Tips and Advice for a Successful Law School Exam Period

Color illustration of a person rushing into another person, yelling, "MOVE IT! I'VE GOT FINALS!" The other person is falling and saying, "OOOMPH!"
Illustration by Troy Cook, 2023

With finals soon arriving, it is the perfect time to think about the strategies of a successful law school exam experience. By now, you may have figured out an effective study approach, but here are some additional tips in case there’s something new that could be helpful.

Create a schedule. It is helpful to create a finals study schedule, where you can factor in any additional time needed for reviewing concepts, and completing practice questions and exams. Perhaps create a game plan, or a day-by-day schedule for each class. Maybe you need to allot more for study time for your more challenging courses. But be sure to budget time for current assigned readings and assignments, so that you don’t fall behind.

Identify your strengths and weaknesses. Review your syllabus, class notes and highlighted sections of your casebook to create a ”hit-list” of topics to study. Flag the material that you find most difficult, so you can focus on any knowledge gaps. Then, you can prioritize topics you struggle with the most, over topics you’ve already mastered.

Team up with a great study group, partner, or study aid. Study groups can be a valuable learning tool. For some students, talking through material with classmates could help your understanding and retention of course materials. But if studying with classmates is not your thing, use the authors of the study guides as your friends and study partners. Additionally, try some study guides, available in print and as eBooks  through the library, such as as Glannon Guides, the Emanuel Crunch Time, and Questions & Answers. These can help you review material through flow charts and summaries; they also provide short-answer, multiple choice, and essay questions and answers, so you can test your knowledge.

Complete your outlines and then work on editing down and memorizing them. So much material is covered in law school that it can seem quite jumbled in your mind. The professors construct the exams to see how well you can link all of the concepts together; this shows that you can apply the skill of analyzing numerous concepts at the same time. Reviewing, editing down, and memorizing your outlines will help you recognize how all of the facets of the particular law class work together in building the overall meaning and understanding of the subject. Need help making an outline? Try one of the library’s Emanuel Outlines available online or in-print at the circulation desk.

Pay attention in class. One last piece of advice that seems to always work is to pay attention in class. Yes, this seems obvious, but paying attention in class will truly save you time because your class notes will make sense and save you from time spent having to learn new concepts and laws. Really focus on what the professor says in class; this will also give important hints about what is expected for the exam. Also participate in class; the discourse you have with the professor is great for the learning experience and professors love it. If you are nervous about talking in class, a good tactic is to go to class with a list of questions. These may be from the reading or questions that you had after evaluating the material from past classes.

Maybe if you follow these great tips, you will not end up like the poor chap below:

 

Illustration of person with raised fist, with a speech bubble stating, "AAARG FINALS." The person is looking down at books and a fallen chair nearby.
Illustration by Troy Cook, 2023

Zief Pets Presents: Halloween Costume Gallery!

Celebrate the spooky season with Zief Law Library as we introduce Zief Pets Presents: Halloween Costume Gallery! Whether a dog, cat, iguana, or even a pet rock, Zief Pets wants to see your pets’ best Halloween looks!

Submit pictures of your pets in their Halloween costumes or festive attire, and we will display them on the Zief Pets wall in Zief Law Library from Monday, October 30th to Monday, November 6th. To participate, please fill out the Google Form by October 30th, using the QR code on the image below or visit bit.ly/ZiefPetsHalloween23.

Advertisement flyer for Zief Pets with a cartoon cat and dog in ghost costumes.

 

 

Music and Studying: Epic (Beneficial) or Gnarly (Adverse)

A record turntable with vinyl album covers placed behind it.
Troy’s turntable

A contentious (gnarly) debate is whether listening to music while studying is a bad idea or if it can actually be quite helpful. In the WebMD article “Can music Help You Study” by Cheryl Whitten and Dan Brennan discuss pros and cons of listening to music while studying. Even USF law students have had discussions about music being beneficial or distracting while studying. The argument of what type of music should be used is even a more passionate argument; this debate can sometimes broach the subject of good or bad taste in the listener (jokingly and good-natured teasing, we hope).

Even though there is a 1990s study in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine entitled “The Mozart Effect” stating that listening to classical music, specifically Mozart’s sonata for two pianos, improves spatial reasoning skills, problem solving, and test scores, it may just simply a matter of improving one’s mood during a stressful time. In the 2023 blog post “Music and Studying: It’s Complicated” Crystal Raypole states that music is helpful during finals because it can motivate; this probably has to do with the firing of neurons in the brain whether it’s slow music to relax or faster dynamic music to inspire. Raypole also discusses how listening to music while studying can be detrimental because students who listen to music with lyrics can become distracted. Even music without lyrics can hinder concentration.  Also, what about the idea that students who use music to help them memorize may need to create the same environment during the actual exam for it to work?

The best test to the music or no music debate is to find out for yourself. All students are different and study in a myriad of ways; music may help some and hinder others.  A good idea for finding out what works best for you is to experiment with different study music playlists on YouTube, Spotify, or your streaming service of choice. Do what’s best for you even if it’s only studying in the bathtub, wearing a wetsuit while listening to 1960s surf instrumentals.

The Law and Literature Book Display

During October, the Zief Law Library will have Law & Literature as the book display. The display spotlights the relationship of law and literature. This not only deals with the legal themes in fiction, but the philosophical debate of whether law on its own has inherent meaning and worth or if it must be considered along with a much larger cultural context.

There is also a debate between the supporters of the “law in literature” and the “law as literature” theories. The “law in literature” theory maintains that works of literature with details and descriptions of legal cases and processes give understanding to the essence of law. The “law as literature” position supports the idea that legal writing such as the actual written laws are subject to interpretation as any type of literature should be.

Want to learn more? Check out Zief’s Collection Spotlight on the first floor, across from the Circulation Desk!

Titles in the display include:

New Materials: September 2023

The collage above shows eight book covers from the list of new library materials.

The Zief Law Library added new materials to its collection in September 2023. Topics from September include: capital punishment; constitutional law; contracts; criminal procedure; estate planning; evidence; technology and the law; and trial practice. Click the titles below or explore our monthly New Materials at Zief Law Library webpage for the complete list of recent arrivals. 

Accessibility Tech Tips for Law Students (Part Two of Two)

Accessible Practices for PowerPoint, Word, and Google Docs

In part two of this post, we provide a look at some accessible practices for hyperlinks and colors for text and backgrounds.

Photo Credit: Tamanna Rumee for Unsplash.com

Hyperlinks

Hyperlinks are helpful for creating accessible documents so that screen readers do not read each individual character of a web address, or URL, aloud, thus cluttering the information with unnecessary characters. They also aid in organizing multiple links on a single document.

General Tips for Hyperlinks

  1. The screen reader will preface the web address with “Link” so you may name the hyperlink after the webpage itself.
    1. Example: use the name “Zief Law Library Website
    2. DO NOT use: “Click Here” “Read More” or “More Info.”
      1. This language is not clearly identifying the information to the listening audience.
  2. Use hyperlinks in your documents, presentations, and email!
    1. Don’t forget to practice accessibility in your emails as well!

Text and Background Color

Creative fonts and colorful text on colorful backgrounds can be aesthetically pleasing, but can also create a learning barrier for learners with low vision. Choosing fonts and backgrounds that are easily read creates an inclusive learning environment, both in print and online.

General Tips for Text and Background Color

  1. Use a color contrast tool  to test if your PowerPoint slides are legible for people with low vision. Colors have a varying degree of contrast against others.
    1. Confirm the presentation meets the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines with the Web AIM Color Checker.
  2. Do not use color to indicate meaning on documents or presentations.
    1. Example: Do not use red to convey something is wrong.
  3. Use clear, large fonts on documents and presentations.
    1. This is important for both learners whose first language is not English and for those with low vision.
    2. Acceptable fonts:
      1. Times New Roman
      2. Verdana
      3. Arial
      4. Tahoma
      5. Helvetica
      6. Calibri

Checking Your Work

Microsoft Word has an Accessibility Checker function that will automatically review your document for accessibility. Select ‘Review’ and click on the ‘Accessibility’ icon to explore. In addition to using the Accessibility Checker function, use Read Aloud to listen to the Word Document and follow with adjustments for an easier listening experience.

For more information on how to create accessible Word Documents, PowerPoints, and Google Docs, please visit the USF ETS Create Accessible Documents Page.

Additional Resources

  1. Microsoft Read Aloud Instructions
  2. Microsoft Accessibility Fundamentals
  3. WebAIM Microsoft Word Creating Accessible Documents