashcards that combine facts, issues, rules, and the case’s outcome. Use case sources like casebooks, briefs, hypos, essays, and multiple-choice questions to create a comprehensive set of flashcards for each subject. Don’t be discouraged by the size of the task; start small, and gradually expand your flashcard collection.
Demonstrating Your Knowledge in Exams
4. Apply your knowledge to exam hypotheticals effectively.
It may seem obvious, but using your acquired knowledge and rules to tackle exam questions requires a proper approach. Start by reading the question carefully and identifying the subject and issues being tested. “Load the file” with everything you know about the subject before diving into the facts. As you read the facts, spot the issues and record your analysis and rules. Then, outline your answer using the IRAC (Issue – Rule – Analysis – Conclusion) format for each issue. Finally, write your response, proofread it, and move on.
5. Practice makes perfect: seek out exams and sample answers.
Consult your law school librarian for exams “on reserve” from professors or other sources. If real exams aren’t available, consider looking for commercial aids or online resources recommended by the librarians. Writing practice essays and carefully reviewing sample answers will benefit you more than spending hours reading outlines or making flashcards. Understanding how exams are constructed, heavily tested topics, and issue resolution is invaluable.
6. Incorporate IRAC into your answers, even when not explicitly stated.
The IRAC model (Issue – Rule – Analysis – Conclusion) remains essential, even if the question frames it differently. While you should adapt your response to match the requested format, include the necessary pieces within your answer. Losing points due to omitting critical components is avoidable.
Last-Minute Strategies for Exam Success
7. Memorize casebook briefs or commercial study aids quickly.
If time is limited, borrow someone’s casebook briefs or use commercial study aids. These resources help refresh your memory of facts and holdings necessary for the exam. Treat them like flashcards by covering up the issues or holdings and testing your knowledge. While you can find flashcards from various sources, creating your own is always more effective.
8. Practice multiple-choice questions in the course’s topic.
Expertise comes from applying your knowledge to specific scenarios. Even if your exam doesn’t include multiple-choice questions, practice problems in this format provide valuable experience. Each question adds to your mental database of legal applications. Take the time to learn from each question you attempt—it’s a small investment with long-term benefits.
9. Utilize commercial flowcharts for memorization drills.
Commercial flowcharts are an excellent tool for memorizing the structure of a subject’s law. Study them thoroughly, then challenge yourself to recreate them from memory on a blank page. Repeat this exercise until you can accurately recall all the testable issues and sub-issues. Start by focusing on the structure to improve issue identification.
10. Seek attack strategies from recent alumni studying for the bar (if applicable).
If the subject is bar-tested, consult commercial bar reviews or friends who possess attack strategies. Ideally, develop your own strategy, as the process of creating it helps solidify your understanding. Ensure the strategy fits on one page and covers all the main issues, sub-issues, elements, exceptions, and related topics. Practice visualizing it to improve recall during the exam.
Remember, successful law school exams require a combination of understanding, memorization, organization, writing, and analysis. Impress your professors by demonstrating your ability to spot the right issues, cover the law and conclusions clearly, and explain your reasoning. Embrace the insights gained from classroom analysis, enhance your understanding with memorization, and build a robust mental database of legal applications. Finally, practice and execute your strategies on test day. Good luck!
Visit Garrity Traina for more valuable resources and support throughout your law school journey.