In law school, as in a game, it will often seem there is no justice. The smartest and hardest-working students often will not get the highest exam scores. Rather, the highest scores will go to those who prepare the right way and write their exams the right way. Yet in a way, that is justice.
Plan to do whatever it takes (within the broad confines of legality and ethics) to do well on your exams. When you start practicing law you will have to represent your client’s interests aggressively, so you might as well start now with your own interests. Some of the advice set forth in this book, like putting tabs on outlines, taking dozens of practice exams, or wearing earplugs during an exam, may seem excessive. But if measures like these seem excessive to you, you should ask yourself why you’re spending three or four years – as much as six percent of your life – in law school. Years from now, you won’t remember whether you spent an extra 30 minutes on an outline to Ielts do it right. But you will remember – and your transcript and career will remember – that you got an “A” in that course. And perhaps that you made Law Review.
Fear – the great Motivator
It’s natural to experience a little fear in law school. Particularly in the first year, law school is an elaborate hazing ritual. Many law students don’t know what to expect, either on their exams or from their classmates.
A little fear is a healthy motivator, but too much fear is unhealthy. Don’t let yourself panic, either before an exam or during it. If you just know the basic rules of law for any given course, you can pass that course’s final exam. Naturally, if you want to do more than just pass, you’ll have to bring some special skills to bear on the exam. But don’t let yourself suffer from irrational worries that you’ll fail an exam – if you’ve studied even minimally, you’ll pass.
How do you overcome panic? By being thoroughly prepared when you take your exams, and by having confidence in your preparation. When you know the law inside out and have taken numerous practice exams, you’ll have this confidence.
Don’t let yourself get caught up in the mind games that your classmates will inevitably play with each other. Just remember that exams are the great equalizer. On exam day, it won’t matter who asked the most questions during class, who owns the most hornbooks, who knows the most trivial details about cases, who spent the longest hours at the library, or who talked to their professors the most during office hours. All that will matter is who writes the best exam.
Have confidence in yourself and your preparatory techniques. Don’t worry about how others prepare, and unless they’re in your study group, don’t worry about what they know. When you take an exam, use your own strategy and stick to it.
Get ready for a workout
Final exams are an endurance test. Typically, you’ll have an exam period of a week or two. During that time, you’ll study nearly every waking hour. After you take an exam, you may have to go straight home and start studying for the next one. The people who do the best during this period are those who both push themselves the hardest and have the most to give. Being in good physical shape can give you a big advantage.
To get in this condition, you’ve got to exercise. Exercise reduces stress and helps you fall asleep at night. Try to exercise at least daily, particularly during exam periods. I lived in Venice, California the summer I graduated from law school and studied for one of the hardest bar exams in the country. I studied each morning, took a bike ride on the beach in the afternoon, and went to a bar review course every night. Almost three decades later, all I can really remember from that summer are the bike rides. Those sweet afternoon rides helped keep me sane during a very trying period, and I credit that part of my routine – as much as my other study techniques and exam writing skills – with helping me pass the bar on my first try. I suggest you find a routine like this that works for you when studying for exams.