Tips to tackle different Law School Exam types for 1Ls

Student taking exam

GUEST BLOG Stephanie Baldwin, 1L at the University of Arizona

I just took my 6th law school exam and my second one for this semester, and so far all of them have been slightly different. Here is an explanation of the different types and some tips to help you prepare.

Closed Book, with maybe an Open Code Book

Essay 3-4 hours

For this type of exam, still create an outline, but memorize it. You might get to use your code book so integrate that into your outline. Also, tabs are your best friend here. You don’t want to waste time flipping through a codebook when you just could have tabbed it. Also check with your professor about what, if any notes you can have in the codebook. The key here is to take a lot of practice exams. If your teacher doesn’t provide them, go online to find some and check out the 1L Mastery  Course from BarBri.

Open Book, Open Notes

Essay 3-4 hours

Here, you can use your book, but it’s unlikely you will ever use it, unlike the codebook in the previous example. Your notes and outline are the most useful thing here. If your school allows it, try to pre-write the rules like you might on the exam and have them in your outline. Double check with your professor if this is ok. All of mine were fine with this, just no copy and pasting into Exam4, which is our test-taking software. The thing is here, make sure you have gone through your outline a lot. As a general note, you want all of your outlines done a few weeks before finals, and if you update them weekly, you can get there. Doing this will also help you create an attack or checklist outline.

Open Universe

Essay and/or Multiple Choice 3-4 hours

These types of tests can be dangerous. I say this because of their “open nature” first because its “open” the professors usually require a more developed answer, because of all of the tools available to you, including the internet. It is also “dangerous” because it can provide a false sense of security, as you may feel like if you’re not 100% on something “you can just look it up.” Let me be the first to tell you this is a TRAP. Sure, looking something up can be helpful, but it can also be a time suck! Beware and prepare like you would for a typical open book/note exam. Anything out in the universe is just a bonus.

Open Universe, Take Home

8 hours within a 24 hour

WOW… I liked this exam type. I felt like I did well because of the time given and my level of preparation. Oddly because I had so much information available, I seemed to have reviewed everything more carefully while preparing for the exam. During the exam, I actually had time to look at my full outline and confirm questions or ambiguities in my notes with the textbook. It was a luxury, that 2Ls seem to know well and then I realized… if I feel this way, so must everyone else…. Oh no…  who knows where I will land on the curve because of this.  My tips for taking this type of exam? Think of all of the resources you have like one big very comprehensive outline and figure out the best way for you to use them to create the most well-developed answer properly. Plus practice using everything together. If you don’t have a good planned, you might get overwhelmed and distracted during the test, and then those 8 hours just became 4. Also, think about when the best time for you to take the exam. Some people think better in the morning, others in the evening. Also consider when you’ll want food and any breaks you need., 8 hours is a long time to be hungry…

Best of luck on finals my fellow #1Ls! As always, if you have any tips reach out over @The1LLife on Twitter or Instagram.

Tools for “Mastery” of Your 1L outlines

October means crunch time.

As you flip the calendar, take note of the time between now and finals week. In about six weeks, you’ll need to have reached your highest level of learning, memorization and organization. That’s not a simple task.

Enter the BARBRI 1L Mastery Package.

If you haven’t already, it time to begin your outlines. (So how do you go about outlining, you ask?) This is where 1L Mastery helps tremendously. Starting to outline is like writers block. You stare at a blank Word document for 20 minutes. Literally. When you sign up for 1L Mastery, however, you get instant access to ready-to-use first-year course outlines — great examples that show you how to organize your own materials and even fill in a few blanks (substantive gaps) you may have missed in class or from your readings. Writers block conquered.

 

And the practice questions.

1L Mastery also has multiple-choice black letter law practice questions for every 1L subject. You can gauge your understanding of a topic without setting aside hours to complete. It’s an ideal way to supplement the other types of learning and it can help identify areas where you may need to spend more time. Just finished “offer and acceptance” in Contracts? Take a few practice hypotheticals to help identify when a contract has been formed.

The more hypotheticals you practice, the better prepared you will be when the final exam comes. Those first semester grades are so critical. You need all the material you can to succeed and stand out among your peers. Having access to the plethora of exam questions in the 1L Mastery Package is one of its biggest advantages.

You’ve already completed a third of your first semester of law school. It’s zooming by. And things speed up even more. Feel comfortable knowing you have 1L Mastery outlines, practice questions (and video lectures) to back up your learning.

How can you stand out in your law school class? Be a “1L Master.”

#The1Llife: 1L Exam Reflection

GUEST BLOG Makenzie Way,
1L at the University of Pennsylvania Law School

Today I’ll be talking about the most dreaded 1L topic …. exams!

Being early January I can officially say I’ve survived my first semester exams, so there’s that. Now while I anxiously await grade disbursement in late January I have the time to reflect on the overall experience… so here it is.

The first word that comes to mind when I reflect on exam month is “EXHAUSTING.” Although I had roughly five plus days between each exam, spending an entire month studying takes a lot out of you. First, your schedule is completely thrown. Instead of waking up and going to class like your body is used to, suddenly you’re spending days on end in the same PJ’s, hardly eating, and staying up late because you’ve convinced yourself those extra two hours of studying will be your saving grace. The second word that comes to mind is “BRUTAL!” After studying for essentially 17 hours a day for a week the time finally comes when you have to actually write your exam. You think you’re prepared and feel slightly confident by that time, right? Hopefully, but nearly everyone I know left the exam feeling roughly ten shades worse than when they’d entered regardless of how confident they felt upon entering.

Even if you typed until your fingers cramped, and felt like you understood the questions, there’s still the understanding that you’re graded on a curve, so no matter how well you did it all comes down to how well the person next to you did… which is heartbreaking. Furthermore, there’s the pressure of how to study “correctly” and the shame that comes along with that. For me, I’ve always favored solo studying, however, many preferred group studying which left me feeling like maybe I was missing out. Then there was the question of flash cards vs. note review, along with the number of practice exams to take.

Now, what did I find actually helped me during this whole process? First off, I personally believe that no matter how much you study, or whether your exam is open book or closed book, you will still leave feeling slightly worse than when you entered. Law school exams are designed (in my mind) to cut you short. Teachers want you to prioritize the larger claims over the smaller ones, but that doesn’t change the fact that when the exams end you’ll be left wondering if the claims you picked were the right ones, or regretting the fact that you couldn’t type that much faster so you could write that one extra claim down. My only advice regarding that is to take practice exams. My first torts practice exam I essentially word vomited on a page, it was unorganized and I missed a lot of claims because I was too busy defining little things. After three more practices, I got used to the time limit, understood better how to read the questions, and just overall had better control over my nerves so in the end, my essay came out coherent, organized, and well distributed between the claims.

The most helpful tool however actually came in the form of the 1L BARBRI Mastery Program videos. To be honest I only used these for Civil Procedure after quickly realizing I knew nothing about the subject, cried, and determined I would just have to teach myself in the five available days. In hindsight I wish I had watched the videos for all my courses, because truly I cannot say it enough – THE BARBRI VIDEOS ARE LIFE-SAVING! If it weren’t for those Civ Pro videos myself, and probably most of the 1L class at Penn would have walked into the exam saying “what is Erie” … “subject matter what?”

To summarize, my main advice is:

(1) take some time to rest or you will burn yourself,

(2) study the way you feel comfortable studying and do not waste time feeling guilty about it,

(3) watch/buy the BARBRI videos because they are really life-changing (and no I am not forced or pay to say that)!

#The3Llife: 3 Things You Need to Do In November

GUEST BLOG Katie R. Day,
Quinnipiac University School of Law, J.D. Candidate 2018

I don’t know about you, but I feel like this semester has flown by.

I have only 4 short weeks until classes are over and finals begin. Yikes! I’m a horrible procrastinator and a serial over-committer, but in the interest of surviving finals with my sanity in tact, I’ve decided to try to keep myself under control this year. With that in mind, I’ve come up with 3 things that I’ll be doing this November (and I think you should do too!) to make finals a little less stressful.

Don’t put off outlines

This one is for all the procrastinators out there! I hear you—and I’m usually right there with you. But this semester I’m doing something differently. I sat down and looked at my calendar this morning. It was chock full of school events, family get-togethers, and dinners with friends. I know what this means. I’ll hang out with friends and family, do my homework, and crash on the couch watching Netflix. See something missing there? Yeah—exam prep! To ensure I’m not putting off my outlining until the last second, I dedicated a chunk of time in my calendar each Thursday afternoon just for plugging away at my outlines. Just taking a couple of hours a week to put them together is going to save me a lot of stress in a month, and will give me adequate time to ask my friends and professors questions.

Make lists (and use them)

I’m taking a lot of classes this semester and I have so many projects, short papers, and final exams that I can’t keep track of them all. My first step this November is to make a list of the due dates for all of my assignments, that way I don’t have to worry about a deadline slipping my mind. Once I have my overall list of assignments, I’m going to break it down into smaller lists of what needs to get done for each. Closed book exam? That means I’ll want to make flashcards. Final project? I’ll need to write down all the different parts I need to complete. When I finish something I can cross it off, making sure I know exactly what is done and what I still need to work on.

Take a Thanksgiving break

The last few weeks of the semester bring a lot of hard work and a lot of stress. While you don’t want to slack off, you also don’t want to head into finals feeling burnt out. Than Thanksgiving holiday is a good time to take a couple of days away from law school. Spend time with family, snag some great Black Friday deals, and do some Netflix binge-watching. After a couple of days off, you’ll feel a lot more relaxed, energized, and ready to take on finals!