I’m Unprepared For The Exam, Now What?
It happens to many law students, hopefully, no more than once. But, for whatever reason, an exam approaches and you realize that you are unprepared. You fear the worst. While this is not an ideal situation to be in, but it might be possible to avoid an exam disaster. Here are a few tips:
An important thing to remember is that this approach will likely not produce an A+ for the exam. The purpose of these suggestions is to help you avoid the worst possible scenario. I would not recommend these suggestions under normal circumstances.
*Gather the proper materials.
This approach does not greatly involve the use of your casebook other than for quick reference. Choose one commercial outline, one class outline, and any practice exams that you can find for the class. Your time to learn the material is limited so don’t spend a long time gathering the tools to learn the material.
*Make a two-page complete course outline.
A short, succinct outline that is no longer than two pages should capture most of the major areas that appear on the exam. Use your class syllabus as a guide and write down all major topics on the two pages and then fill in the basic legal rules for each topic, consulting your commercial and class outlines as necessary. If you have the time and space, fill in the legal rules for the major subtopics. Repeat this process until you run out of space.
*Review every practice exam you can find for this professor and class.
Looking at past exams by the same professor is the optimum way to predict what will be on the test. More than a few professors will take the easy road and reuse questions from older exams. Read every past exam and answer and see if you can ascertain any patterns in the questions that will help you better predict what will be tested. During your review, note, and list all the topics and subtopics that appear on the test. Compare this list to your two-page outline and edit your outline accordingly but try not to add more than one page to your two-page outline.
*Take every practice exam that you can.
Practice exams will help you determine what you know and do not know. Compare your answer to the sample answer and look for the holes in your answer and how you can improve. This may help you develop and memorize a basic framework for most of the topics that appear on the exam.
*Keep it simple.
While the IRAC approach to law exams may be helpful, it does not always apply to every law exam question. However, in the case of dealing with unpreparedness, it can go a long way in helping you pass the test. If you can identify most of the question’s major issues, summarize the relevant legal rules, and apply them analytically in a structured, coherent manner, you should find yourself in the middle of the curve or even higher. Try to focus on identifying and developing approaches to explaining major issues that make your answer easy to read and grade. Organize your writing using headers and remember that clarity is key.
*Don’t beat yourself up over the situation.
Never dwell on the past except to learn from it. If you fail to abide by this principle, you will only waste valuable time, and this is a luxury that you most certainly cannot afford before the test.
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