November 21, 2013


November 21, 2013

We are pretty lucky here at SIU Law to have an entire week off for Thanksgiving break. With such bounty, I know there are visions of working on outlines, doing practice problems and other study related activities dancing around in your heads. If so, you are thinking about the right things, but you also need to think about how you will execute your plans. I know you all want to work hard and get things done. Here, I offer a few suggestions to help you make plans and set goals so that you get your work done and have some time to enjoy your holiday.

Before you go into the Thanksgiving break period, consider the following:


Possible tasks include
i. Updating your outlines to include all the information covered before Thanksgiving break
ii. Working practice problems
iii. Determining what questions you still have for your professor about the exam (technical and substantive)
iv. Reviewing any supplemental material (podcasts, videos, handouts) recommended by your professor or study group leader to help prepare you for exams
v. Spending time with family

– I know, it feels voluminous and like it will never end, but take it one course at a time.
Think realistically about the amount of time it will take you to get your outline updated for a particular course and allot the appropriate amount of time to the task.

For instance, if you are several weeks behind on your Torts outline, but you just need to add one week of material to your Contracts outline, then spend more time on the Torts outline than the Contracts outline.

Also, if there are courses you are having trouble understanding, you should plan to spend time reworking your outline and working practice problems so that you broaden your understanding or at least determine what questions you need answered to broaden your understanding.

While outlining, if you feel like you are getting stuck or that you are not making enough progress on a particular course outline, move on to outlining a course you are more on track with and save that outline for last. It may be that you need to consult your professor, study group members and/or a supplement to help you to marshal the material.

If you use a supplement, don’t try to read the entire supplement. Pick the chapters that discuss the topics you are experiencing difficulty with (e.g., if you need help with future interests, pick the part of the supplement that discusses that topic).

Working Practice Questions – After your write and review your outline, work practice questions. No study is complete without working practice questions. This will help to ensure that you know the rules and that you can complete an analysis by appropriately applying the rules to the given facts. Memorizing the rules is a necessary component of study, but it is only the first step to complete and total exam preparation. A student who only memorizes the rules and who does not practice analysis (applying rules to facts) is not fully prepared for the law school exam which puts a premium on a student’s ability to analyze.

So, memorize the rules, but do also spend significant time working practice questions. This will ensure that your outlining and thus understanding is on track. After you work a question, ask yourself whether your outline and/or study process in general has helped you to answer the question appropriately. If it has, great! If it has not, then figure out where the problems are and adjust your outline or studying appropriately.

Determining what questions you still have for your professor about his/her exam (technical and substantive) – Although you want to fully update your outlines, review and do practice questions, you may also still have questions about substantive or technical matters. Start pinning those questions down. Make a list and plan to get your questions answered via email or by visiting your professor when your return.

Reviewing any material (podcasts, videos, handouts, etc.) recommended by your professor or study group leader to help prepare you for exams – If you have not done so, make sure you review any supplemental material suggested by your professor or study group leader. There may helpful information there to assist you in outlining, reviewing, memorizing, exam writing, multiple choice answering, etc.

Spending time with family/friends – It’s last on the list, but it is still very important. After all, it’s Thanksgiving! I expect you will want to spend time with your family/friends and they will certainly want to spend time with you.

If you have kept to your schedule and have kept your promises to yourself about what you want to accomplish, then don’t feel guilty about taking Thanksgiving day off to spend with your loved ones. If you feel you need the time to accomplish your tasks, then rise early enough on Thanksgiving day so you can get a few hours of studying in before the festivities begin. You’ll have to make the decision about what is appropriate for you, but making that decision is easier and less guilt ridden if you plan ahead and execute accordingly.

3. MAKE A THANKSGIVING WEEK STUDY SCHEDULE – Just like you made a schedule for attending class and studying at the beginning of the school year, make one for the Thanksgiving break. Be specific about what you will do. Do not just say "STUDY CONTRACTS." Instead, say "COMPLETE CONTRACTS OUTLINE AND WORK TWO PORBLEMS" OR COMPLETE THE ESTATES SECTION OF MY PROPERTY OUTLINE AND DO ALL OF THE CALI'S ON THAT TOPIC." This will ensure that you maximize the time you have. But, be sure to make a realistic schedule.

4. CHOOSE THE RIGHT STUDY ENVIRONMENT – If you will be in a house filled with people (or even one person who doesn’t fully get that you’re not really on vacation), then find an alternative place to study. When I was a 1L, I studied at my great aunt and uncle’s house. They never bothered me except to offer me food and drink. It was the perfect study place. If you don’t have a great aunt or uncle, try a local library or other quiet place where you can get things done.

5. TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF – A steady pace is what you want to accomplish here. Make sure you are still getting enough sleep and rest time. Use your Thanksgiving study schedule to make sure you pace yourself in accomplishing your tasks. Exams are approaching and you do not want to exhaust yourself to the point of not being able to get through the exam period. Yes, you are a law student, but you are still a human and humans function better when they get an appropriate amount of sleep and rest. I know some of you can exist on a few hours of sleep, but the stress of preparing for exams can take its toll. So, try to sleep at least eight hours a night so that you are prepared each day to tackle the tasks before you.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact Professor Johnson at

SOURCES: Alex Ruskell’s Blog: Alex Ruskell,, last visited November 16, 2011; Fall Finals Study Plan: Dennis Tonsing, Law School Academic Support Blog, last visited November 16, 2011.

Posted by Twinette at 02:38 PM | Comments (0)