by Liz Rademacher, Class of 2016
It’s hard to believe, but the first half of my first semester of law school is over, which means that a new season has begun—midterms season. The thought of your first law school exam can be pretty intimidating. You think to yourself, There’s so much to learn! I need to make an outline! I’ve never taken this kind of test before! One thing to keep in mind to ease some of this stress is that midterms are an opportunity to test yourself and how much you’ve learned at this point in the semester. They can seem scary, but they’re not. In fact, midterms are kind of awesome.
Yes, you read that right. Midterms are awesome, and for lots of reasons. First, many of the professors for 1L classes recognize that their students have never encountered a traditional law school exam before. It’s tricky to master how to evaluate a long fact pattern, pull apart the issues it presents, and apply legal rules to those issues in a clear, concise way. To help students become comfortable with the format of these exams before administering their finals at the end of the semester, several of my professors offered to set aside class time for one-hour midterms.
Second, unlike final exams, many of these midterms are ungraded. Professors really want to help you learn how to apply the material that you’re learning. My professors encouraged my peers and me to take our midterms as seriously as possible as an opportunity to practice our legal analysis skills. It’s important to remember that the key word in that sentence is practice. Professors will read through tests and give feedback to students, but because they don’t give the tests a formal grade, your focus is on getting more comfortable with the exam instead of getting the highest grade in the class. Even if I felt like some of my answers could have been better on my midterms, there were no consequences for answering incorrectly and I had a much better idea of how to approach other tests in the future.
Last, a practice midterm forces you to gauge just how much material you understand and where your strengths and weaknesses are. Even if my tests were just for practice, they were the perfect reason for me to begin making outlines for my classes. I also started reviewing my notes and coming up with questions to ask my TAs at review sessions, and I started to realize how to take better notes for my classes. Throughout the whole process, I was honestly impressed by just how much I had managed to learn in eight short weeks. So even if law school exams seem daunting, midterms were a great chance for me to see how far I’d come since the beginning of the semester. A little more confident now, I’m ready for the rest of the semester.
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