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by Mary Kate Sheridan | April 23, 2020

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Law school finals are quickly approaching, but as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, many law students will be taking exams remotely. While some may be psyched to take their Evidence exam from their beds, others may be stressed over how to successfully pull off finals from their busy—and distracting—homes. Regardless of which camp you are in, succeeding on your law school finals is high on everyone's priority list—read on for five tips to help your virtual exams go smoothly.

1. Read the fine print ahead of time.

If there is anything I learned about law school exams, it is never to wing them. You may be in the comfort of your home, but you still need to tackle exams head on—and that begins by understanding the protocol for the exams before they begin. In the days before finals, review your professors' instructions for each exam: how much time will you have, what will the format be, will outlines be permitted, how do you submit your responses, does the exam need to be completed at a specific time of day, etc. Once you understand how the exams will be executed, you can make a plan for each one, including setting aside the proper amount of time to complete the exams and preparing the materials you will need. Pay special attention to your professors guidance on the actual format of the exams so that you know what to expect when the final begins.

2. Create a do-not-disturb zone.

Setting up a space where no one will bother you during exam time is crucial. This step may be more difficult for those who live in cramped spaces or with other people—especially children who don't understand personal boundaries or exam pressure. In the days leading up to your exams, do your best to find a place in your home that will provide the optimal environment for test taking. Make sure you have comfortable seating, a good internet connection, proper lighting, and a good balance of sound for whatever your concentration needs are. Most importantly, figure out a way to notify others in your home that the space is off limits during exam time—whether via a sign, closed-door policy, schedule on the fridge, or some other way. A distraction-free atmosphere may not be reality for all in this remote-exam world—and your professors understand that—but putting in some legwork to create an optimal testing environment can go a long way.

3. Prepare like you would for an in-class exam.

This tip is probably the most important of all—prepare for your final exams just as you would if you were taking them at your law school. For starters, that means put in the same effort to study and create study aids as you would if we weren't in a pandemic situation. Don't assume the exam will be any easier just because you can take it on your futon in PJs. 

You should also prepare for the environment of the test. If you were taking the exam at school, I would advise you to wear layers, prepare snacks in advance, have any materials you need ready the night before, and plan for distractions (e.g., have ear plugs in case unexpected noises like construction work crash your exam). You should treat your at-home exam preparation the same way. Don't assume you can take time to grab a glass of water mid-exam or that your neighborhood will be construction-free on exam day.

4. Be ethical.

I hope this tip doesn't need to be said—but just in case, I will share it. Resist any temptation to bend your professors' rules on which materials you can consult during the test or how much time you can spend on the exam. Everyone is on an honor system at this point, and you won't have any proctors monitoring you. That doesn't mean you should pull out your outline if the professor has restricted it or spend an extra 15 minutes on the last question since no one is watching. Finals may look different, but how you conduct yourself as a future member of the bar should not.

5. Submit the exam properly.

I can't stress this last point enough. Unlike in-school exams, there won't be a person to collect your final test or provide instructions on how to submit it. No one will be verifying that you properly transmitted your materials. Make sure that you follow all instructions so that your test is properly saved and submitted to your professor in the form they requested. 

Months ago, you may never have dreamed that you would be IRAC-ing away from your living room. But here we are. Prepare, stay focused, and treat these exams like you would any other law school finals. Good luck!

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