Sunday, November 14, 2021

Common Mistakes at the End of the Semester

The semester is almost over, which means final exams are right around the corner.  I wanted to pass along a handful of mistakes to avoid when preparing for finals.

  1. Don't ignore the last couple weeks of class.  Some students think professors won't put material from the last couple weeks on the exam.  That is not the case in most classes, and some professors will intentionally test that material if they perceive the class is showing up ill prepared.  
  2. Don't wait until after Thanksgiving to update, start, edit, etc. outlines.  This advice would apply to early in the semester as well, but don't wait until the last minute to update outlines.  Keep adding in material to maximize study and practice time later.
  3. Don't stay up all night studying.  I engaged in this conversation a few times already this past week.  Staying up all night studying is not ideal.  Sleep is critical for the brain to rest and retain information.  Losing sleep equals losing information.  One student responded saying some students like to study at night and sleep during the day.  I understand that happens, but your body needs to be ready to take the exam during the actual exam time.  Learning and performance is impacted by the time you do it.  This is one reason why West Coast NFL teams play worse when traveling to the East Coast for games.
  4. Don't Constantly re-read outlines.  The most common study mistake is repetitive reading of an outline.  Re-reading passively attempts to learn the material and is inefficient.  Most people feel more comfortable reading when studies show it doesn't work as well.  The best way to study is retrieval practice.  After reviewing your outline, try to write your outline down from memory.  Issue spot and outline practice questions.  Complete multiple choice questions.  Try to talk through your outline out loud.  The key is to add in attempts at recalling the information.
  5. Don't try to memorize every case name at the expense of understanding the big picture doctrine.  Final exams include stories of individual's actions.  The goal is to determine whether the individual action resulted in a Tort, Contract, etc.  Cases help in the process, but not the way most students think they help.  Professors may give bonus points for case names, but name dropping cases while not understanding how the rules fit together will not lead to high scores.

Finals induce significant stress.  My advice is to work both hard and smart.  Use the most efficient study techniques, especially practice.  The end of the race is near.  Good luck!

(Steven Foster)

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