Law School SOS: Help! I Might Fail My Final!

Law School SOS: Help! I Might Fail My Final!!We welcome back guest writer and current 3L Shirlene Armstrong to talk about dealing with finals approaching and what to do if you’re worried you won’t do well.

One of the most daunting parts of law school for many students are final exams. You spend an entire semester trying to learn the law and apply it to real life facts. However, the law is confusing, and it is very easy to be left frustrated at the end of the class, still trying to figure out what the heck you were just taught. So, what happens if you feel like you are going to fail your final exam? And what should you do? You probably are feeling extremely stressed and no matter how much you prepare, you believe your grade is a lost cause. While it is understandable to feel discouraged, you don’t have to give up and feel like you’re going to fail! Instead, here are some tips to help you through this exam season and help you get back on the success track.

Finals are Coming: The Panic

What a scary thought: exams are almost here! It is time to put what you learned this semester on display by showing your professors that you understand the law. Sounds so simple, right? Final exams in law school are terrifying because most classes rely on the final exam for the majority of your grade. And if you are a 1L your exams are graded on a mandatory curve, which adds to the stress! In general, law school is complicated and confusing, so it is difficult to apply what you have learned when you are still trying to figure it all out. So, like many other law students, you may feel like you are going to fail your final exams.

Identify the Problem

First, you will need to identify the problem. I am not talking about the problem in a law school exam/hypo itself; instead, you need to identify the problem you are having with the final itself. You will need to look introspectively at why you believe you are going to fail your final. Is it that you are just anxious about the exam? Or possibly, you do not feel confident in your abilities? Do you not understand the subject matter of the law? Or maybe you just don’t feel prepared? Once you identify what problem you are having, you can strategize what your game plan should be in tackling preparation for your finals.

Be Confident

Being confident sounds like an oversimplified answer to your final exam woes. However, sometimes having some self-confidence is the solution. Many law students overthink things (not surprisingly!!) So it is easy to convince yourself that you don’t know the law or believe that you are going to fail. In reality, however, you will likely pass your finals. It is okay to boost your confidence by believing in yourself and your intellectual abilities. If you make yourself feel more confident about your knowledge of the law, then you will be less likely to second-guess yourself on the actual exam. So be confident – you are intelligent and know your stuff!

Buckle Down

So maybe it is more than just a confidence issue. Maybe you haven’t been paying attention or you don’t understand a topic. This means you need to buckle down and focus on your preparation. There are several ways you can accomplish this. If your law school is like mine, then you have a week of reading and review before exams begin. Although many take this time as a break between classes and exams, you need to take this time seriously and buckle down and study. This goes for the entire exam period as well! This may mean skipping some fun social events and spending the evening with your casebook instead. Or even try meeting up with your study group to go over what you are struggling with in school. By being more focused, you will actually take the time to study, which will result in raising your chances of success!

Outline and Review

Class outlines are every law student’s saving grace during exams. Obviously it is best to finish your outlines before the semester ends so you can make your life easier and you can study and review with them. However, that doesn’t always happen. Fortunately, you don’t have to panic! You can actually help yourself study by making a comprehensive outline of your course. This process will allow you to identify areas that you may struggle with and will give you an overview of your course. After you are done with your outline, you can review and focus on topics you find difficult. This process will help you understand the course and will get you that passing grade!

Resources, Resources, Resources!

There are plenty of resources out there to help you be successful. There are law blogs (like this one!), supplements, review sessions, exam guides, and even your professors (and believe me, this list goes on and on). If you find yourself struggling with an area of law or with the exam in general, try utilizing the resources around you. This is an excellent way to help you study while increasing your chances at success on your final.

You CAN Pass Your Final!

I know, final exams can be scary. Final exams in law school are even more daunting. However, you don’t have to feel like you are going to fail out of law school. Every law student deals with finals and manages to survive and graduate. You will be able to as well. So take a deep breath, identify why you believe you are going to fail, and take action!


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About Shirlene Armstrong

Shirlene Armstrong is a first-generation student in her last year at Wayne State University Law School in Detroit, Michigan. At Wayne, Shirlene has been involved with numerous organizations and clubs, including mock trial, LexisNexis, the Women's Law Caucus, and the Journal of Law and Society. Shirlene enjoys mentoring others and sharing what she has learned on her legal journey and continues to work hard in accomplishing her dreams.

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