Law School Academic Support Blog

Editor: Amy Jarmon
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Gathering Points on Exams

    One of the most persistent problems for new law students is understanding exactly what it is that professors are looking for in good essay answers. Students read the fact pattern and the call of the question and then dutifully regurgitate what they learned about the law, gaining few or no points for their efforts.

    I like to tell them that a typical law exam question is like a performance test in a wood working class, where the student is asked to make a spindle-back chair out of wood provided by the instructor.  Describing the wood (the facts) gains no points.  The professor already knows that she has given the student various pieces of wood made of pine.  Describing the machines (rules) and the tools (reasoning from the cases, corollary rules, exceptions, etc.) gains few or no points; the semester was spent discussing those things.

     The professor is standing by with a clipboard to evaluate how well the student uses the appropriate machinery and tools on the wood provided in order to produce a chair. Until the cutting tools touch the wood in the lathe, for example, nothing is written on the clipboard.  When the tool starts shaping the right piece of wood into a chair leg, the professor starts putting points down for effective use of the lathe and the associated tools as the student makes the cuts.

    On a law school exam, that cutting begins when a sentence explains why a fact does or does not satisfy the rule, using the reasoning courts or lawyers would use.  I give them this formula for crafting such a sentence: 

        Fact + law + why.

    In other words, each sentence should contain specific facts from the fact pattern, plus specific law (ideally critical legal language from cases or statutes), plus how those facts arguably do or do not satisfy that language.  The formula is not a gramatical structure but rather a content guide.  The points lie mostly in the "why."  An example might sound like this (I have italicized the critical legal language to make the illustration clear here): 

    "Johnson's throwing the ball hard into the stands and hitting Smith would be a battery because Johnson had to know that the ball would hit someone, despite Johnson's claim that he did not intentionally aim the throw at Smith."

    I then tell the students to develop the habit of asking two questions after every period: Why is that true? and why does that matter?  That habit tends to ensure that all the steps in the reasoning are explicit.  The follow-up sentences to the statement above might look something like this:

    "Johnson's throwing the ball into a crowded section of seats satisfies the intent element of battery because he acted knowing the ball was substantially certain to result in a harmful physical contact with a fan, regardless of whether he knew which fan would be hit. Therefore, Johnson would be liable for the injuries Smith incurred when the ball hit him in the side of his face."

    While the approach may seem formulaic, it is actually the approach all lawyers use when applying law to fact.  The sentences might have been preceded with a statement of the issue and a one-sentence definition of intent in a battery.  The focus, however, would be on how the rule applies rather than a lengthy explanation of the rule itself.

Dan Weddle




April 29, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Rattled by the Rush

I usually abhor things like Upworthy and Buzzfeed, but I do like the message of this video by Alan Watts and the South Park folks:

Life as a Conclusion.

It points out that education trains us into thinking that a good and successful life means living it as a bone-rattling rush to some sort of electrifying conclusion that will once-and-for-all make us happy.  Law students, who by-and-large have been successful in doing what school tells them to do, are particularly susceptible to this sort of thing.  For myself, I went to law school wanting to save the squirrels and came out on the other side thinking that I had to go to big law or I was a total loser.

Although it might be hard to "dance" while learning the Rule Against Perpetuities, it's not a bad attitude for students (and their teachers) to develop.  (Alex Ruskell)


April 29, 2014 in Advice, Encouragement & Inspiration | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, April 28, 2014

Advising Students in Crisis

This time of year, all ASP professionals are challenged by students in crisis. I define crisis objectively; death in the family, major illness, catastrophic personal loss. It's difficult to know what to say to these students, andeven more difficult to know how to help them. Here is some simple advice for working with students in crisis during exams.

1) Listen. It's hard to just listen, but it's the most important thing you can do for a student in crisis. They may have a lot to tell you, or they may not want to overshare. It's their call, not yours, how much they want to open up. You will often find that a student who says little to you on their first visit to your office has a lot more to say on the next visit. It's awkward to open up to a stranger, and if this is a student you have not worked with regularly throughout the year, they may need time before they share their story. Don't push them to open up.

2) Be authentic. When working with a student in crisis, you need to be your authentic self. It's okay to tell the student that you don't know what to say, but your heart hurts for them. It's okay to let someone in crisis know that what they are going through just sucks. Because death, illness, and catastrophe DO suck. Too many people shift into tired platitudes when they are speaking with someone in crisis. They don't know what to say, so they say what they think they should tell someone in crisis. There is nothing more grating than hearing "It's for the best," or "They are in a better place" (how do you know? have YOU died before?) Don't be afraid to just be yourself, to hurt with the student, and to let them know you care about them.

3) Give them a range of options. This is critically important: do not make decisions for your students. When you have to shift into ASP mode, and discuss accommodations and schedule modifications, give them a range of options. Do not assume you know what is best for the student, no matter how well you know them. Let them decide what is the best path for them at this time. One of the awful parts of a personal crisis is that is narrows choices.  It helps the student in crisis to have choices in their academic career. You should feel free to give advice based on your knowledge of the student, but don't make choices for them.

4) Remind them that law school is short, and life is long. Self-care is critical. Sometimes, students in crisis will become obsessed with small details. They MUST finish the semester, or they MUST take a full course load. If everything they are telling you says that they would rather take a leave of absence or a reduced course load, let them know that it is okay to take care of themselves first, and worry about law school second. Students in crisis who MUST MUST MUST (their emphasis, not mine) focus on law school can be self-defeating. It is okay to remind them that law school will be there for them when they are ready to come back. Life is much longer than law school, and self-care is more important than the JD.

5) Don't take it personally if they are angry, frustrated, or dismissive of you. Some students in crisis lash out. Their anger is not rational or fair. They file complaints against you because you didn't do something they wanted you to do for them. They ignore you or behave inappropriately when they see you. It is important that you do not take their words or actions personally. It is not about you. We are human, and it hurts when someone goes out of their way to be mean or spiteful. Often, students in crisis who choose to lash out don't know how to express their feelings. Students who were brought up in dysfunctional or abusive households often understand anger, but do not know how to express soften, more fragile emotions. They cope with their pain by lashing out at you.


April 28, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Fun Night at the AASE Conference

Are you ready for Fun Night at AASE 2014? 

We have a great event planned for Saturday, May 31st


Indianapolis Indians vs. Scranton baseball game

Where: Victory Field (walking distance from the conference hotel)

Time: 7:05pm

Cost: $8 per ticket (children 2 years+ must have a ticket)

RSVP Deadline: Please email Fun Night Committee member Freda Coleman-Jackson at fbcolema@indiana .edu to RSVP for the baseball game by Friday, May 16th (payment information will be provided upon RSVP)


We look forward to seeing you at Fun Night!

Fun Night Committee

April 26, 2014 in Meetings | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, April 25, 2014

On Writing

Do you have trouble finding time to write? More accurately, who doesn't have a problem finding time to write?

This is a pertinent issue for me, because I am several pages into an article that must go out in the August law review cycle. Paul Silvia, from UNC's Psychology department, has a wonderful book on finding time to write. He recently spoke on the main campus of UMass-Dartmouth, and his words of wisdom were inspiring. The advice is simple: schedule writing like you schedule a class. Making cancelling your writing time as challenging as cancelling a class (reschedule, notify people, shift around other commitments). If you need to be held accountable (I do), then create some form of writing support group. Make sure you write down your goals, so you are held accountable and avoid revisionist history. Choose a time that can't be gobbled up by other commitments. Realize that 3-5pm is always a bad time, because that is when most students drop by, meetings are scheduled, and life drops problems in your lap. All this advice is common sense, but I needed to hear it from someone else in order to have the "ah-ha!" moment. 

Earlier this year, I read a great piece in the New York Times on procrastination. Procrastination is another one of my bad habits. It is a habit that solidified in college, when I would keep a steady research pace, and then "forget" to write until the weekend before an assignment was due. The end result was a well-researched, but hastily written, paper. I was never particularly proud of my work, because I knew I could do better if I kept a steady writing pace as well as a steady research pace. Merrill Markoe's piece on procrastination in the New York Times details what moved her past procrastination. Boredom is a large part of moving past procrastination. Give yourself the freedom to do whatever you want, as long as it is writing. Second, start early in the morning, before your mind is cluttered with other tasks.

With this in mind, I have scheduled writing time every week. And it is early in the morning. (RCF)

April 25, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Congratulations to Jeremiah Ho

Congratulations to Jeremiah Ho from University of Massachusetts Dartmouth School of Law!  Many of you will remember Jeremiah from his ASP days before he became a full-time law professor on his move to U Mass Dartmouth.  Jeremiah is one of the editors for the AALS Academic Support Section's Learning Curve.  He has been named by Lawyers of Color as one of the 50 under 50 law professors who are making relevant contributions to the legal profession.  The link to the 50 under 50 article is here: 50 under 50 article.

April 24, 2014 in Academic Support Spotlight | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

AASE National Conference - What will you discover in Indianapolis?


2nd Annual AASE National Conference

May 29 through June 1, 2014


What will you discover in Indianapolis?


·         Four days of learning, collaborating and strengthening the academic support community;

·         Three distinct program tracks focused on professional development; techniques for law school success; and bar exam preparation;

·         Networking opportunities and social gatherings!


What are you waiting for?Register today and join your colleagues as we explore the trends and issues facing the academic support and legal education community.



LEARN MORE ABOUT AASE: Visit to learn about the organization and become a member.


STAY CONNECTED: Join the AASE Facebook and LinkedIn pages and follow us on Twitter. 


April 23, 2014 in Meetings | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, April 22, 2014


Right before exams, I usually try to have a Academic Success Workshop devoted to stress reduction.  The most useful and popular thing that we have done is to lead the students in a stress reduction meditation from The Relaxation and Stress Reduction Workbook by Martha Davis.  We fed them pizza, gave them goodie bags of tissues and toys, and then took about 40 minutes to go through it.

When putting together Workshops, my usual tendency is to worry about providing enough content and good advice, but I think 40 minutes of forced calming down was probably the best thing we could do.

(Alex Ruskell)

April 22, 2014 in Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Diet, Exercise, and Sleep

Some law students have ill-conceived notions about their priorities for studying and how those priorities interface with basic life needs.  They decide that the way to get better grades is to either skimp on/skip or go overboard on meals, exercise, and sleep.  Unfortunately, any of these choices is a sure way to jeopardize their grades.

I had a law school friend who survived mainly on Dr. Pepper and Snickers.  He lost lots of weight since that diet was his staple one.  He also spent little food prep time (the vending machines just wanted a few minutes for their coins to be dropped in).  However, he also had little sustained energy because of sugar high and crash cycles; he was sick every time a bug circulated; he was lethargic most of the time. 

Several law students I know have decided over the last few years to imbibe energy drinks at high levels to stay awake and have ended up in the emergency room with heart palpitations or panic attacks.  They lost more time (not to mention the stress and anxiety they had) than they gained. 

My first semester in law school I foolishly stayed up until the wee hours of the morning studying and then overslept an exam.  My law school allowed me to take the exam and have the full time, but my grade was automatically dropped two levels as the penalty. 

I know a bar studier who spent hours each day exercising only to fail the bar - but his abs were in great shape.  One law student spent so much time each day training for marathons that he flunked out of law school his third year.  I know lots of law students who spend 2-3 hours in the gym per day because "exercise is important to me."

Both the skimpers/skippers and the overdoers have the wrong idea.  Nutritious meals, 7-8 hours of sleep, and 150 minutes of exercise per week are all essential to a balanced and healthy life - and to better grades.  Your brain and body need fuel: meals and sleep.  They also need stress release and proper sleep inducement: exercise does both.

Meals with a healthy balance of the food groups are essential to your body and brain.  Eat lean meat (or other protein foods) and lots of fruit and vegetables.  Add whole grains and dairy (or substitutes if you are gluten or lactose intolerant).  Drink lots of water to stay hydrated.  Have regular meal times so that you do not starve your body and then overeat.   Avoid excessive amounts of sugar and caffeine.

Sleep allows your brain and body to work at optimal levels.  Your brain absorbs more information quickly and retains it better.  You get more done in less time because you are focused.  You are alert in the exams rather than foggy.

The medical research shows you need 7 - 8 hours every night to avoid becoming chronically sleep depraved.  A regular bedtime and wake up time mean even more benefits for you.  And do not vary your sleep schedule more than 2 hours on the weekend; you will lose the benefits of your weekly routine if you do so.

Get some exercise.  You will feel more energized.  Your stress level will be lower.  You will sleep better.  Thirty minutes five times a week works!  It can be a walk - you don't have to be a super athlete to get the benefits.

Here are some tips to work these healthy habits into your life even during this crunch time of the semester:

  • Adjust your sleep schedule in increments if it is totally off schedule.  For example, you decide that 11 p.m. bedtime and 7 a.m. wake up are your goals.  Adjust your bedtime over several nights by 15 minutes to get closer to your goal.  Then spend several nights getting to bed 15 minutes earlier than that.  Continue the adjustments until you get to 11 p.m.  Stay on your bedtime goal for 2-3 weeks consistently - your eyes will pop open 5 minutes before the alarm goes off once your body has its new routine.
  • Make time for healthy meals in your schedule.  You will relax more and help your digestion if you sit down for your meal and eat slowly - no standing at the kitchen counter and gulping it down please.  To shorten your food preparation each day, make large quantities of food on the weekend that can be portioned out over the week.  Buy healthy prepared foods at the grocery store to use all week rather than depend on fast food or the vending machines.
  • Combine an exercise and meal break for perhaps 2 hours at dinner time.  First get your exercise and then take time for your meal.  A longer break at this time of day generally helps to re-energize students for evening study.
  • Be on the alert for when you are using sleep, meals, or exercise as avoidance behavior rather than healthy behavior.  If you get a regular sleep schedule, naps should become  unnecessary.  Watch out for sleeping until noon on the weekends.  Remind yourself that gym time 7 days a week for 2 hours is not supported by the research.  Encourage yourself to complete meal planning for the week ahead of time to avoid having to cook for an hour every night. 

Use your sleep, meals, and exercise to promote your study.  You can still get lots of studying in while taking care of yourself.  (Amy Jarmon)


April 20, 2014 in Exams - Studying, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Reminder: What the Best Law Teachers Do Conference in June

It is not too late to register for What the Best Law Teachers Do: Educators in Action, hosted by Northwestern Law and the Institute for Law Teaching and Learning, June 25-27, 2014, in Chicago, Illinois. 

What the Best Law Teachers Do: Education in Action is a two-and-a-half day conference that will provide a forum to hear the insights and teaching techniques of one-dozen remarkable law educators from among those interviewed in Harvard Press’s recently-released book. Our educators will share their insights and teaching techniques over the course of two full days.

For detailed information about our presenters and their discussion topics, to register for the conference and to make reservations for our exquisite hotel accommodations, please visit our website.

Register now! Registration closes May 23, 2014 (which is approaching faster than spring here in Chicago).

Meanwhile, summer in Chicago is a delight to behold. Steps from Lake Michigan and just a short walk from the Magnificent Mile, the exciting Second City is at your doorstep.

Hope to see you in the Windy City!

Debbie Borman,

Northwestern University School of Law

Emily Grant,

Gerry Hess,

Michael Hunter Schwartz,

Sandra Simpson,

Sophie Sparrow,

Kelly Terry,

Institute for Law Teaching and Learning

April 19, 2014 in Meetings | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, April 18, 2014

AASE National Conference Has Three Tracks of Programs

Don’t forget to register for the 2nd Annual AASE National Conference in Indianapolis, IN, May 29 through June 1. This year AASE is proud to offer three distinct program tracks focused on professional
development; techniques for law school success; and bar exam preparation. Stick with one track all day, or switch it up based on your school’s needs, it is entirely up to you.   For the full conference schedule as well as registration and hotel details, click on the link below to visit the conference
web page.

AASE 2nd Annual Conference Registration Link

April 18, 2014 in Meetings | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, April 17, 2014

CAll for Papers for the AALS Section on Academic Support

Call for Papers

AALS Section on Academic Support

January 2015 Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C.

ASP a Roadmap at the Crossroad: How Academic Support Will Meet Today’s Varied Challenges

This year, the Academic Support Program Committee opted to have a call for papers and one speaker will be selected from the call.  From isolated academic support efforts to more formalized multifaceted programs, academic support has fundamentally changed itself and legal education over the years.  In light of shrinking budgets, disappearing positions, smaller applicant pools, changing profiles of incoming students, and media attacks on legal education, academic support programs face newer and varied challenges. We seek papers highlighting innovative methods, programs, or ideas related to these challenges.

Topics might include, but are not limited to, efficient and effective ways to:  collaborate with faculty; manage limited human and financial resources; attract and retain students; provide resources for students with learning and other disabilities; and create programming for diverse populations to address any social isolation and/or bridge any skills deficiencies.

As the deadline for program proposals was April 1, 2014, our list of program proposal speakers will be forthcoming.  The selected paper speaker will join those speakers as one of the presenters.  There is no formal requirement as to length of the abstract and paper submission.  Preference will be given to papers that offer novel scholarly insights on the panel topic.  A paper may have already been accepted for publication as long as it will not be published prior to the Annual Meeting.  The Section does not have plans to publish the papers, so individual presenters are free to seek their own publishing opportunities.

Papers must include the following information:

1.  A title for your paper.

2.  An abstract of your paper.

3.  A final draft of your paper.

4.  The amount of time requested for your presentation. No single presenter should exceed 30 minutes in total.  [Deleted statement about shorter presentations because paper speaker should be given at least 30 minutes.]

5.  A detailed description of both the substantive content and the techniques to be employed, if any, to engage the audience.

6.  Whether you plan to distribute handouts, use PowerPoint, or employother technology.

7.  A list of the conferences at which you have presented within the last three years, such as AALS, national or regional ASP or writing conferences, or other academic conferences.

8. A list of your published scholarly articles or books within the last three years.

9.  Your school affiliation, title, courses taught, and contact information (please include email address and telephone number).

10. Any other information you think will help the Committee appreciate the value your paper presentation will provide.

Please submit your paper by Friday, August 15, 2014 at 5pm to Goldie Pritchard, Michigan State University College of Law,  If you have questions, please email Goldie Pritchard or call at 517.432.6881.

The Section on Academic Support Program Committee:

Goldie Pritchard, Chair

Robin Boyle Laisure

Ilana Ben-zeev

Robert Coulthard

Steven Foster

Lyndsay Garmond

DeShun Harris

Danielle Kocal

Haley Meade

Maysa Nichter

Brendon Taga

ASP Section Chair:  Amy Jarmon




April 17, 2014 in Meetings | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Search and Destroy

As we get closer to finals, a lot of poor-performing students are struggling with outline and exam structure.  At South Carolina, the second semester for First Years is made up of Con Law, Civ Pro, and Property, and all three of these classes seem to cause certain students to "over-write."  For example, even more so than in their First Semester outlines, many students want to include all the minutiae of every case, so I have had at least a dozen students show up in my office saying something to the effect of "I have 120 pages on my outline done -- but I have a little more work to do."

A 120-page plus outline isn't going to help anyone, unless they are planning on clubbing someone with it.  One thing I have found really helpful for these students is to go over practice questions geared to the bar exam (BarBri, Kaplan, Finz, etc.).  These tend to be shorter than questions designed for doctrinal exams, and the idea that you can explain something like the rule for intermediate scrutiny or the Commerce Clause in three sentences is really helpful and mind-blowing.  I've seen a real improvement in students' answers, especially since many of these students' exam issues were running out of time, missing issues, or spending time talking about things that were not going to translate into points.

I've also been using the longer essay questions from Emanuel's Questions and Answers for First Year.  I don't know if this exactly counts as a self-serving plug since I wrote them, but I put them together specifically with this issue in mind.  They are nowhere near the most detailed questions in the world, but they are good if you have a student who just needs to get IRAC together.  I have a lot of these types of students -- who are bright, but write 16-page dissertations for a 20-minute question.  Most of our meetings tend to revolve around focus and getting to the point.

I've also been working with these students using "Shortish Questions from the Realm of Stuff You Will Be Asked" -- so, for example, I have a question about an ordinance limiting firefighters to male citizens between the ages of 20-45 and a question about the state putting the kibosh on an individual's contract with an out-of-state company.  This way, I can talk about breaking up the different levels of scrutiny and the four things that they will probably need to think about when the state messes with a private individual (commerce, contracts, privileges and immunities, due process).  The weakest students have all of this in a jumble of premises and exhortations of fairness, which will clearly sink them on exams if they don't get it cleared up.  (Alex Ruskell)




April 16, 2014 in Academic Support Spotlight, Advice, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Job Posting: Assistant Dean for Academic Achievement, Cal Western

Our dear friend Marilyn Scheininger is retiring. Her position at CalWestern is opening up. Please be sure to wish Marilyn well on her journeys; she has been a wonderful friend and colleague to so many people in ASP, and her presence will be deeply missed.

Assistant Dean for Academic Achievement, Cal Western

Applications will be accepted through May 10, 2014.  The start date for this position is August 1, 2014.

Qualifications:  Bachelor’s Degree and J.D. required.  Experience with law school academic support and bar support required. Excellent written and oral communication skills are essential.  Prior administrative experience, including at least 5 years supervisory experience, and budget management essential.  Must be able to work with diverse constituencies.  Knowledge and experience with statistical studies beneficial.  Demonstrated administrative experience, exceptional interpersonal advisory and supervisory skills, complex project management abilities, and superlative oral and written communication skills are also essential.
Summary Description:  This position is responsible for providing, coordinating, and supervising academic support and bar support programs for students at California Western.  The Assistant Dean must provide leadership for the department and effectively manage multiple tasks, programs, and responsibilities.  Strong interpersonal skills and demonstrated ability to work with a highly diverse student and faculty population are required. A commitment to supporting students and promoting academic success in a rigorous law school environment is essential.
Interested individuals should provide a cover letter describing their interest in and qualifications for the position, salary requirements, and resume to: California Western School of Law Human Resources at Competitive benefits, 403(b) and Flexible Spending Plans.
California Western is an equal opportunity employer and values diversity. Founded in 1924, California Western ( is a private, independent law school located in downtown San Diego, California that is celebrating 90 years of excellence.  It is accredited by the American Bar Association and is a member of the Association of American Law Schools.

April 15, 2014 in Job Descriptions, Jobs - Descriptions & Announcements | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Enrollments, Profiles, and Projections

I wanted to draw everyone's attention to two postings by Jerry Organ on The Legal Whiteboard.  Rodney Fong at University of San Francisco School of Law brought the first post to my attention, and then I noticed the second post later.  The first post is Thoughts on Fall 2013 Enrollment and Profile Data Among Law Schools.  The second post is Projections for Law School Enrollment for Fall 2014.  This second post is the first installment of what will likely be a two installments, according to the author.  (Amy Jarmon)   

April 15, 2014 in Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, April 14, 2014

Life Versus Television

The drama!  The tears!  The gnashing of teeth!  Just another day at law school where students are reacting to the latest round of mid-term grades, a last-minute change in a course syllabus, newly scheduled make-up classes, or switched sides for the legal practice appellate brief.  Some law students are beside themselves at the very audacity of it all.

Add to those dramas: gossip about the latest student fashion faux pas, catty remarks about a student's  in-class response to a professor's question, whispered speculation about professors' lives, and wild rumors about the job market.  Mix it all together and what do you get?  Law school's version of Reality TV.

Yes, law school has a fishbowl aspect to it - too many people in one building without any relief.  Yes, it is stressful with exams roughly four weeks away.  Yes, some law students are easy targets for gossip and snide remarks.   Yes, professors have lives outside the classroom.  Yes, there are lots of rumors out there. 

However, law students need to step away from the remote and get some perspective.  Life happens.  It happens everywhere.  In and out of law school.  And many of the things that get blown out of proportion as tragedies in law school are extremely minor compared to the real tragedies in life. 

Being diagnosed with cancer, finding out your relative is seriously ill, having your spouse unexpectedly file for divorce, having your house burn down - those are tragedies.  The little things in life are irritations, inconveniences, disappointments, or annoyances in comparison.  They are not tragedies.

So take ten deep breaths.  Have a reality check.  And turn off the TV until after exams.  (Amy Jarmon) 

April 14, 2014 in Miscellany, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Ready, Set, Go: What Steps You Should Complete in an Exam before Starting the Questions

Law students tell me repeatedly that they have two huge fears when they start an exam.  First, they fear drawing a total blank during the exam and not being able to remember even the basics.  Second, they fear messing up their time managment and not being able to finish the exam or rushing at the end.

To combat these fears, you can complete two steps as soon as the exam proctor tells you to begin.  First, write down a checklist of the material on a piece of scrap paper (our law school provides scrap paper in every exam room) or on the back of the exam paper.  Second, make a time chart to manage your time during the exam.

The checklist is typically a skeleton outline of the topic and subtopic headings for the course.  By writing this information down before you begin the exam, you provide yourself with a security blanket.  Putting it down before you start answering any questions, lets you memorialize the information before you start stressing out.  You can refer to it for each essay answer to see if you forgot to discuss anything.  You can use it to jog your memory if you draw a blank during the exam.

Your checklist may look somewhat different depending on the course.  It may include rules with elements, steps of analysis for problem-based topics, policy arguments for another course, etc.  You can tailor the information to memorize for your checklist to match the course content.

You can also vary the structure of your checklist.  A visual learner may use a series of spider maps for the course.  A verbal learner may use an acronym or silly sentences to remember the topics and subtopics in the list.  An aural/oral learner may recite a sing-song of the checklist silently in her head as she writes it down.

For a closed-book exam, you memorize the checklist so you can quickly write it down.  For an open-book exam, the checklist is the first page of the outline that is allowed in the exam.

The second step is formulating a time chart for the exam.  You will want to look quickly at the instructions for the exam to check whether you complete all questions or have options (for example, complete 3 of the 5 questions).  For most exams you will be required to complete all questions.

The time chart will vary in format for essay exams and multiple-choice exams.  If an exam is mixed, there will be a time chart for each part of the exam.  The time chart will help you to work through all of the questions at a steady pace so that you complete the entire exam.

For essay questions, your chart will have 3 columns (question number and its allotted time; time for reading, analysis, and organization; time for writing).  You should spend 1/3 of your time on a question for reading, analysis, and organization.  You should spend 2/3 of your time on writing the answer.  Each exam question will have a row in the time chart with 3 columns in that row. 

As an example, assume the exam begins at 1:00 p.m. and has multiple questions:

  • Question 1 is a 1-hour question (spend 20 minutes for reading, analysis, and organization; spend 40 minutes for writing). 
  • Column 1 will show "Question 1: 1 hour." 
  • Your second column for Question 1 would show "1:00 - 1:20 p.m."
  • Your third column for Question 1 would show "1:20 - 2:00 p.m."
  • Question 2 is a 45-minute question (spend 15 minutes for reading, analysis, and organization; spend 30 minutes for writing). 
  • Column 1 for Question 2 will show "Question 2: 45 minutes." 
  • Column 2 for Question 2 will show "2:00 - 2:15 p.m." 
  • Column 3 for Question 2 will show "2:15 - 2:45 p.m." 
  • And so forth through the questions for the full exam time.

If you wish to reserve time to review your written answers before the exam ends, then you will reserve review time and decrease the time you allow for each question.  Many students would rather use the full time for each question rather than allot review time.

If your professor indicates points rather than time for each question, then determine the time to spend proportionately for the number of points.  Practicing this method ahead of time will make it more natural when converting from points to time.

For multiple-choice questions, your chart will have 2 columns (a time checkpoint; the number of questions to be completed by that time).  Each checkpoint time will be in a row with the number of questions completed column for that row.  It is usually a good idea to include 4-6 checkpoints.

As an example, assume the exam begins at 1:00 and lasts 3 hours with 90 questions:

  • 1:30 p.m. 15 questions completed
  • 2:00 p.m. 30 questions completed
  • 2:30 p.m. 45 questions completed
  • 3:00 p.m. 60 questions completed
  • 3:30 p.m. 75 questions completed
  • 4:00 p.m. 90 questions completed

If you wish to reserve time to review question answers before the exam ends, then you will reserve review time and decrease the time you allow for the checkpoints accordingly.  Again, many students would rather use the full time for the questions rather than allot review time.

You want to make sure that you devise your checklist early enough in the class or exam period to allow you time to commit it to long-term memory so that you will know it by heart.  You also want to practice making time charts so that the method is on auto-pilot.  Both of these strategies should help lessen your anxiety during the actual exam.  (Amy Jarmon)








April 12, 2014 in Exams - Studying, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, April 11, 2014

Second Annual AASE National Conference

2nd Annual AASE National Conference

May 29 through June 1, 2014


Dear Academic Support & Bar Preparation Colleagues,   

Registration for 2014 AASE Annual Conference is now open!  We are thrilled to be able to offer this opportunity again to share and learn from colleagues across the country and hope that you will join us.  This year's conference will take place at the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law in beautiful downtown Indianapolis.  

See you in Indy!   

Carlota Toledo

Host Planning Committee

Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law 


Conference registration ends Sunday May 2 and the hotel block will close Sunday, April 27th. 

Complete conference and registration details, as well as hotel information can be found by clicking this link.

PLEASE NOTE: While the conference is being held May 29 through June 1, our conference rate (starting at $119) at the Westin Indianapolis can be utilized as early as May 27 for those who might like to arrive early.


April 11, 2014 in Meetings | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, April 10, 2014

College Majors and LSAT Scores and Undergraduate GPAs

Hat tip to Paul Caron on the Tax Prof Blog for a posting about undergraduate majors and LSAT scores and undergraduate GPAs.  The post can be found here: College Majors and LSAT-UGPA.

April 10, 2014 in Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Making the Most of Practice Questions

Completing practice questions in courses is essential for the best grades on final exams.  Although students know they need to do practice questions, they sometimes make choices that do not reap the most benefit from practice question time. 

Here are some tips for making practice question time more effective:

  • Spend most of your time on practice questions that will match your professor's testing format if you know what that will be.  If fact-pattern essay, then complete fact-pattern essay questions.  If multiple-choice, then complete multiple-choice questions.  If short answer, then complete short-answer questions.  If a mix, then complete a mix of questions.  If you do not know the formats, then complete a variety of questions.
  • Complete as many questions as possible and more than you think you need to do.  That means lots and lots.  Completing more practice questions means that you are less likely to confront a scenario on the exam that is a surprise and also means that your exam-taking strategies are on auto-pilot.
  • Keep a log of your practice question performance.  Across practice question sessions, you will see repeated errors that you can self-correct long before the exams.  Why did you get answers wrong?  Missed issues?  Read too fast?  Did not know specific content?  Skipped steps in analysis?  Knew the law but not how to apply it?
  • Read the answer explanations for multiple-choice questions and the model answers for other questions.  Valuable information can be gleaned from this material.  Did you get an answer correct but missed a nuance in the law?  Did you miss sub-issues?  Did you structure an essay answer in the most organized manner?  Did you miss an argument for one of the parties? 
  • Always complete practice questions that your professor provides in class, on the course website, through the teaching assistant, on the law school's exam database, etc.  These are outright gifts!  You learn your professor's testing style.  If you have problems with these questions, talk with your professor on office hours to see how you could improve your answers.
  • Realize that practice questions come in levels of difficulty.  Some questions are testing your initial understanding: boxed flashcards, Examples & Explanations, Crunch Time short answer, CALI.  Some questions move to intermediate difficulty: multiple-choice practice question books, commercial outline questions, Siegel's.  Some questions are true exam style: exam database questions at your and other law schools.  Move through the levels of difficulty to prepare for the exams; do not hang out on the easy questions and expect to get your best grades.
  • If you are taking a course that does not have ready-made practice questions available, get with several classmates and write questions that you swap and discuss.  It is harder than you think to write questions; you will have to think carefully about the material.  Your classmates may see things in answering your questions that you missed entirely.
  • Write out fact-pattern essay answers as you would have to do on the exam.  Just completing a bullet-pointed list of what you would say does not prepare you for writing concise sentences that connect all of the dots in your analysis when you are under time pressure.
  • Wait to do practice questions until you have intensely reviewed a topic.  Doing practice questions instead of reviewing the material first is an inefficient way to study.  If you do not know the material yet, the practice questions will only tell you that you do not know it.  You will not get much out of the time.
  • Wait several days after intensely reviewing a topic before completing practice questions on it.  If you do practice questions too close to your review, you will get them right because you just reviewed the topic.  You want to see if you have retained material and can still apply it to the questions.
  • Start doing practice questions now if you have not already done so.  You do not want to wait until exam period to do practice questions for the first time.  You will not have enough time to hone your exam-taking skills.  You also will not have enough time to do lots of questions.
  • Always do practice questions on your own before discussing them with study partners.  You want to know that you can independently complete questions.  Discussion can be helpful to find points that you missed.  You will not have your study partners to do the thinking for you in the exam, so make sure you practice doing it on your own before the exams.
  • Complete some of your practice questions under exam conditions.  If your professor has a word count or page limit, practice to meet it.  If a question would be approximately one-hour on the exam, complete it in one hour.  If you will have one hour to complete 40 multiple choice on the exam, complete that number in that time span in practice. 

By using practice questions effectively ahead of time, you can increase your chances of doing well in the actual exam situations.  Practice questions can be your best friends if you cultivate your skills while doing them.  (Amy Jarmon)


April 9, 2014 in Exams - Studying | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)