How To Study For Law School Midterms
It’s officially autumn, which means that the leaves are changing, pumpkins are plentiful, and law school midterms are right around the corner. Law school midterms can be difficult to balance. After all, students still have to keep up with coursework despite having a midterm or two that require their attention. Since law school midterms usually account for only a fraction of a course grade, this sometimes leads students to not take law school midterms very seriously or to dedicate little time to prepare for law school midterms. Our advice? Be sure to take your law school midterms seriously. Below we discuss how to study for law school midterms!
How To Study For Law School Midterms
Take Midterms Seriously…
We know we mentioned the importance of taking midterms seriously already, but it’s true! Many students prefer to have their final grade factor in both a midterm and a final so their entire grade is not based on just one score. While midterms are generally weighed less than final exams, they can still help boost your final grade in the class if you do well!
Additionally, midterms can offer valuable insight into how your professor will approach your final exam. You’ll get a better idea of how your professor writes fact patterns and how examples they might use in class are incorporated into their examination process. Most professors’ final exams look similar to their midterm examinations. Do you see a mix of short answers and longer essays on your midterm exam? Chances are, your final exam will be structured the same way. Do you find that you have opportunities to use in-class examples on your midterms? You’ll want to make sure you’re taking care to write down those examples so you can ace your final exam.
Finally, midterms can offer a great checking-in point during your course so you can determine whether you need to re-evaluate your study techniques. If you do poorly on the midterm, you know you’ll have to revisit some of the foundational materials so you can perform better on your final exams. With your midterms likely being worth less than your final exam, even if you don’t do as well as you want to on the midterm, you can still do well in the class!
…But Don’t Overdo It.
As we mentioned above, midterms can be tricky to balance with other course requirements. Just because you have a midterm next week in your real property class, doesn’t mean that you get a break from torts and constitutional law. It can be tempting to put all of your resources into midterms or pull a couple all-nighters to ensure you stay caught up in your other courses. Remember, taking an exam, whether it be a midterm or a final, on no sleep can make for a rough exam. Instead of pulling that all-nighter, try to incorporate studying for your midterm into your study schedule at the beginning of the semester so you can make sure you have enough time to stay caught up!
As soon as you get your course syllabus, make sure to note any midterms in your study schedule. For these classes, outlining will be a top priority so you’ll have something to work off of as you prepare for midterms. Also, make sure you adjust your study schedule to incorporate studying for midterms. By planning ahead, you’ll feel less overwhelmed going into your midterm exam!
Look To Your Outline.
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again. Your outline can be the single most valuable tool as you prepare for both midterms and final exams. The best outline is the outline you create based on your readings and class notes and that incorporates the examples your professor went over in class. While course supplements can definitely be useful when trying to grasp concepts or might be a useful tool to help provide additional context for that case your professor rushed through during class, commercial outlines and other course supplements are no match for the outline that you create.
How can you have an outline ready to go by the time midterms roll around? Start outlining early! You can begin outlining after your first class, and make time each week to add to your outline. By the time midterms roll around, you’ll have your outline ready to review instead of trying to balance creating an outline with preparing for midterms.
We have a number of resources on how to create an outline, but the most important component of any outline is your class notes. Make sure you’re jotting down examples your professor uses in class. You can incorporate these examples to help explain the rules in your outlines! Additionally, make sure you are reviewing your class notes and outlines each week. By spending some time reviewing early on, you’ll be able to better recall concepts during a midterm. Plus, this allows you plenty of time to get extra assistance if you need it when reviewing certain concepts.
Memorize The Material.
Is your midterm closed-book? You have no choice but to memorize material if you want to do well. Is your midterm open-book? Even with an open-book midterm, memorizing the course material will help you boost your score! What are some ways to help you memorize key concepts? Try using active study techniques!
Reading your outline over and over again is a passive study technique that makes it difficult to retain and recall information on exam day. Instead, try incorporating active study techniques so you can better recall concepts and examples on your midterm. How can you incorporate active study techniques as you prepare for midterms? We’re including a few tips below!
- To memorize rules and concepts, read the applicable portion of your outline, cover that portion, and then try to write (not type!) the word or concept on a piece of paper. Next, go back and check your work. Be sure to keep track of any portion that you missed so you can review it later. If you couldn’t accurately rewrite or can hardly rewrite any portion of your outline, that’s a sign that you likely need to put more focus on understanding the underlying concept.
- Try drawing rule statements! If there’s a concept that you’re having difficulty recalling, drawing it might make it easier to recall later on.
- Use mnemonics! There’s a reason that when someone says “Please excuse my dear Aunt Sally” you start thinking of math equations. They can be incredibly helpful tools for memorization.
- Quiz yourself or others. Or ask a classmate to have you walk them through a concept. By verbalizing rules and concepts from memory, you can see where the gaps in your knowledge are, and therefore know which areas require your focus.
- Make flashcards (but read our blog post regarding how to use flashcards the right way before doing so!).
Don’t Do It All At Once.
Try to create and work through your outlines in manageable chunks. As we mentioned above, by approaching your outlines one class period at a time, it makes putting them together much more manageable. Additionally, this leaves you with an outline that’s ready by the time you need to begin studying for midterms.
Likewise, as you work on memorization, work in manageable chunks. You won’t be able to memorize all of the elements of each intentional tort in one fell swoop. However, if you go tort by tort, you’ll have a lot better chance of memorizing and retaining the information. Start with battery, move onto assault, etc. Work through your outline chunk by chunk, and you’ll put yourself ahead as you prepare for midterms.
Practice Practice Practice!
We’ve pointed out in the past how useful using practice exams can be when preparing for final exams. The same is true for midterms! Using your professor’s former midterms as a way to practice for your upcoming midterm can be incredibly helpful. Using practice midterms can help prepare you for how your professor writes an exam. Practice exams can also help you with timing going into the exam.
Where can you find practice midterm exams? Sometimes professors make some of their old exams available to students. Other times, law schools make prior exams available to students. These might be stored in the library or in another office on campus. Finally, if your professor’s prior midterms are nowhere to be found, you can always check to see what may be available online in the same subject matter as your course. While this might not prepare you for how your professor approaches midterms, they can still provide insight into any knowledge gaps you might have as you prepare for midterms.
Ask For Help.
If you’re noticing gaps in your outline or there are certain concepts that are just a little bit out of grasp, don’t be afraid to ask for help! Many professors are more than willing to discuss course content with students, and they designate office hours for students to ask questions as needed. Before getting in line for office hours, make sure that the information you are seeking has not otherwise been provided to you. For example, sometimes professors include information regarding midterms on the course syllabus or on the course website/learning platform. Using office hours as a way to discuss course content can be an excellent use of your time. If, however, you attend office hours looking for information that is already in front of you, you can expect less patience from your professor!
Also, don’t be afraid to ask other students for help! If you’re already part of a study group, that can be a great spot to walk through concepts that haven’t quite clicked. Remember that many students might also be confused with some of the material. There might also be an area of the law that comes easily for you that a peer might not understand. You can use this time to help other students as well!