On law school exam day, there is going to be a lot on your mind. Your head will already be spinning with all of the different rules, balancing tests, doctrines and cases that you have semi-memorized for that day’s exam. So it will be important to have your test day amenities squared away. Randall Ryder has covered some great points on how to prep for test day, but I thought that I would add a few more basic pointers. Here are a few of the things that you will absolutely need to have in order before your four-hour clickity-clack exam extravaganza gets underway.
Create your own checklist
A checklist that includes a checklist? I know, I know; SO META. But you have to have your own list that you can use to make sure that you have everything you need before you go in to your exam room. Your brain won’t be pure mush until after your test, but you will still be going at a hundred miles an hour on the day of. And that is not the right frame of mind to be in when you have to remember to bring a lot of things to an exam.
This checklist should include the day-to-day and easily forgettable accouterments that you need in order to operate at a high level. If you need coffee for example, add your thermos to the list. Water, granola bar, student ID, applicable casebook and outlines, and cetera. This sounds patronizing, I know; but you would be floored by the number of students that forget something stupid like a laptop power cord before walking into their exam. At worst, you can forget something crucial that relegates you to the handwriting exam room abyss, and at best it can throw you off your game. Speaking of handwriting your exams…
Get your computer situation straight
Leading up to my first 1L tests I didn’t download my school’s exam software properly (sad trombone noise). This meant that I had to write my torts, con law and contracts exams by hand. It. Was. AGONY. While my classmates were able to cut and paste and QWERTY their way to 45 words per minute, I was in a room by myself with two freaking Bic pens and some blue books to keep me company. I know that this admission costs me some geek cred among my fellow Lawyerist contributors, so don’t let my shameful behavior go for naught. Don’t be like me.
Most schools use some form of software for their exam platform. Obviously, you know the ins and outs of your school’s exam requirements better than I do, so the point is this: ensure that your computer will run the way you need it to on exam day. This means testing out your software, making sure your internet connection works, and any other tedious housekeeping things that you can do with your laptop.
Organize your study materials
Everybody has their own method of study that works best for them. And if you’re a 1L, chances are good that you haven’t yet figured out what that is. But one thing is uniform among all studiers: organization is your friend.
Good lawyers aren’t good because they know the answers; they’re good because they know how to find the answers. With that in mind, it’s key that you know how to access the information you’ve brought in to the exam in a quick and organized fashion. Again, you know your study habits and tricks better than I do, but make sure that you know how to get the info that you need under the crunch of the clock. Tables of contents, charts and post-its for your outlines are a huge help, but there are countless other tools at your disposal.
Law school tests are exactly that: tests. They test not only your understanding of the law, but your ability to organize and showcase what you know. Your ability to do this is hugely dependent on the clarity of your thoughts at test time. And this task is made much more obtainable if you go in to test day prepared and ready for anything.
Read the next post in this series: "How to Succeed on Law School Exams."