Exam Preparation Tips and Strategies

Miami Law’s Academic Achievement Program (AAP) provides multiple opportunities to work on developing certain skills that enhance learning and preparation for exams.

Below are recommendations generated by Academic Achievement Program Dean's Fellows. These are suggestions and strategies, not "mandates." Students should intelligently adopt those that work for him or her.

 Outline

  • Have outline / initial review of the material done by the start of the exam period.
  • Read through outline, clarifying things that are still confusing.

·         For open book exams, spend a bit of time making one’s outline user-friendly: Tabbing, highlighting, color-coding, cross-referencing to other sections and text book page numbers.

  • Read materials -- class, semester reading, etc. Read it ALL.

 Memorize Main Concepts / Prepare Worksheets / Do Practice Exams

  • Memorize rules in a Flash and/or homemade flash cards.
  • Memorize rule statements from your outline.
  • For open book exams, many students find issue-spotting worksheets and other types of check lists to be helpful.
  • Many professors have old exams or practice exams on file at the circulation desk of the law library. Check them out and copy them.
    • Prior to a student’s first exam, it may be useful to sit for a full three or four hour practice exam to know what to expect from such a long exam. Think about how to manage time and the order in which one would do the exam components.
    • Get old exams. Work through them with your biggest critic (classmate).
    • Learn by doing practice questions -- especially on multiple choice exams.
    • Mimic exam conditions when taking practice exams.

 Participate in Study Groups

  • Take practice exams with a study group. Sit together and follow the time guidelines. Then talk about responses.
  • Talk through exam and hypothetical responses in groups. Give the group 15 minutes to read and outline a response to a hypo and then talk about what your analysis would look like. Give each person a turn to tell their proposed response.
  • Set time limits and goals for group study sessions. Reserve study rooms at the law library or the undergrad library.
  • Talk through outlines in study group. Make sure everyone is solid on the main concepts. Answer each other's questions.
  • Quiz each other on rules and concepts. Use Flash cards.

 Do Administrative Preparation

  • Get anonymous grading number from StudentLink or the Registrar's office.
  • Download the exam files for each of one’s classes onto Exam Soft.

 Take Care of Oneself

Treat exam-prep and the exam period not as a “sprint” but as a "marathon" where one has to get to the end. Remember: Thousands of students have gone through this for hundreds of years…just be sure to take care of oneself and be as prepared as possible.

  • Take breaks (a movie or quiet dinner after an exam) but then be prepared to get back into studying for the next exam.
  • Get enough sleep, take your vitamins, eat well, exercise and generally take the time to keep one’s immune system strong.
  • If a student is really ill and feels he or she cannot sit for the exam, contact the Dean of Students' office (284-4551) BEFORE exam time.
  • Know that USUALLY one cannot make up a missed exam until the course is offered again. So stay healthy.

 Prepare for Exam Day

  • Familiarize oneself with the exam classroom and dress appropriately—bring a sweatshirt, in case it's cold, but wear a t shirt underneath, in case it's not!
  • Prepare for any contingency on exam day (dead battery in car, rainstorm, no parking spaces, etc.) and have a good back up plan in place.
  • Don't socialize on the Bricks right before an exam. Also consider avoiding "de-briefing on the Bricks" after the exam, as well.
  • Don't bring "noisy" snacks or snacks wrapped in crinkly cellophane paper into an exam. Also, please, no nuts!
  • Consider earplugs. Also Kleenex.

 Take the Exam Well and Time Oneself

  • Read directions on test.
  • If handwriting an exam, skip lines, write on only one side of page -- if ok with the professor.
  • Outline exam answers; pick out issues during reading of exam and make a list of issues.
  • Answer the question ASKED.
  • Timing -- write a note to self at the end of each Q, telling what time one needs to be finished with that Q so one doesn’t get behind.
  • But leave a time "buffer" to not cut it too close.
  • First answer Qs worth the most points, if possible.
  • Read the entire exam before starting to write, so one doesn’t miss seeing and answering any questions.
  • Make a checklist as issues are spotted so it is easier to see what is missing and to know what to focus on.
  • Don't assume anything.
  • Don't take the easy way out -- analyze both sides of all issues.
  • Pretend it's real -- pretend one is representing the client. Think about WHY “we'll win" and what obstacles “we'll need to overcome” -- and share that with your reader.
  • Don't take the reader's knowledge for granted.
  • Explain WHY it matters. Assume the reader has never seen this Q before.
  • Get as much information down as possible, but make sure it's relevant.
  • Use case names sparingly. Only use them when they really apply. Focus on analysis instead.
  • Don't be overly concerned with introductory sentences.
  • Abbreviate names and concepts when appropriate -- but be sure to "clue-in" the reader with an explanation of abbreviations at the beginning.
  • On multiple choice exams, if one gets stuck on one Q, skip it and keep moving -- because usually easy ones are worth the same point value as difficult ones.
  • If one begins to freak out, ignore what others are doing  in the classroom.
  • If necessary, take a small break -- walk outside for a breath of air, to use the restroom or get some water.

For More Information

Concerns about exam taking may be shared with the Academic Achievement Program director, Alex Shimel, or with the Dean of Students.