Law School Academic Support Blog

Editor: Amy Jarmon
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Some tips for upcoming exams

Sometimes it is the little things that are most beneficial during the exam period.  They give you more control over the situation and more confidence.  Here are some tips:

  • Scope out your seating.  If you will not be assigned a specific seat for an exam, decide ahead of time where you want to sit in the room to avoid distractions, have more space, or see the clock better.  Then decide what time you will need to arrive before the exam to snag a seat in that area.
  • Stock up on supplies.  Buy extra pens, pencils, highlighters, erasers, gum, tissues, or whatever else you consider essential to your exam-taking system.  If a paper or project is your grade instead of an exam, stock up on paper and ink cartridges.
  • Watch deadlines for exam-taking software.  You may need to sign-up for permission to use a laptop ahead of time.  Or you may have to download the software by a certain date.  If you need a loaner laptop, there will most likely be deadlines for reserving one.  Know what your law school requires.
  • Know Plan B if your laptop has problems during an exam.  Be prepared in case of a crash or other mishap.  Know exactly your law school's procedures for handling such situations.   Do not waste time trying to implement your version of a procedure when a set procedure is already in place.  Make sure you have pens with you in case you need to switch to writing the exam.
  • Condense the entire course to the front and back of a sheet of paper.  Memorize this checklist for a closed-book exam and write it down on scrap paper as soon as the proctor says you may begin.  For an open-book exam, include the checklist at the top of your outline.
  • Beware the open-book exam trap.  You will not have time to look everything up so you need to study thoroughly.  Do not waste time looking up answers that you are fairly sure are correct.  Make sure you know your professor's definition of "open book" because it varies greatly among professors.
  • Take a break for at least 2 hours after an exam is finished if at all possible.  Your brain cells will need a rest.  At least get a good meal before going back to studying.  If you can go for a workout or to the movies in addition, it will relax you.
  • Do not talk about the exam with other students.   Talking about an exam only increases stress.  You will inevitably talk either to someone who saw issues that did not actually exist (and doubt yourself) or will discover that indeed you missed a major issue.  You need to focus on the next exam rather than the one you finished.  Also, there may be students who have not yet taken the exam because of rescheduling, and they may overhear information without your realizing it.

Plan ahead for exam taking.  Do not leave things to chance.  Whatever factors apply to your situation, think through your strategies and needs.  (Amy Jarmon)

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