The Briefcase Diaries

Have a Happy and Productive Thanksgiving Break

While Thanksgiving is a time to be grateful, law students should be especially grateful for these few days off before exams to rest, catch up on outlines, and prepare for the final stretch. Having a happy and productive Thanksgiving break is crucial to a successful and stress-free final exam period.  Here’s how to make that happen:

  1. Create an effective schedule to prepare for exams
  • This schedule should include days for outlining for each course, days memorizing rules, days for doing hypotheticals and practice exams, and days for reviewing hypotheticals and practice exams.
  • To create an exam-prep schedule, first consider the dates for each final. How many days are in between each final? Make sure you consider time in between each final to recuperate. Because of the schedule crunch of finals, students sometimes tend to focus too much on their first final and neglect adequately preparing for the following finals. One idea is to work backwards—Designate one day during Thanksgiving break to outline and prepare for your last final. Then, bring your attention back to outlining and preparing for your first final. That way you can give your full attention to your first final while having a plan of attack for your next finals.
  • Continue to schedule “study days” during Thanksgiving break and the days and weeks leading to finals. Plan full-days or half-days during Thanksgiving break.
  • Write down the logistics for each final exam. For example, how long is the exam?  How many essays will it have?  Will it have multiple choice questions? Understanding these specifics affects how you approach and study for each respective course.
  • Every professor teaches the course different, and every student learns differently. Do you need flashcards? Flow-charts? Extra supplementary books? Make a list of the supplies you need for each exam.
  • Prioritize your to-do list and exam schedule. While we should have an ideal picture of how prepared we’d like to be for finals, you still may run out of time. Prioritizing your list will keep you on the right track.
  • Stick to your plan! Be diligent and hold yourself accountable. It will only contribute to your success in law school.
  1. Outline, do hypotheticals, and take practice exams.
  • Thanksgiving break is the ideal time to catch up on your outlines. Remember that outlining is a process. It includes organizing your notes into long-form outlines and working through them to create condensed outlines and attack outlines. It can also include charts, tables, and mind maps. Depending on the class, working through these different mediums can be very helpful in understanding certain concepts.
  • Outlines are working documents that constantly need improvement, so test your outline! Take practice exams under timed conditions. After taking a practice exam, assess whether your outline includes all the necessary substantive information for the course. Also, assess whether your outline is truly helping you answer the exam’s fact pattern. Reviewing your practice exam answer and comparing it with your outline and the model answer will help you fill in any gaps in your analysis.
  • You can also test your knowledge with hypotheticals for each topic in your outline. This allows you to test your outline as you are working through it. If you don’t have three or four hours to spare to take a full practice exam, consider doing hypotheticals or shorter practice exam questions under shorter time constraints. Answer a question in 10, 20, or 30 minutes. Practicing your exam taking skills under timed conditions will give you a tremendous amount of confidence once finals come around.
  1. Get things done.
  • Use Thanksgiving break to catch up on personal, work, or household tasks before finals. Catch up on sleep. Catch up with a friend. Organize your winter clothes. Meal prep. Maintain a healthy diet and try to get some exercise. Maintaining a healthy balance is essential for our brains to work efficiently.
  • While Thanksgiving break should be a productive break, be careful not to burn yourself out. Take time off to enjoy the holiday, and remember to be grateful for the privilege of attending law school.

Happy Thanksgiving!