There is law school and there are finals, and they are two very different experiences. A tour guide at Loyola told me this before I started law school and I could not agree more. The entire campus environment shifts during finals. Emails stop, hours of operation change, and an aura of seriousness looms over the campus. It is easy to be overwhelmed with anxiety over the ominous curve and often only having one test to show that you have learned everything from the class. Thankfully, as I am preparing for my fourth semester of law school finals, I have picked up some dos and don'ts that alleviate some of the stress.
· You know more than you think you do – With so many classes and topics dancing around your head, it is easy to feel as if you have not quite mastered anything. However, while outlining and studying, things the professor said and things you read magically start to come back to you like a dream in a Disney movie. I cannot quite explain why, but they really do.
· Take care of yourself, eat right, exercise and sleep every night – Sounds cliché, but when you feel as if everything in on the line it is easy to start making small sacrifices to your health. For most students, finals period includes a week and a half of reading period and one to three weeks of exams. With almost a month dedicated to finals, it really is much more like a marathon, than the sprint of undergraduate exams; and sugar crashes and sore throats do not make for optimal information retention.
· Environment is everything – Everyone studies differently and it is important to figure out where you study best. Some people study in the library, while others like local cafes, and still others like to study at home. I am a bit of a nomad studier, personally. I study as long as I can in one place and then a change in scenery keeps me from getting antsy. I have also realized that when I am studying independently, I am a stickler for noise. I invested in some good earplugs my first semester, and during finals they are never out of arms reach.
· Don't overlook the important of knowing the logistics – Law school exams can make you feel like you are taking the SAT . . . every single time. There are assigned rooms, strict rules about what you can bring in, when you can and cannot take food and bathroom breaks, and specific rules for the particular exam from your professor. In particular, it is important to make sure you have the updated software and know where you are supposed to go for the exam. It is very easy to get thrown off your game when you walk into the wrong room for your final because you assumed you were with the same group of testers you were with for a previous exam or when you did not update to the latest software so you have to take the exam by hand unexpectedly . . . not that I personally know anything about those embarrassing situations J