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What to Do Between Exams

Typically exam season is the last two weeks of the year, with exams scheduled each day. If there are five One L classes with exams, typically the exams are scheduled with one on every other day. For example, One L exams at many law schools are typically held on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday of the first week, and Monday and Wednesday, or Tuesday and Thursday of the second week. Upperclass exams are scheduled in no particular way.

There isn’t much time between One L exams, but once again, what you do with that time can give you a signifi cant advantage over the others in your class. About one-half your class is going to use that time to finish their outline for the class—which is way too long in the first place—and then just read it over and over until they run out of steam the night aft er the first exam, and the night before the next one.

Re-reading your outline isn’t a worthless thing to do, but it isn’t worth very much either. We don’t want to know the possible ways to use your limited time between exams. What we want is the best thing to do with that time.

Let’s back up and consider where you will be in your exam prep when you are between exams. First, you have an outline for all five of your classes, and you have memorized all of them. You have been through a number of practice exams for all of your classes, and you have memorized a basic format for answering a standard option.

Now, you are marching through your exams, one by one. Having just finished your first exam, you have about one day and a half before you go to bed the night before your next exam.

As a fundamental matter, you are extremely well prepared. If you sat down for the exam right now, without doing anything else, the exam would eventually coax your knowledge from the back of your mind and you would be able to answer the exam.

All the prep work you did has equipped you with the raw material. It’s there. There really is only one thing you need to do now: re-prime your mind with the material for this class so that it is at the front of your mind, so that it is not necessary for the blunt instrument of the exam itself to do this.

In my view, the best way to do this is to start taking the miracle drug again: outlining more practice answers for the upcoming exam. Practicing outlining real exam answers does a few things for you that you need, right now. First, outlining past exam answers reorients you to the course material in a particularly useful way: it makes you begin thinking about your class material in terms of how you will need to think about it for your exam. You are revisiting how to structure answers for the type of tests this professor writes.

Secondly, your class outline is burned into your head. Practicing answering exam questions is a particularly good way to reconfirm that you know the material very well.  Outlining answers to old exams is the best way to build confidence that you are going to be able to outline and complete the answers to the new one you are about to face.

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