Careers > Students > Legal Scoop > Test-Taking Strategies for 1Ls
30 Nov '17

Congratulations! The first semester of your 1L year is coming to an end, and you are on your way to becoming a lawyer. You have learned new concepts, built relationships with classmates and are feeling a sense of accomplishment.

Final exams are the only thing standing in your way of the much-anticipated winter break. Advance preparation is key to exam success. Read on for study strategies and detailed tips.

Study Strategies and Tips

There are a variety of study strategies that work. It is important to find the method that works best for you. Keep in mind that everyone has a different learning style— there is no right or wrong way to study. Below, we will examine studying in groups and alone.

Participating in a study group can be a very effective method for exam preparation. Some of the benefits of studying with a group include:

  • increased motivation and improved goal-setting
  • higher accountability
  • better organization and synthesis of material
  • greater clarity on difficult concepts and topics

Below are some tips on forming an A+ study group:

  • Keep the group to a maximum of four students; it is important to have variety, but too many members can create distractions.
  • Separate your social life from your study life by forming a group outside of your usual circle of friends.
  • Identify like-minded and motivated classmates who also seem eager to prepare for final exams.

Once you have formed a group, set clear expectations with regard to the amount and frequency of time to which each person is willing to commit. Suggested guidelines are listed below:

  • Study in focused periods of time that last between two and four hours.
  • Allot a set amount of time for each subject matter.
  • Consider setting an “end time” to ensure that you are able to digest the material and to rest and recharge.

Next, it is time for the first meeting. You might be asking yourself where to begin. Below are some suggested areas to cover:

  • addressing holes in your outlines and notes
  • identifying difficult topics; talking these out as a group can be incredibly useful
  • practice tests

Keep in mind that it is nearly impossible to cover every potential exam topic with a study group. You should carve out time to study alone. Be sure that you are not relying solely on your study group for all of your learning and preparation.

Studying Alone

Depending on one’s learning style, study groups can be distracting. If you are more comfortable studying alone, that is okay! The tips listed above may also apply to studying alone.

Exam Formats and Responses

Law school exams can be multiple-choice, essay or both, so it is important to understand the ins and outs of all formats. Consider taking a quick look through the entire exam before starting. This will help you understand what is to come so that you can prioritize your time accordingly. The various types of formats are as follows:

Multiple-Choice

Multiple-choice questions can stump even the most prepared students. Below are suggestions to tackle this portion of the exam:

  • Read the question and cover the possible answers while thinking about what the answer should be.
  • Read each answer choice thoroughly and eliminate the ones you know are incorrect (limit the possibilities.)
  • If you get stuck, make an educated guess.
  • Try to save enough time to re review the questions and your answers.

Essay 

The essay portion may seem daunting, given the time pressures. It is key to identify an approach that will allow you to be efficient and strategic with your time. If a question is worth 50 percent of your grade, spend 50 percent of the exam time on that question. Keep the following in mind:

  • Actively read and diagram the question.
  • Identify the issues, the law and the important facts.
  • Do not be afraid to circle, highlight and make notes in the margins.
  • Outline your response and use headings.
  • Organization is key; take a few minutes to plan before drafting your response.
  • Allot time to re read and edit your response.

The importance of analysis cannot be underestimated. Ask yourself the following:

  • Have I sufficiently analyzed the facts by avoiding conclusory statements and by applying the law to the facts?
  • Have I applied the appropriate facts to each element?
  • Did I strike a balance of being thorough while not stretching the issues?

Final Words of Wisdom

In addition to proper preparation throughout the semester and during the final exam study period, it is important to prioritize your health and well-being. Get enough sleep, do not skip meals, stay hydrated, and take a few minutes each day to step away from your studies and do something you enjoy.

Keep calm and study on! You’ve got this.