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Study Aids, Strategies & Exam Prep: Before & After the Exam

Open Book Exams

Basically, study for an open book exam the same way you study for a closed book exam.

  • Don't be lulled into thinking that you don't have to study harder or prepare more.
  • In fact, your professor's expectations may be greater if you have an open book exam.
  • You still have to know enough law to identify the issues when you see them, and only repeated study of the material will do that for you.
  • But, you can use other materials to provide the specific details of the rules, statutes and cases that you need to answer the questions.

A good way of preparing for all open book exams is to condense your outline into fewer pages to easily find the legal rules and principles.

  • In a rule-based class, such as Civil Procedure, you might annotate the rule book to easily find the rules and applicable case names.
  • Or, if the class has focused on a workable number of conspicuous and important cases, like the personal jurisdiction area of Civil Procedure or Constitutional Law, you might condense an outline focusing on case names, analogies and distinctions related to those cases.

Articles & Advice

CALIs

Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction ("CALI")

  • These are interactive computer exercises and questions that test your knowledge of the material and help improve your test-taking skills.
  • The CALI lessons provide interactive exercises where you enter responses to questions based on fact patterns and receive an instantaneous evaluation of your answer, prompts to guide you to, or, the "right" answer.
  • You learn the law and how to apply the law to a body of facts--the key to doing well on exams.
  • Some of the CALIs are mini-tutorials on a particular subject.
  • Most CALIs tell you how long it should take to complete the exercises, and they range anywhere from 10 minutes to one hour.
  • There is even an interactive CALI on how to take law school exams titled, "Writing Better Law School Exams: The Importance of Structure".

To access CALI lessons online, you must request an Authorization Code either from the Law Library Reference Desk or by emailing Lori Corso. CALI DVDs are also available at the library reference desk for offline access to the lessons.

You can view a list of subjects covered by CALI lessons without signing in.

After the Exam

Post-Mortem

  • Don't discuss the exam with other students. They will see issues that you didn't and visa versa, so why torture yourself?
  • Only your professor knows what he was looking for, and only your professor's evaluation of your exam is relevant.
  • Next semester, when your professor makes your exam available and/or reviews the old exam, then you can see where you did well and where you need improvement.

Practice

One of the best ways to prepare for law school exams is to take practice exams.

  • Old exams are either on file in the library at the Circulation desk
  • Or online.

You must read, outline and study your course material, but the best way to determine if you truly know the material and can articulate that knowledge in writing is to take a practice exam. The exams show you whether you can apply your knowledge to a distinct body of facts in a fact pattern by identifying legal issues, articulating the legal rules, applying those rules to the facts and reaching a conclusion.

You should take practice exams under exam conditions--following time limits and undisturbed. One of the best uses of a study group is to have members compare and discuss their answers to exam questions. Two heads can be a lot better than one in spotting all of the issues in a complicated fact pattern.