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Revising Your First Exam: A How To Guide

Revising your first exam

This is it: exam season. Your final grade comes down to an entire semester’s worth of cases, decisions, legal principals and reading materials.

It can be a wild ride—especially if this is your first rodeo.

How you do it will likely depend on your exam-preparation strategy and your exam-preparation strategy should depend on how you’ve done.

If you’ve stayed on top of everything all semester, you might not need to push as hard as you’ll need to if you’ve taken a more casual approach to class. Either way, though, you’re going to want to review.

Here’s a guide to get you started.

How much to read.If you’re wondering how much of the assigned reading you should do, the answer lies in how well you want to perform. Seeking to graduate in the top 10 percent of your class with high distinction? Read everything. Just trying to secure a passing grade? Keep it simple, learn the basic facts of the cases and have develop a general understanding of the legal principles.

What to do about dissention. For the most part, only majority decisions matter. Knowing them will get you by. But again, if you want to do very well, you should understand the dissenting decisions—especially if your professor has mentioned it. They don’t usually bring up dissenting decisions just for fun.

Just the facts? A lot of law school students only focus on the facts when they’re taking notes. They ignore the legal principles. This technique might get you by, but it won’t likely lead to a stellar grade. The facts inform the principles, so every student should at least understand how they relate to one another for any particular case. Students seeking to kill it on the final exam should dig deeper and demonstrate their understanding of the interrelationships of the two.

Alone or with a group? You’ll see a lot of people suggesting that studying for the final exam in a group is the way to go. Generally speaking, they’re right. Practice of the law doesn’t take place in a vacuum. Judges examine the law from a lot of different angles (as do your professors), and having access to other opinions and angles will help you do the same.

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