Many students fear running out of time on law school exams–and for a good reason! Law school exams are often lengthy and you are expected to do a lot in a short period of time! Here are our 5 top tips to perfect timing on law school exams.
5 Tips to Perfect Timing on Law School Exams
1.Don’t “outline dump”.
Many students are eager to show professors all of the rules they know. While it is true you want to connect the dots and state the relevant rules, do not make the mistake of trying to replicate half your outline. For example, if the question tests homicide, discuss the relevant levels of homicide. (Do not start with an overview of general v. specific intent crimes unless this is raised by the question!) Learning to zero in on the relevant rules will help you perfect your timing on law school exams.
2. Figure out a strategy for highly tested issues.
You know that some issues will come up on your exam. For example, in Civil Procedure (if you are studying jurisdiction) you will likely have a personal jurisdiction and subject matter jurisdiction question. In Criminal Law, you will have a homicide question. In Torts, you will have a negligence question.
Figure out the proper approach, the relevant rules and/or case names that are associated with those issues.
For example, in a personal jurisdiction question, you may always start by asking “Is there general jurisdiction?” before moving on to asking “Is there personal jurisdiction?” You may want to cite International Shoe when you discuss personal jurisdiction and minimum contacts. Creating a road map ahead of time of your general approach to these highly tested issues will go a long way as you will already have a plan of attack when you see these highly tested issues.
3. Memorize the law.
While this seems obvious, some of our students struggle with timing simply because they don’t know the law! If you don’t know the law, you will either spend time trying to think of what it is or how to BS it, or (if you have an open book exam) you may spend too much time thumbing through your outline. A great way to perfect timing on law school exams is to make sure you have the rules memorized ahead of time! (If you are looking for tips on how to memorize your law school outlines, check out this post.)
4. Don’t spend too much time on less important issues.
Some students will avoid the “tough” issues because they are intimidated by them. And instead they will spend a long time discussing less important issues or issues that will obviously turn out one way or the other. Don’t make this mistake! The tough issues are generally worth significantly more than the “easy” issues. And oftentimes there is not a “right” answer to the tougher issues.
So make sure to move on from the easy issues and dive into the tough ones so that you can capture as many points as possible!
5. Practice answering exam questions ahead of time.
The best way to get good at perfecting timing on law school exams is to practice! Practice as much as possible. If you are able to get your professor’s past exams, that is even better because you can get used to the format and their style ahead of time. This will make you more comfortable going into the exam. Even if you cannot get your professor’s past exams, find past exams from other professors (e.g., by using google) and get a hold of as many as possible. Practice makes perfect!