Have you ever hoped that there was more time in the day to learn what you need to know?  I get it. There is not enough time in the day.

Or maybe you are feeling stressed that all of your professors are telling you to read a ton of cases and there is just not enough time?  Maybe you think you need to learn everything and don’t know what to tackle first?

If you can relate to any of the above stresses, this post was written for you!

Law school courses can seem overly burdensome.  Professors don’t seem to care that you have other work to complete or that you have a part time job at night.  

So what can you do to make sure that you are prepared for your exams?

Well, the good news is, you probably do not need to do everything your professor is telling you to do.  

I’m not saying that you should not read the cases or not go to class.  But what I’m about to tell you is how to shorten the amount of time you are spending completing assignments.  Here it goes…

When there is Not Enough Time: Prioritize Your Work

One reason that law school is stressful is because of the number of assignments given to you all at once.  

One professor says to read five cases, another professor tells you to draft a brief, and another professor tells you to complete research…all by tomorrow.  Oh, and you have to write a note or comment for the journal or law review that is due next week.

To curb the stress, write a list.  

Starting with the assignment that is most critical to complete—that is, tonight’s class, or the next deadline—write that assignment down.  

Having a list of what you need to complete will help you prioritize, and it will feel good to cross it off when it’s done.  This way you see your productivity.  

After you write down what you have to complete first, continue the list for what you need to do next.  

Often times it’s helpful to break your list up into sections:  today, tomorrow, the next day.  Or, you can break your list up based on priority.

I hear you!  Prioritizing won’t do it.  There is still just too much to do.  Don’t worry—see the next step!

Don’t Do All the Work.  Woah, Not so Fast!

Wait…what?!  Don’t do all the work???  Yes, you heard me.  

But what if a professor cold calls on me and puts me in the hot seat?  

Here is how to get everything done without doing all the work you’ve probably been doing.

The best tip I can give when there is not enough time is this:  Tell yourself that you have two hours to complete your reading assignment for a class.  

Put your phone away and start reading (the notifications and messages will be there when you look at your phone in two hours . . . I promise). 

If you have four cases to read, that means you likely should be through each case within a half hour.  

This was a tip given to me BY A PROFESSOR!  

This helped me to get the reading done.  When I knew that I had only two hours, I would write things down in the margins and not worry if I missed a sentence.  

Your professors don’t expect for you to be perfect.  After all, what student is ever in the hot seat and knows every single answer the professor asks?  I haven’t seen one.

Approaching Your Exams Like a Funnel

Do you feel like you have learned so much throughout the semester that you just can’t keep everything straight?

The good news is, just because you may forget something from the semester does not mean that you are going to fail your final exam.

On my first law school final exam—criminal law—I forgot to explore self-defense as an argument.  Despite forgetting this crucial defense, I still passed the course and have since graduated from law school. 

But I am writing this post so that YOU can learn from MY mistakes and ace your exams.

So that you don’t forget everything you have learned from the semester, create a funnel diagram.  Start off with generic topics.  Your funnel may look something like this:

If you are studying torts, first ask yourself, “what are the different types of torts?”  Well, there are intentional torts, unintentional torts, and strict liability.  

These are just generic names or categories that torts fall within.  Once you have created broad categories, ask yourself, “what are all of the different types of intentional torts?”  

When there is Not Enough Time, Use a Supplemental Study Outline or Study Guide

Sometimes, the easiest way to create this funnel chart will be to look in a supplemental study outline or study guide.  But first, try to list as many subcategories that fall within the generic category.  

For example, under intentional torts, list all the different intentional torts.  Once you list the intentional torts that you know, go into a study supplement to make sure that you aren’t missing any intentional torts that are going to be tested.  Sometimes the most helpful section of a supplemental study aid is the table of contents. 

Continue the funnel; list under each intentional tort the different elements of that tort.  Soon you will see a funnel forming and come exam day, after you have studied the funnel, you will picture where things go on the funnel and not forget to include certain arguments. If you already have studied the material but need help crafting a law school exam answer, read How to Write a Good Law School Exam Answer.

When there is Not Enough Time: Understand the Big Picture

Does there feel like there is just so much to learn and you don’t know where things go in the funnel?  Have you ever asked yourself, “Does this concept apply to all causes of action, or just to one particular one?”  

Or, are you like me and have said, “I don’t understand anything—I’m just so lost!!!”  

If you are in this situation, there are two things that will be your best friend:  Your syllabus and your textbook’s table of contents. 

Think of your syllabus as your professor’s outline.  The professor created the syllabus not just for you, but for themselves!  Likewise, the professor will almost certainly tailor their final exam to their syllabus.  

That being said, use the syllabus to create your outline for the course.  The syllabus is the bare bones.  Add to your outline the details discussed in the cases and in class.

After using the syllabus to create your bare bones outline, go to a supplement’s table of contents and add any subheadings that may fall within the bare bones outline.  However, if your professor tells you that you are not responsible for a certain subtopic, make sure you take note of this—don’t waste your time putting things in your outline that you don’t need!

Thinking Like Your Professor

One thing many student, including myself, struggle with in law school is knowing what the professor is going to test. 

However, from years of experience, I’ve learned how professors think, and I’m going to teach you how to read their minds.  Well, okay, not exactly, but I will share with you ways you can learn what your professor will be looking for on their exam. 

First, write down or note what the professor says in class.  I have seen many students spend their time in class on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  I know that social media can be distracting, but if you want to ace your law school exams, pay attention in class!

So that I was not distracted in class by technology, I actually took notes by hand.  I was one of the only students in class that took notes by hand. But, I can guarantee, I retained more information and paid more attention than 75 percent of the students in class.

Not only did I pay more attention in class than I would have if I took notes via my computer, but I had to spend my weekends typing out everything I wrote. I went back to the book to find what my notes were discussing. I tried to understand where the information went on my funnel (mentioned above). 

Professors don’t just say things in class because they feel like it—usually, professors say what is going to be on the exam.  If you’re lucky, some professors will even say, “this is going to be on the exam.”  

The Professor’s Word’s

You can almost guarantee that what the professor says is the most important information—at least, it’s what the professor thinks is the most important information.  And if the professor thinks it’s the most important information, then it is likely what will be tested on their exam. 

HYPOTHETICALS — write them down!  I can not stress enough the importance of writing down hypotheticals the professor gives in class.  Why?  Because, as mean as this is to say, your professor is probably not that creative. Your professor won’t want to spend the time to come up with a completely different hypothetical for the exam.  

Teaching is a job for the professor. The last thing the professor wants to have to do is spend their weekends coming up with different hypotheticals to test on their exam.  Saying this, most likely, the exam will contain hypotheticals nearly identical to those covered in class. 

Okay, so now you know what the professor is going to test and what you need to know, now how do you memorize it?

Create a Visual or Chart

If the funnel approach mentioned above does not work for you, try creating a visual chart like the one below!   

This chart may not mean much to you, but it did to me!  Therefore, I recommend creating your own chart that will make sense to you come exam day. 

Charts and visuals help your brain to remember the information.  When a question on the exam involves something from your chart, your brain will help you visualize where the information was on the chart and lead you to the right answer.  Also, the use of colors can help you remember certain information!

If you are not a chart person, I recommend using the funnel technique mentioned above.  You do not need to implement all of these tips in order to be successful, but when there is not enough time to learn everything, hopefully by using one or two of the mentioned study strategies in this article will help you get that “A” on your next law school exam. 

If you are looking for more tips on how to ace law school exams, visit the post Law School Exam Tips Students Should Know.