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How to Get Top Grades????

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To add to the great advice in this thread so far, here's my take on how to prep for exam courses.

First, if you know you haven't gotten top grades so far, do your readings. At least make note of the facts of each case so you can understand every class. Sometimes in the last 1/2 to 1/3 of the semester, start outlining. I recommend outlining with friends, as that worked for me, but it's all personal preference. When you outline something and you're a little confused, make a comment on the document about what your question is. Do this even if it's not a question, even just an area that you didn't fully understand while you were outlining. I prefer super short outlines because it forces you to include only what you need and no extraneous case summaries and the like. I've seen so many people make 100+ page outlines just to use 1% of it and spend time scrambling to find out what they need in the doc during the exam. 

When you're done outlining, go to the professor's office hours and ask them all of the questions from the comments that you made on your outline. Talk through the concepts that feel weird and ask how they actually apply. In the last few days before the exam, do past exams from the same course for practice. Actually sit down and do a 3h practice exam. If you're able, compare them to available answers. I know my law student government keeps a bank of past exam answers (with the grade that was given) and I'm sure some others do too. See if you missed any issues when you did the practice exam by comparing it to these exam answers. When you miss a relevant issue in a practice exam and you realize it after the fact, I guarantee you your likelihood of missing the same issue on the actual exam is far lower. 

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To somewhat contrast with Notnotadog, I run a hybrid system in my CANs. I make a relatively long CAN where the class notes are re-organized and cut down as needed, I make a smaller "framework" for each section of the CANs, and I make a smaller overall "framework" CAN. My CAN for securities last semester was 300 pages, my notes were only 270, so not really condensed (I deem them "ANs"). I found that this gave me a way of being able to quickly reference what I needed, but also to delve further in-depth (if necessary) without going through my disorganized and lengthy class notes. 

I also highly recommend doing all the readings (this is going to sound arrogant, but I haven't missed a reading yet) and to start on CANs early. I've improved the most by being to do practice exams before the exam. Finishing my CANs, while useful as a study tool, does not cement it all for me and I often find myself realizing I misunderstood something or that there was a piece missing. 

It is also super beneficial to talk to the professor along the way and ask questions. I probably ask 10 questions a week overall, was even more when things were in-person. My grades in first year were top 5% (81.3%) and my last semester was 78.7%. 

 

With that said, while I work my ass off all day, it is good to take a break. I would go out every Friday (and often Saturday) and have a few beers and some wings. What I didn't do was get shit-faced and lose a weekend. 

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It's crazy how wildly different people's experiences are. The above sounds like an absolute nightmare to me and was not at all how I approached law school or studying.

Some classes I made my own notes but others I took an existing summary and just supplemented as the class went on. Occasionally condensed them but not all that much. But 300 pages of notes and all the readings sounds like so much overkill.

Past 1L I spent more time playing COD and Skyrim than I did studying and did roughly as well.

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14 hours ago, Rashabon said:

It's crazy how wildly different people's experiences are. The above sounds like an absolute nightmare to me and was not at all how I approached law school or studying.

Some classes I made my own notes but others I took an existing summary and just supplemented as the class went on. Occasionally condensed them but not all that much. But 300 pages of notes and all the readings sounds like so much overkill.

Past 1L I spent more time playing COD and Skyrim than I did studying and did roughly as well.

Oh, it's 100% overkill. I didn't get the best grades in undergrad and I am definitely a case of overstudying. I just would rather overstudy than understudy because I lost years due to my bad grades. The hope was that if I got a job I would relax a little, but I struck out and so, back to doing too much work lol. 

With that said, you're right, everyone is different. My buddy plays Madden and has a beer or two every night and got slightly better grades than me. 

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A lot of solid advice already on here, but I thought I'd offer my 2 cents. Immerse yourself in the material. The more interesting you find it, the better you'll do. Imbibe it. There are a few different attitudes that I think kill people's ability to learn. One is cynicism. Cynicism is a form of intellectual laziness. The cynic thinks that all judicial reasoning is arbitrary and inconsistent. People are cynical when they're too lazy (or unable, I suppose) to find the consistencies. Obviously, there are inconsistencies, but the law is fairly consistent (whether it's consistently "right" is another story). The second attitude is that of the "critic," for lack of a better word. This attitude is related to cynicism, but differs in important ways. The critic doesn't necessarily think that the law is arbitrary, but she does think that the law is inherently oppressive, power-driven, etc. The critic is always looking to find "injustices" in the law. Of course, critical attitudes are important. They "check" the law. But it's not an attitude particularly conducive to learning. If you're too critical right off the bat, then you're unlikely to have an open mind towards the subject, and thereby less likely to understand the law from the law's perspective. I say, be critical, but learn the law and its internal justifications first. Not to mention, it's hard to be critical (in any kind of productive way) of something that you don't already understand.

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2 hours ago, HappyJDStudent said:

The more interesting you find it, the better you'll do.

This is very true. I used to always walk home after class (25 minutes or so) and use that time to think over the material and how I felt about each case. I think that really gave me an advantage, especially in 1L, since that walking time kept the material in my head in a non-superficial way.

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Posted (edited)
On 3/24/2021 at 7:12 AM, OMS said:

This. How does one get over the fear of talking to teachers when you're behind and struggling with their class??? Especially when the students crowding them all seem to be so on top of everything. 

I teach in a post-secondary institution (not a law school). So, two points:

  1. One of the most frustrating things for me is that the majority of students accepting my offer of help in the form of office hours (amongst other things) tend to be the ones who least need it. 
  2. One of the things I love most is when the students who really do need it show up and ask for help. And I love watching the lightbulbs go on over their heads as they start to understand a difficult concept. Makes it all worthwhile—for both of us, I hope. 

Yes, you will encounter impatient profs who aren't great teachers. But I predict they will be a small minority. Most are there to teach law students

I'm willing to bet that the great majority of them will work with you, starting from where you are, and be more than happy to do so. 

Edited by GreyDude
I said "majority" when I meant "minority." Oops.
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4 minutes ago, GreyDude said:

Yes, you will encounter impatient profs who aren't great teachers. But I predict they will be a small minority. Most are there to teach law students.

Most of them are there to hide from reality, collect extortionate tuition fees and engage in absurdly useless vanity projects.

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Just now, Eeee said:

Most of them are there to hide from reality, collect extortionate tuition fees and engage in absurdly useless vanity projects.

Eek. You and I have very different perspectives. 

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Just now, GreyDude said:

Eek. You and I have very different perspectives. 

What informs your perspective?

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Eeee said:

What informs your perspective?

I teach in a post-secondary institution, and OP's reasons for being nervous about office hours sounds like a lot of my students' reasons for not attending mine. I want to encourage OP to accept the invitation of office hours and assume that their professors will generally be pleased to help them to understand the material. 

 

Edited by GreyDude
Reworded the reply to aim it at OP.
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Posted (edited)

One thing that really made a difference for me was putting extra effort into trying to make my writing as clear as possible. Even if you are/consider yourself a strong writer, it's always good to triple-check and make your submission as easy to read as possible.

Think point-first writing, roadmaps and signposting, and use of headings as much as possible where time and space permit. Like Justice Nakatsuru. Focusing on this literally took my assignments to the next (letter grade) level. I imagine they also helped for exams (no detailed feedback there, but I did much better on exams where I took extra time to focus on clarity).

For some courses, prepping "canned" answers before an exam might help. Really depends on the course + professor.

:)

Edited by iamcold
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On 3/24/2021 at 7:17 PM, canuckfanatic said:

I played to my strengths. I'm a very strong writer so I took as many paper-based courses as possible. I averaged around a B on exam-based courses and around an A- on paper-based ones.

Hi Canuckfanatic- I know this is an older thread but I wonder if I could PM you about course selection at TRU? I am a stronger writer than I am exam taker so your comment is very reassuring to me as an incoming 1L at TRU lol. 

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54 minutes ago, daniellemree said:

Hi Canuckfanatic- I know this is an older thread but I wonder if I could PM you about course selection at TRU? I am a stronger writer than I am exam taker so your comment is very reassuring to me as an incoming 1L at TRU lol. 

Absolutely

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Posted (edited)
On 3/24/2021 at 11:54 PM, WindsorHopeful said:

Honestly I think the strategy which really helped me achieve good grades was to create charts for each exam and complete pre-writes for obvious topics. For the charts, I used excel and just included the case name in one column and the ratio in the column next to the case name. This helps so much for fact patterns since it allows for the rules to be easily identified. However, the use of the ratios really depends on your ability to identify issues in the fact pattern and apply the ratios properly. 

Pre-writes aren't for everyone but I find them very helpful. For most classes, I write out how I would use the ratios in paragraph form (for obvious topics, like negligence in torts and adverse possession in property). I've barely ever used the pre-write in whole form, but they are so helpful to introduce a issue/ratio before going into the question-specific analysis. 

I average a solid A in long answer exams, with my average being dragged down by terrible multiple choice based courses 😅

Can you please give an example of how to do this? It sounds interesting.

Edited by humbledman
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