If you are like I was when I was a 1L, the scariest thoughts involve the first set of exams. The unknown questions, the time crunch, especially imagining the wide range of essay questions your professors could ask you and how exactly to tackle them, is enough to give you nightmares.
If you’re having these thoughts, don’t worry, you are definitely not alone. I didn’t know where to begin, or even when to begin studying for exams. It is hard not to get overwhelmed with school work along with studying for finals. While the best advice I received was to let your fear serve as a motivator for studying, I wish I had more guidance before taking my first final.
To help you get a better sense of 1L exams, I interviewed law students at various law schools to help you gain a deeper understanding of exactly how to tackle your 1L exams.
What was your biggest fear about law school exams and how did you overcome it?
“My biggest fear about law school exams was the timed aspect. When you think about it, in college you had maybe 50 minutes or an hour to take an exam, which seemed like no time at all. My first exam was 3 hours and that scared the absolute mess out of me. I wondered how I could possibly sit in a room for 3 whole hours to take an exam. The only experience close to this was taking the LSAT, but even with that, we took a break. As someone that struggled with time management my first year, I struggled with how to effectively take an exam in 3 hours. Honestly, I don’t think I have overcome my time management issue. That issue stems from my anxiety and the only thing I have found that helps is simply making sure I am confident that I know the substance for the exam. Studying and being confident that I know the material has helped me a lot.” –Bianca Bryant, 2L, Mississippi College School of Law
What was the worst you had heard about law school exams and was it true?
“You won’t get every possible point and you will run out of time. Both are very true. There is always more to say, and the professors will know more about the material than you. You simply do not have time to get every possible point available, so you just have to get what you can and keep moving.” – Jacob Ray, 2L, William H. Bowen School of Law
What helped you stay calm and focused for the exam?
“I don’t think anything was keeping me ‘calm’. However, just knowing I was getting it over with was reassuring. I also listen to music to stay focused (usually the same thing I listened to while I studied) and continue to just run through rules in my head.” –Jamia Love, 2L, Loyola University New Orleans College of Law
How were your study habits different for 1L exams compared to undergrad?
“Throughout undergrad, I would only study for a day or two before the final. I didn’t have to do much reading or studying throughout the semester. In law school, I ‘schooled’ full time. My typical 9 hour Monday through Friday consists of reading, studying, and going to class.” –Ryker Eley, 2L, University of Memphis-Cecil C. Humphrey’s School of Law
Do you prefer studying alone or in a group and why?
“I prefer studying alone first and then studying with a group. It makes me feel like I have things to contribute and, once I have a handle on things, it helps me to understand and remember things better when I teach and discuss.” –Jamia Love, 2L, Loyola University New Orleans College of Law
If you could go back to your 1L year, what would you tell yourself?
“Don’t listen to the others in your class or those before you. Every subject comes to each individual based on his or her own learning style. I had been warned about a certain professor and how it would be a miserable class. I was also told it was impossible to do well in their class. Turns out, I loved that professor and it was my best grade. Don’t listen to others and form your own opinions. The only advice I would take from older students is about a professor’s taste and study requirements.” –Jacob Ray, 2L, William H. Bowen School of Law
So, after reading what other law students did to overcome their fears, just remember 3 things:
- No matter how bad it may seem right now, you will get through it.
- Stick to the best study schedule and habits that works for you.
- Everyone is feeling nervous, you are not alone.