With finals rapidly approaching, it is time to implement my 4-step end of semester routine.
Step 1. Schedule time off. As an evening student, the tension between work and academic priorities peaks during exam season. I ask for time off strategically, such as the day before and the day of an exam, as well days during reading period. Fortunately, this year I am able to take a few weeks off between my year-round position and my summer position, allowing me to focus wholly on my studies.
Step 2. Outline. Professors teach material over the course of four months (or more for year-long classes). It is impossible to remember every detail from every class, which is why law students typically outline their courses before finals. Outlining is a way to review, organize, and shorten material on paper before exams. This ensures material is fresh in your mind.
Step 3. Memorize. I create a long outline that has notes and details covered in class; then I create a short outline that I memorize nearly verbatim. The short outline lays out a structure for me to use when responding to exam questions and helps me remember important points from my long outline.
Step 4. Practice. Many professors have previous exams available for students. Even if they don't, they often make sample exams available or recommend supplements with practice questions. Practice is essential for me to be able to complete an exam efficiently and thoroughly. Since many exams are designed so that a well-prepared student needs the entire allotted time, there is little room for trial by error, reorganization of answers, or excessive time spent remembering the rule.
While I generally follow these rules, sometimes I adapt them based on the exam format and time constraints for studying. So when I am asked how I prepare for finals, my answer, like my answer to most law-related questions, is that "it depends."