This week we welcome back guest writer Christen Morgan to discuss how preparing for midterms can also help you to prepare for final exams.
Imagine learning that your fate in achieving a specific goal would all be based on one factor? Well if you’re in law school you’re probably well aware of this dilemma. Unlike your undergraduate courses, in law school there aren’t a variety of exams, homework assignments, pop quizzes and papers that factor into your final score, giving you the flexibility to track how you’re doing and improve accordingly. Law school grading is typically based on one final exam which is the judgment of how you’ve done all semester. Therefore, if you wake up on the morning of a final exam not feeling your best, your performance on that day outweighs all the work you’ve done that semester, so good luck because it all boils down to that one score. Unless, however, you receive the gift of a midterm exam!
A law school midterm exam is not standard for all law school curricula. In fact, I think I may have just sat for one midterm throughout my three years of law school. However, if you’re lucky enough to receive this blessing I recommend embracing this benefit to your full extent and making sure you’re completely prepared. A midterm exam gives you the rare opportunity to get an actual gauge of how you’re doing mid-semester, which is a gift I recommend using to your advantage. Having this knowledge gives you the foresight of what you need to get together before finals and can also strategically benefit your preparation for final exams.
So how does one prepare effectively for midterms?
1. Begin Outlining on Day 1 of Fall Semester Classes
I know that outlining is the last thing you want to think about on the first day of classes but like it or not, if you’re not ready, midterm exams will sneak up on you. Therefore, I recommend that you begin outlining on the very first day of classes or as soon as you possibly can thereafter. Carefully review your course syllabus and take note of what topics you will need to master by midterms. As you cover each topic area, begin your outline of the material you need to master and build on this each week.
2. Study after the Completion of Each Course Module
It would be beneficial to begin studying as early as possible. I recommend starting this at the completion of each course module. Once you get to the end of each module begin committing your outline to memory. When you get into a good study rhythm, you can also begin practice questions that cover those specific areas. Mastering each section in this piecemeal nature will ultimately get you towards total preparation without feeling overwhelmed.
3. Utilize Office Hours
Take advantage of your professor’s office hours. Use them often and make it worthwhile. By the time your midterm rolls around you will have a lot of information in your hands and you may not yet be at the point where you can completely assess how all the dots connect. Speaking with your professors and digging into the rule of law and how they like it applied, will give you better insight early on. Oftentimes students wait until the last minute (aka days before the final exam) to take full advantage of office hours. By utilizing this prior to your midterms, and most importantly after you receive your midterm score, to obtain important feedback, could absolutely set you ahead.
How do the above steps lead to Final Exam success?
1. Get ahead with your Outlines
Beginning your outlines early for midterms means that you won’t get swindled into the outline panic that most students rush to right before finals. Most importantly by preparing your outlines and studying them early on, you will begin to internalize the material topic areas. This will inevitably place an ease on trying to retain these topics for the final exam.
2. You have a Realistic Gauge of your Performance
Having a gauge of your performance is perhaps the most important takeaway from midterm exams. Without midterms it’s borderline impossible to truly know how we are understanding each topic. Midterms can let us know whether we need to drastically improve on a topic before finals or whether we have a firm understanding that we need to maintain at the very least.
3. Applying Feedback can lead to Improvement
Applying the feedback you receive after receiving your midterm score can help to shape how you prepare for finals during the rest of the semester. I recommend seeking feedback regardless of your score. If you have a low score, it will be important to learn firsthand from your professor what you missed and how you can improve on your weaker areas. However, even if you’ve received a high score it will be beneficial to still get insight into each topic area and confirm with your professor that you are accurately understanding each area. Sometimes a high score can just be by luck, therefore, it would be beneficial to make sure you completely understand each topic, and you can maintain this consistency for the final.