“Finals are here! Hooray!” said absolutely no one. Exams stand as one of the defining moments in every law student’s academic career. Everyone remembers them. Nobody likes them. I mean, what’s to like? Three hours of cumulative hypothetical essay can shake even the strongest constitution. Many students ride a two-week merry-go-round of stress, unhealthy eating, and sleeplessness that can negatively affect them for a considerable amount of time.
However, these mal-affects are not inevitable. Here are a few things I believe every student should do, or at least keep in mind, to help manage exams.
- Don’t tie your self-worth to grades. Yes, grades are important, but they are not everything. Some people are good exam takers and some are not. At the end of the summer, look at your finals grades along with what skills you learned at your job. Use this cumulative information, instead of just your grades, to self-evaluate. If you focus on what you’re learning and make conscious attempts to gradually become a well-prepared lawyer, you’ll leave law school better off than your counterparts who crammed their way to a B+ instead of your B.
- Don’t overdo it. Law school is a self-perpetuating circle of misinformation. People who pull all-nighters love to talk about how much time they spent in the library, or how much sleep they lost. This is completely unnecessary. Study the way that works for you. Just because someone else is being ridiculous, and loud about it, doesn’t mean it’s the normal or most effective way.
- Learn from your mistakes. Next semester, figure out what went poorly for you last time. If you were still compiling information at the last minute, next semester start outlining earlier. If you knew all the relevant law in your exam but faltered in your exam writing, make sure to do more practice exams. The bottom line is that law professors don’t care if you can regurgitate everything they said in class. Unlike undergrad recall exams, your grades will depend more on your analysis and not your memorization.
- Finally, keep things in perspective. In the law school bubble, everything seems like a huge deal. In five years, you’ll look back on all the self-inflicted stress and punishment and chuckle at your younger self.