Law School

How Am I Doing? Preparing for Finals with a lot of Unknowns

One of the great things about law school is that you don’t know how well you’re doing until you get your grade. Because most traditional classes are graded based on one anonymous exam at the end of the semester. Did I say great? I meant horrible.


I don’t know who’s idea it was to just hope people get what’s being taught without much check in but here we are. Of course, most schools do have ungraded mid-term exams, but if you’re like me, it’s not very helpful.

Or maybe it’s not that it’s helpful but rather you don’t know what to do with the information. When I took my first mid-term I remember getting the exam back (with a C) and not sure how to proceed because I didn’t understand what concepts I wasn’t grasping. It was a mixture of just lack of knowledge and embarrassment that I didn’t go to the TAs, which was a mistake.

If you’re in the midst of mid-term season or just feel like it’s time to check in on your progress go to the TAs. Get their feedback on what is missing in your answers to help better understand what you need to improve. Maybe your format isn’t quite there (yes, professors do grade on how well you use IRAC); maybe your analysis is falling short; or you missed major hints on legal issues. Whatever it is, get their perspective to better understand how you can do better.

Prepping for exams also means preparing your study materials and likely drafting an outline. When I started school I knew You Had To Outline, but if I’m being honest, I didn’t really get it. I never outline my undergrad courses, that’s just not how I studied for finals. But outlines was another law school norm Must Do, so I stumbled my way through outlining or grabbing other upperclassmen’s outlines without getting much value from it.

Outlines are really helpful, if you do them correctly. It helps you condense the material in way that words or phrases trigger your memory. But if you’re not the one compiling it so that it makes sense to you then someone else’s outline won’t be as helpful—at least that was my experience. Crafting outlines takes up a lot of time so before you dive in to them double check that that’s the way you best absorb information and if it’s ok to spend your time creating studying materials that better suit your needs.

Finally, what does your study time look like? Are you reading with enough time to to review? Are you creating notes or outlines in a way that will help you when it’s time to study for finals? Again, your grade is based on one exam and that means it’s on you to study, review, and check in.

If you’re reading cases the day before class, consider re-structuring your schedule with more time in between reading and classes and if you haven’t, add time in your weekend or evenings to review materials.

The most frustrating part is that you may not know if your approach works until grades are up. So all you have between now and finals is time and your commitment to yourself. Don’t let the unknown of this process allow you to self-sabotage. Push yourself to prepare, anticipate your weaknesses, and do what you can to feel as prepared as possible come December.