TDot’s Tips: Final Exam Edition

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Dec 16, 2009 in TDot's Tips | Subscribe

Sorry for the extended break, I was enjoying the whole “class is over and I don’t have anything to do”-ness of winter break.  But today was mostly spent at the law school, meaning it was time to finally get around to resuming the blog posts here at law:/dev/null :)

Today itself was… interesting.  I was fortunate enough to make the 1L trial advocacy team for a competition next month, but the preliminary interview for the Client Counseling Competition was an unmitigated disaster. I’m lucky Madame Prosecutor didn’t wring my neck in the middle of the interview room because I clearly don’t know the first thing about interviewing potential clients :beatup:

Fortunately I’m getting the experience now so I’ll be in better shape a few weeks from now.

Speaking of getting experience: exams! Wow. That was an experience.

My classmates and I had a little heads up on how everything was going to happen since the N.C. Central University School of Law is one of apparently few law schools that provide midterm exams. But in the words of MDG: “The difference between midterms and finals is like the difference between a chihuahua and a great dane.”

He wasn’t lying.

The multiple choice questions in all of the classes were almost absurdly nitpicky (hat tip to Jansen for the word choice ;)). It was one of those situations where I could tell what specific topic the professor was trying to test, but the particulars were sufficiently complex that I couldn’t say with any degree of certainty whether or not I chose the right answer. And of course nearly every question had “D. All of the above. E. None of the above.” as the last two answer choices.

I’m taking solace in the fact I finished all of the essays, which was a switch from midterms.

Anyhow, now that exams are over I figured I’d share some of my own tips on exam prep. I stipulate that some of this reiterates advice other blawgers have already given — see FTS and FO and idswj — but I figured I’d tell you what worked for me so you have another perspective to add when considering different techniques ;)

  1. DON’T STRESS! If you ignore every other bullet point in this entry, remember this. One of the awkward moments of final exams was spent trying to console a friend who was having a mental breakdown, even though she’s one of maybe 4 people in our section who I’d bet actual cash on knowing the material backwards and forwards. Yes, grades are important — but they’re not the end of the world. Stressing out to the point of melting down just makes you less competitive when you take the actual test.
  2. Rehearse if it helps. No matter how many times folks read that earlier bullet, some of them are still going to freak out over exams. One way to help deal with that nervousness is to practice under as-close-to-real-life conditions as you can get. Find practice exams and force yourself to take them under strict time conditions; use a stopwatch to time you if necessary. If you can only find 1 or 2 practice exams, re-take them until you’re comfortable. Remember the objective with these practice exams isn’t necessarily to get the material down cold, but instead to help you stay calm in the actual test.
  3. Study however works best for you. It may sound strange, but I’ve become a firm believer in Dr. Psych’s comments on learning styles. I’m overwhelmingly a kinesthetic/”tactile” learner — I learn by doing. For me that means writing out index cards (CivPro) or taking practice exams (Property). If you’re a visual learner, you’ll probably benefit from reading and re-reading your outline several times. And if you’re an aural learner, try saying your outline aloud so you hear it. Matching your study habits with your study style helps burn the information deep into your mind for finals :)
  4. Sleep. Adequate rest is important to remembering the information you absorbed studying, and it will help you stay focused on the exam itself. Trying to go off 2-3 hours of sleep because you pulled an all-nighter is counterproductive. You should have learned that in undergrad :P
  5. Do the multiple choice questions first. Unless you’re *very* disciplined with your test-taking skills, knock out the multiple choice questions before moving to the essays. A handful of my colleagues tried to reverse what they tackled first since several folks ran out of time on the midterms, and a few never made it to the multiples at all on the final as a result. Essays are free-form, so we naturally spend more time writing, tweaking, editing, adding, etc. They’re a huge time sink, and if you don’t grab the easy points first (the multiples) you risk missing them entirely.
  6. Remember the Rules of Fight Club. Mariel said it best, so I’ll defer to her ;)
  7. Smile (when it’s over). You’ve survived. Pat yourself on the back for a semester’s worth of hard work, and know you’re that much closer to the end of the road and the J.D. waiting there for you :D
  8. For those of you who are finally done with your final exams, congratulations! :) And to those of you still slogging through the trenches on the way to the end of the semester — GOOD LUCK! :D

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4 Comments

Rachel
Dec 17, 2009 at 12:27 AM

any advice on how to stop blog stalking and actually get this take-home done?
i’m all ears.


 
Amanda
Dec 17, 2009 at 7:28 PM

You get to do your m/c at the same time as your essay? We ALWAYS have the essay first, have to return the entire thing, have a 20 minute break, then get the m/c and have to return everything. It’s always so annoying, especially when you get to a m/c question and reading it and the possible answers reminds you of something you should have said but didn’t in your essay >:(
I hate being held responsible in some arbitrary grading manner for material I’m supposed to have learned over the course of 4 months. Why won’t people just take my word for it? ;)


 
Jansen
Dec 17, 2009 at 7:48 PM

I am going to do that sleep thing right…now…


 
TDot
Dec 18, 2009 at 11:09 PM

@Rachel: I wish! :) If I knew I’d have taken my own advice instead of checking the blogroll every hour on the hour >_< Hope you got it done though :D

@Amanda: Sounds ewww :P We get the entire exam all at once and can work on it in whatever order we want. The tradeoff is we don't get breaks in between :beatup:

@Jansen: Enjoy it while it lasts ;)


 

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