To Ace Law School Exams, Start With an Attitude

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 200-300. 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 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.

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.

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