6.4 – Building a Study Schedule


Building a Study Schedule

Working backwards from exam date to build study schedule

As we start thinking about how to prep for your exams, I think one thing you could do that would pay a lot of dividends is to design a study schedule, build out a calendar. Here's what I'm really envisioning. Ideally, at the very beginning of the semester, you will look ahead at the exam calendar and you will note, "Okay, it looks like I have contracts on December 5th, torts on December 8th, and criminal law on December 11th. Classes end on November 30th." You'll block out that calendar. You're going to figure out these are the days, you're going to work backwards from the date of the exam and figure out which days am I going to be studying for which class so that they're roughly equally divided so that you don't spend your entire prep time getting ready for your last exam and you're not ready for the earlier ones or vice versa.

Different calendars look different. Some schools have more of what's called a reading period, where there's a longer period in between the end of classes and when exams start. Some schools have less of that. When I was a law student, we actually didn't have exams until after the winter vacation. Classes ended in December and you had nearly a month before exams started, so it was a lot of time to study. Most schools have moved away from schedules like that, but usually, there's at least a few days. You want to say, "Okay, these are as many days as I have after which classes end and when exams start, and I want to block them out." You're also going to want to integrate this with your outlining.

In a perfect world, you would say, "Okay, I'm going to have at least three study days for each exam after I've already finished my outline." That can be hard. That can be easier if you have a much longer reading period, but it'll give you some deadlines. You'll look at it and you'll think, okay, maybe three days is impossible. Maybe two days or even one day is what it has to be, depending on your schedule, but you're going to know, "I have to have finished my outline by this time." You're going to know that early on, and it's going to give you some things to focus on and some kind of benchmark so you can make sure that you’re on track.

Now, I also want to tell you it's okay if you can't keep this perfectly. This is hard. There will be times where you realize you didn't quite meet your schedule and you're going to have to make some adjustments. That's okay. Some of the stuff is going to take longer than you expect it to. If that happens, though, you need to not just panic. You need to sit down and say, "Okay, how does this change my plan? It's going to take me an extra day to outline. How is that day going to come out of my study schedule? Which class is going to get a little bit of shorter shrift?" Because, again, you need to balance it out.

You don't want to be in a situation where you put all of your efforts towards studying for one exam and you haven't even thought about how you're going to get ready for the other two. You want to not save all your studying for your second, third, or even fourth exams until the brief period in between the exams. You want to be doing some work along the way so that you can quickly pivot from one to the other and be ready to jump back into studying and not trying to do everything all at once. I know this seems challenging and I'm asking a lot, but again, I do think this is going to pay dividends.

I'll also say that this matters a lot maybe your first time through your 1L year. Each subsequent semester, you will probably figure out that you need less and less time to get ready for any given exam, but at the beginning, block out as much time as you can, do your absolute best to be disciplined, hold yourself to deadlines, try to make progress on outlining over the course of the semester. It's just going to make it that much easier for you.

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