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March 27, 2020 Law Student

Top Ten Study Tips for Exam Preparation

By: Rachael Bailey and Ana Alford

In March 2020, the Law Student Committee hosted a Brown Bag Teleconference, “Beat the Curve: Tips to Develop Cognitive Skills and Mental Health During Exam Preparation.”  The committee leaders and presenters discussed tips, strategies, and tactics to successfully prepare for law school exams and the bar exam.  Below is our top ten list for future success.

When studying for law school exams and the bar exam, be sure to think outside the box.

When studying for law school exams and the bar exam, be sure to think outside the box.

Retha Ferguson via Pexels

1.  Be Prepared

Complete course assignments and take detailed notes in class and while reading.  Create outlines and identify weaker areas of understanding you should invest more time towards.  Volunteer to participate in class discussions and contribute meaningful commentary.  As exams approach, create a study schedule and take multiple practice exams under test-like conditions.

2.  Seek Outside Resources

Go beyond the syllabus by reading supplementary materials and researching concepts that you are unfamiliar with or need additional insight to become knowledgeable.  Review study aids and compare outlines with peers.  Attend tutoring sessions when available, even in courses you feel confident in.  Create study groups with like-minded individuals, but be sure to stay focused and on task.

3.  Maintain Physical Health

To keep a healthy balance, find time to do things you enjoy.  It is encouraging motivation to have something to look forward to after you complete exam prep for the day.  Going outside, getting fresh air, and exercising can help improve memory by increasing cognitive performance through stimulating brain cell growth.  Getting plenty of rest also helps your memory in two ways: (1) Sleep deprivation causes lack of focus; and (2) Adequate sleep assists in the consolidation of memory.  Eating healthy also helps improve studying as the carbohydrates you consume contribute in creating serotonin and in turn improves your mood.

4.  Maintain Emotional and Mental Health

Your mental and emotional wellbeing is just as important, if not more important than solely placing emphasis on your physical health.  Long hours of studying and intense concentration can be mentally exhausting, which in turn can affect your physical health.  Remember to take study breaks, do not overwhelm yourself with things beyond your control, and utilize your support system of friends, family, and mentors for assistance and guidance.  Place significance on mental toughness and remember the phrase, “It is a marathon, not a race.” If you take things day by day and focus on the task directly in front of you everything will fall into place. 

5.  Create a Routine

A routine is incredibly beneficial when studying for any exam.  Studying for the bar exam is stressful enough, therefore creating a routine will help save time, reduce the need to plan, and instill good habits during such a critical time.  Creating structure in your day to day routine can also help reduce stress and anxiety, while promoting proficiency.

6.  Strengthen Writing, Reading Comprehension, and Analytical Skills

Internships throughout law school can be a huge benefit by enabling you with skills to apply real world experience to the bar exam.  You will become an efficient legal writer. The more legal writing you do, the more detailed, organized, and better you become.  If you are naturally a good writer, do not allow confidence to get in the way of continuing to practice and further enhance your skills for the bar exam.  Be concise and compare your answers to the model answer to learn any tricks or identify issues you may have missed.  Do not forget your writing professors at school can also be a great resource as you strengthen your IRAC and CREAC abilities.

7.  Review Past Exams

A great way to learn from your mistakes is to review past exams.  Reviewing past exams can help you learn the quirks of law school questions, identify issues you may have missed, and alleviate any anxiety you may have on a certain topic tested, all while tracking your progress.

8.  Improve Memorization

Memorization in law school is key.  Studying courses from three years of law school for one test may be overwhelming.  There are many tips to aid memorization including creating flashcards for elements and definitions to quiz yourself anywhere and anytime, as well as using image-name associations and acronyms.  Those memorization tools can help you stay focused with less distractions.  Mnemonics are also a helpful tool.  Mnemonics are devices such as patterns, ideas, letters or any other associations that can assist you in remembering things.  An example of this is Roy G. Biv for remembering the colors of the rainbow.

9.  Don’t Over-Extend yourself

It is important to prioritize your studies.  While it is beneficial to build your resume through meaningful employment, internships, and extracurricular activities, finding balance is key.  Overextending yourself can lead to a decline in your mental health, lack of sleep, and may result in the activities you once enjoyed becoming burdensome or overwhelming.  Learn to plan a healthy and organized schedule and stick to it.  It is acceptable to say no to events you do not have the time to commit.  Remember to make time for yourself and avoid burnout.

10.  Network

Reaching out to local lawyers for advice on the bar exam is a great way to network in your legal community.  Who better to give advice on the bar exam than someone who has not only taken the exam, but also passed it?  Reaching out to local lawyers can also help you create a network for the future.  The more knowledge you gain on real world lawyering tips and exam preparation tools will put you in a better position and give you a unique perspective.  The relationships you create now may also be valuable for post-bar internships and work opportunities.  


Rachael Bailey

Esq., Los Angeles, CA

International Reproductive Law Group, Inc.

ABA Section of Family Law Law Student Committee Chair

Ana Alford

Jackson, MS

ABA Section of Family Law Law Student Division Liaison