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Study Aids, Strategies & Exam Prep: Exam Strategies

Exam Database

Exam-Taking Guides

Exam Strategies

You've heard the old sayings: Fail to plan and plan to fail. If you don't know where you're going, you'll end up anywhere.


Those old sayings have a lot of relevance when it comes to law school exams. You need a plan to do well on law school exams. You just can't show up for the exam, read the questions, put pen to paper and expect to do well. Or at least, most students can't. You need a strategy.

You can develop your plan by focusing on three distinct areas--before the exam, during the exam and after the exam. The following are some strategies that you can apply to the process of taking a law school exam. Some of the strategies you applied in undergraduate school, some are common sense, but most concern the unique skills and approaches that you need to succeed in law school.


If your professor gives you any advice or instructions about how to prepare for or take her exam, follow those instructions over any strategies you might read here. This includes any suggestions on exam preparation, the questions you are directed to answer on the exam, and the way in which the professor wants those questions answered. See the following pages for more information


Adapted and revised from  presentations by Professor Ruth Gordon, Professor Leonard Packel, and Sheilah Vance, former Assistant Dean for Academic Support, at Villanova University School of Law, November 16, 2001, at a study skills workshop titled, "Successful Exam-Taking Strategies," and on articles on exam-taking techniques by Ruta Stropus, Director of Academic Support, and Charlotte Taylor, Assistant Dean for Multicultural Affairs and former Assistant Director of Academic Support, at DePaul University School of Law, and Linda Feldman, Director of Educational Services at Brooklyn Law School.

Outlining Workshop

Presented by Matt Carluzzo, Assistant Dean of Students and Academic Success

Reviews the purpose of outlining, what an outline is (and is not), and the basics of how to start outlining.  

Watch Video

Exam Structure Workshop

Presented by Matt Carluzzo, Assistant Dean of Students and Academic Success

Tips for structuring and drafting a law school essay exam

Watch Video

Preparing for Finals Workshop

Presented by Matt Carluzzo, Assistant Dean of Students and Academic Success

Watch Video

Physical and Emotional Health

It goes without saying, that you want to be in top form for your exams.

  • Don't cram until the last minute.
  • High mental anxiety can prevent you from achieving at your best, and it can also work its way out in your body in any range of physical ailments from headaches to backaches to stomachaches to colds.
  • Get enough sleep.
  • Eat nourishing meals.
  • Exercise to keep your body and mind sharp.
  • If your mind starts to wander, and anxiety, worry and fear start filling up the places where sharp analysis and memory should be, reclaim your mind.

One of the best ways to calm yourself down and refocus your mind is to breathe deeply!

  • When we're stressed or worried, we stop breathing or we take shallow breaths.
  • Breathe deeply for 10 minutes, focusing on every breath in and out.
  • After 10 minutes, you'll feel some of the benefits of a more relaxed body and mind.
  • After about 20 minutes, your blood pressure and heart rate will be regulated, energy-building endorphins will flow into your system, your mind will clear up, and your recall will improve.

Even given the above, sometimes you get sick. If a serious illness prevents you from taking or arises during an exam, check the student handbook for what you should do.