Myths About Law School Exams, From a Tutor Who Knows!

TVLaw school exam tutor extraordinaire Lee Faller Burgess of Amicus Tutoring is back with more advice from the trenches. Today, she tackles myths about law school exams.

Stay tuned for her upcoming posts on preparing for open-book and closed-book exams!

Bad Law School Exam Myths

I must say I am constantly amazed at the advice that is circulated around law schools at finals time.

Here are just a few myths that I have heard recently and what I think about them.

Myth #1: You Should Save Practice Exams Until the Day Before the Exam

This is bad for so many reasons!

First, you want to review some practice exams well before the exam to make sure you are studying correctly for the exam. You need to look for what your professor wants and make sure your outline is working for you.

If you wait until the day before finals to take the practice exam, it is too late to make any changes in your study plan to reflect what you have learned from the practice exam.

What good does that do you?

Also, some professors will hold special office hours to review practice exam answers with students. You should go to these office hours. You will learn important things from the professor that can help you on the exam.

Myth #2: You Should Study Every Hour of Every Day

No! Law school finals are like a marathon — you have to consistently prepare for weeks at a time. As a student you have at least three to four more weeks of work until you are done with finals.

Breaks are an important part of your study schedule — as they are in any “training” schedule.

If you pull an all-nighter one night, you are likely to be so tired the next day that you don’t get anything done. Then you have wasted all of those hours and still haven’t slept.

Make sure you get sleep every night and study on a consistent schedule.

“OK, so if I stop studying by 8 p.m., what do I do then?” Do something relaxing.

When I was in law school, each semester I used to rent (yes, this was before iTunes downloads and streaming Netflix) a show on DVD to watch during finals. It will probably hurt my professional integrity to share with you which shows I watched, but needless to say they were silly and a good distraction from studying. So pick a TV show (many of my students have already selected their various shows). Or if TV is not for you, select a book that you can easily put down (so you don’t stay up too late reading).

Myth #3: You Don’t Have Time To Do Anything Else But Study


You must do things other than study.

This is where the study schedule becomes so important. You need to schedule in breaks to do whatever relaxes you — take a walk — go to the gym — read for fun — watch a silly reality TV show, you name it. You must give yourself some balance.

I personally recommend getting outside and doing something active. Sitting can really get to us and it is important to keep the body moving!

Myth #4: The Hours You Spend in the Library Will Somehow Correlate With the Grades You Receive

This is just not true! Is going to the library important? Yes. But it is what you do there that is important.

Think about the hours you are actually working (this helps you prepare for the life of the billable hour anyway!).

Limit the time in the library that you waste doing e-mails, chatting online, or looking at Facebook. Just study in the library and then go home and do something else.

When you are not studying, get away from the library to help you relax and re-charge.

I had some friends who practically lived in the library during law school. I used to leave by 8:00 every night. My friends who “lived” in the library typically did a lot of non-studying activities (watching TV on their laptop, e-mailing, etc.) but would still claim they had been there for 12 hours — like it was a badge of honor. Whatever! I wanted out of there as soon as my work was done. I wanted to watch TV or relax at home in my apartment.

Law libraries aren’t for relaxing — they are for getting work done. Besides, how well can you relax in the library when everyone around you is stressing about exams?

The Bottom Line

These are just some of the myths that are being discussed at law schools right now. Do you have any other myths you would like dispelled? Just let me know!

But the best thing you can do going into finals is to be smart about how you are working and to give yourself the best chance at exam success.

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Thanks, Lee!

If you’d like to learn more about Lee and get some of her general exam taking advice, check out the interview we did a while back: Nervous About 1L Exams? Get Advice from a Rock Star Tutor. She’s also weighed in on what to do if you fail the bar exam.

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