Tag Archives: study priorities

Playing Catch-Up When You’ve Fallen Behind

Image courtesy of jesadaphorn/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of jesadaphorn/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

By this point in the semester, most law students are in the final stretch of what seems like a very long race. Final exams loom ever closer on the horizon, and you’ve probably realized that you have a lot to get done in the next several weeks. Law school can feel stressful enough under normal circumstances, as writing assignments are coming due and professors are trying to cover the course materials prior to finals. But if you’ve fallen behind in your studies, you most likely are feeling even more pressure.

Law students fall behind for a variety of reasons. Maybe you’ve been sick and missed several classes, and, because you were feeling so poorly, you didn’t keep up with the reading. Maybe you’ve participated in the on-campus interviewing process and have spent more time working on job applications than you’ve spent studying lately. Maybe you’ve been overcommitted to extracurricular activities or focused on other priorities and haven’t had enough time for your studies. Or maybe you just weren’t taking law school as seriously as you needed to, and you now realize that you’ve got a lot to do to earn the grades that will let you achieve your long-term goals. Whatever the cause, you’re realizing that you have to do something now to catch up.

If you’re one of the students that have fallen behind, don’t just give up. If you get started now, you can get your studies back on track before final exams begin. Here are four tips to get you caught up when you’ve fallen behind:

Don’t delay: The longer you wait to attempt to catch up, the harder it will be. Make a commitment to a plan now so that you have the time to do what you need to get done to be successful in your classes.

Don’t give up: Students who fall behind often decide that it is easier to quit trying to catch up than do the hard work necessary to get back on track. They may decide to rely on commercial outlines rather than creating their own outlines or utilize commercially prepared case briefs rather than reading the cases themselves. While this strategy may seem like it gets you caught up much quicker, you will not know the material as well. When you go to apply the law to new hypothetical examples in the final exam, you may not understand the law well enough to be successful in your efforts. It is also important to remember that many of these courses are going to be on the bar exam. You need to study effectively now, so that you have better long-term recall of legal concepts.

Don’t neglect new assignments: Don’t allow current assignments to suffer because you are trying to complete past reading. Sometimes students think they must go back to the place where they got off track in order to get caught up, and they neglect current assignments in the process. Make sure that you first schedule current assignments before adding in the time you need to get caught up. You will get more out of each class if you have done the reading for that class in advance.

Make a plan: Most importantly, you need to make a plan. Getting caught up will take deliberate effort; it will not happen on its own. You need to make a schedule and stick to it. Revisit the study schedule strategies that you had at the beginning of the semester. Map out the remaining reading and writing assignments for the semester, making sure that you’ve scheduled enough time to complete each of those assignments. This schedule should cover the remainder of the semester.

Once you’ve scheduled all forthcoming assignments into your study schedule, you should then create a list of your backlogged tasks. On that list, estimate how long you think it will take you to complete each task. Go through the list and decide which tasks are the highest priority, then the second highest, third highest, etc. You will realize that some tasks are more immediate in terms of importance because you cannot complete your outline until those tasks are done, or because a current topic in a class builds upon the law covered in the backlogged reading. Once you have prioritized your list of backlogged tasks, begin inserting them into the remaining time in your study schedule. Don’t forget to allow time for outlining these assignments as well.

You won’t necessarily be caught back up by the end of the week (unless you were only behind a class or two), but, if you stick to your new study schedule, you will be in a much better position by the time you enter the final exam period. A good study plan can not only keep you on track on a daily basis but also help you to catch back up if you’ve fallen behind.

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Filed under General, Law School Exams, Study Tips

Using Bar Exam Subject Outlines to Evaluate Study Priorities

Image courtesy of iospherre/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of iospherre/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

As the date for the July bar exam approaches, prioritization becomes more and more important. It can be hard to decide what subject areas to focus on when there are so many to study and so little time. Most bar prep programs have completed their presentations of bar topics at this point, and the main focus is on reviewing your bar prep materials and taking practice exams. For many bar takers, it may be time to evaluate your study priorities. Here is one way that you can evaluate your current study status and prioritize your studies over the coming days:

Each year, the National Conference of Bar Examiners publishes an MBE (Multistate Bar Examination) Information Booklet, which can be accessed here. What many bar takers do not realize is that this booklet contains a subject matter outline for each MBE subject. These subject matter outlines make great evaluation tools. For example, one way to use the outlines is to go through each outline, assigning a rating between 1 and 5 based on your level of confidence in your knowledge of each subtopic (with 1 being the least confident and 5 being the most confident). Based upon that rating, you can then spend more time reviewing topics that you rated lower, rather than expending the same amount of time on all topics.

Another way to use one of these subject matter outlines to evaluate your study priorities starts with completing a series of practice MBE questions on a subject. For example, let’s say you take a 50-question set of practice MBE questions on Torts. You can then pull out the Torts subject matter outline from the MBE Information Booklet, and mark next to each topic every time you miss a question on that topic. Based on which topics end up with the most marks, you will then know how to prioritize your Tort studies.

There is also another way that the MBE Information Booklet can help you prioritize your studies. The Booklet provides additional insight into the emphasis that certain topics receive in the MBE. For example, at the beginning of the Constitutional Law outline, the Booklet states that approximately half of the Constitutional Law MBE questions will come from section IV of the outline, while the remaining half of the questions will come from the other three sections. This information may also be helpful as you decide to prioritize your study time during the last days leading up to the bar exam.

You can take a similar approach to prioritizing your studies by utilizing the basic subject matter outlines provided with most commercial bar prep programs. By taking an active approach to prioritizing your bar exam studies, you can make conscious choices about how to best utilize your remaining time before the bar.

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Filed under Bar Exam, General, Study Tips