Midterm exams (they’re not the end of the world as we know it)


GUEST BLOG Stephanie Baldwin,
1L at University of Arizona

Shortly before my first law school midterms, one of our 2L fellows presented a tip about effectively taking an exam. He kicked off the presentation with the classic R.E.M song and saying it was NOT “the end of the World As We Know It”, to put things in perspective. Midterms can feel daunting but in the retrospect, they really aren’t the end of the world as we know it and I am thankful that we had them, as I learned a lot from the experience and feel that I will better prepared for finals. In other words, I feel fine.

Even if you don’t have law school midterms, I hope you can implement some of these tips now, so you’re also more prepared for finals.

Outline as you go AND review it frequently

One of the big takeaways from my Law Preview course was to start outlining early. Ideally, you outline after you finish a major block of a specific topic for each class. I had been doing this but as I prepared my outlines for midterms I discovered gaps and I found myself rushing to fill them in and the BARBRI 1L outlines, from the 1L Mastery Package, turned out to be a big help there. Even though I had my outlines mostly done the week before, I did not spend enough time reviewing them. Sure, the process of making the outline helped, but I should have studied them more, especially my attack outline. Moving forward, I’ll be updating, revising and reviewing outlines weekly and talking to my study group about them.

Practice with your Exam Software

I discovered that because I like to use a 100% scaled layout on my PC, that caused an issue. This preference caused 75% of my screen to become an unusable black space and only 25% of the screen was viewable for typing. Through trial and error, I discovered that I needed to move my computer back to the recommended 150% scaled setting before taking a closed universe test. Had I not practiced with the exam software I would have been in trouble when I took the closed universe exam.

Keep Your Perspective and Make adjustments as Needed

At the end of the day, law school midterms help you prepare for the final. For many of us, the midterm was the first time seeing an exam question written by our professor and perhaps the first time taking a full timed exam.

Think about the LSAT. How did you do on that first practice exam you took after you had been preparing for a while? For me, it was ok, but it in no way determined what I would get on the actual test. Sure midterms are graded, but they are not a big part of our final grade specifically for this reason. Professors know we are still figuring this all out. They designed our midterms with that in mind so that we can learn from the experience and apply that knowledge to what IS a big deal, our finals.

After my first midterm, I realized that I needed to make adjustments to my approach for my next test that was only 2 days away. I needed to change the order I addressed the questions, how I used my outline and the type of attack outline I should have. These small adjustments made a world of difference and I felt much better about my second midterm. Plus I learned even more about the process from that exam as well that I will be able to apply as I start taking my practice exams.

I know that we had midterms earlier than a few schools, so I hope you find these tips timely and useful. If you already took your midterms what tips would you add? Feel free to tweet me @The1LLife or reach out on Instagram!

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