Law School Exams 101


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What four-letter word strikes fear into the heart of law students across the country? Yep, you guessed it: EXAM.

Law school’s odd in that most, if not all, of your final grade will be based on a single exam at the end of the semester.

You won’t get a lot of feedback or practice before the first set of exams, and what you’re tested on bears little resemblance to what’s discussed in class, so it’s critical to understand what’s expected of you as early in the semester as possible.

The first section below explains at a high level why law school exams are so different, and clues you in to how to prepare for them. The next section explores the pre-study phase — making a plan and figuring out what you need to know. The final section gets into the nitty-gritty, so you’ll be able to prepare effectively.


How Law School Exams Are Different

People always say that law school exams are “different.” In this case, people are right.

Start Thinking About the Exam on the First Day of Class
Obviously you did well on undergraduate exams or you wouldn’t have gotten into law school. Unfortunately, law school exams are different. Find out what you’ll be expected to know, and how to prepare. Hint, it involves Play-Doh!

Two Reasons You Need a Law School “Outline” (Loosely Conceived)
You need a law school outline (I use the term loosely) for two reasons. First, it helps you synthesize each course. Second, it can be a very useful reference during the exam. Think these sound like disparate purposes? You’re correct.

Nervous About Exams? Get Advice From a Rockstar Tutor
Tutor extraordinaire Lee Faller Burgess shares her best tips and strategies to help you get ready for law school exams.

Keep Calm and Carry On

What’s the key to doing well on law school exams? Calm preparation. Let everyone else work themselves into a frenzy of stress — you’ll be better off staying calm, cool, and collected.

Law School Exam Prep in a Nutshell
Before you start studying, make an Exam Action Plan (booming super hero voice optional, but recommended). If you’re going to do your best, you’ve got to attend to some practical details first.

Exam Prep Made Simple: Organize Your Thoughts
It’s very simple to prepare for a law school exams — just organize your thoughts. Easier said than done, right? Here are some unique tips, based on different learning styles, for getting organized. Yes, coloring and a mock trial are included!

Two Steps to a Winning Law School Exam Strategy
Let’s talk big-picture strategy: What two things do you need to pay attention to as you gear up for finals? (It’s not just learning a bunch of law.)

It’s Thanksgiving, Should You Be Flipping Out About Exams?
Exams start in a couple of weeks. Should you be flipping out? Well, only if you want to drive yourself crazy in a frenzy of unproductive stress and anxiety. I suggest calmly preparing a roadmap for success instead.

Myths About Law School Exams, From a Tutor Who Knows!
So, like, all you should do when you’re studying for law school exams is study, right? Gotta focus! Yeah, not so much. Learn how to avoid burnout (and catch up on your favorite TV shows) with this myth-debunking guest post.

The First Truth of Law School: You Don’t Control Your Grades
I know this is anathema to many of you, but it’s true. You don’t control your law school grades. So, you may as well not worry about them!

Struggling with Law School Exams? We Talk to a Law Professor for Tips!
Take a nice, deep breath and read on for some exam prep tips from Melissa L. Greipp, an Associate Professor of Legal Writing at Marquette Law School.

Law School Exams Getting You Down? The Best (Free) Exam Stress-Burner
Elena DuCharme, a lawyer turned performance coach, offers a great (free) suggestion for surviving exams with your sanity intact.

The Nitty-Gritty

It’s all well and good to talk about calmly preparing for exams, but how do you actually get ready?!?

What’s the Point of Practice Exams?
Practice exams are the holy grail of law school. Everyone says they’re critical, but no one ever explains why. Learn the four reasons for taking practice exams, and, as an added bonus, read about how I failed my very first law school exam.

Taking Law School Exams: Ask the Right Questions, Don’t Worry About the “Right” Answer
This one’s really deep in the weeds — it walks thorough how I’d analyze a sample law school exam question. The takeaway message: ask the right questions, and don’t be afraid of ambiguity!

Taking Law School Exams the 80/20 Way
It’s a truism that 80% of your results come from 20% of your effort. In the case of law school exams, this is absolutely true. Find out what to focus on and get some tips for organizing your thoughts in a useful manner.

How to Prepare for a Closed-Book Exam
Personally, I find closed-book law school exams rather uncivilized. Unfortunately, that doesn’t stop professors from giving them! Lee Faller Burgess of Amicus Tutoring returns with great advice on getting ready for beastly closed-book exams.

How to Prepare for an Open-Book Exam
You knew this was coming! Part two of Lee’s series explores how to prepare for an open-book exam (and argues that your approach should be surprisingly similar to preparing for a closed-book exam).

1L Exams Start in a Week! What Should You Be Doing?
It’s crunch time! Find out what you can do in the final week before exams starts to optimize your 1L results.

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