How to: ace multiple choice exams

Multiple choice

Multiple choice exams are the bane of my existence. I can write, even succinctly, on a million topics if I really try but something about having very black and white answers when the law isn’t black and white, is really difficult for me.

1. Time it out

I had an exam the other day that was 3 hours with 30 questions. Obviously, I had to do 10 questions in an hour to at least finish the exam. A 30 question test on Payment Systems sounds awful. But 10 questions in an hour about payment systems isn’t as bad. By timing out your exam, you can “check up” on your progress throughout the testing period. If you’re behind, it’s time to speed it up just a little while making note of potential wrong answers. If you’re ahead, you should have time in the end to go back.

2. Read carefully

Law professors like to be tricky. One of the tricks I learned freshman year of high school was to look out for key words that can eliminate wrong answers. The most obvious are “all of the following” and “none of the following” but words like “but”, “if”,  and “not” can be key words that there is more than one component to the answer.

3. Skip questions and remove answers

Unless it’s an exam that builds on the questions before it, the first thing I do is go through and determine if I know, 100% what the answer is or not. This completely goes against psychological research but works great for me. In the course of an exam, I’m likely to come across a few questions I absolutely know or can guess the correct answer just using logic. While I’m going through questions, I try to eliminate answers I know are wrong no matter what. If it’s clear a battery happened and two of the answers say no it didn’t, obviously those are wrong.

4. Take a break

Stretch, take a sip of water, or close your eyes. It’s perfectly fine to take a break for a few seconds before you move on to your next question.

5. When in doubt, use the clock method

I just had the clock method introduced to me by another 2L and it’s the funniest test taking strategy I’ve heard in a while. There are always questions that I know no matter what, I don’t know the answer to and can’t figure out what a decent answer would be. When you get to these questions, look at the second hand on an analogue clock. If it’s 1-3 the answer is A, 3-6 the answer is B, etc. Luckily, our testing rooms have a huge analogue clock with a seconds hand but if not, where’s the minute hand?

I’ve never done poorly on multiple choice. I use poorly for lack of a better word because I’ve definitely done well below what I find acceptable. Multiple choice is different than regular law school exams and different than multiple choice tests in undergrad and high school. Ultimately, the underlying success strategies are the same so when you’re stuck, figure out what you did in middle school.

Hypos

Hypos are a great way to test your knowledge on a subject. You can make up your own hypos or take fact patterns from old exams of your professor’s. Either way, learning the material and how it applies to different fact patterns is critical to surviving exams. I’ve always had a hard time keeping hypos straight in my head. When A does this to B and C sees it…..blah blah blah.

Last year, I came up with a better way to learn the material through hypos. I changed A, B, and C to Mike, Cecelia, and Sulley. Or Cinderella, Prince Charming, and Stepmother. Or Alice, Cheshire Cat, and Mad Hatter. It’s so much easier to keep track of who is doing what to someone when it’s actual people and you have a physical person to link with the person. For me, it was so much easier to learn about battery if Mike was mad at Sulley for stealing his girlfriend and he hit Sulley but almost his Cecelia instead. (battery, assault hypo). Plus, writing about a character doing something crazy is just more fun!

Happy November!

More importantly, Happy Halloweekend! Halloween is hands down my favorite holiday. Maybe it’s the pumpkins or leaves changing or absolutely PERFECT weather but I love it.

Today, full on panic mode started. We got the talk about summer internships and the whole process seems so difficult. I sat in our meeting and thought “but….but I’ve never written a CV or done cold calling for jobs…”. The whole idea of having to work really hard to get a job that I may not even end up with is scary. Plus, I don’t handle rejection overly well so I’m a little nervous that when I do get rejected from a firm (which I know I will at least once) that I’m going to freak out and not know what to do.

In addition to that, the finals crunch is starting too. I don’t feel like I’m behind in anything or there is anything I’m completely lost on. I understand most topics, or at least have the potential to if I study. I’ve never had to actually study for things before and I’ve most definitely never made outlines for tests. The whole concept of having the answers right in front of you but still struggling with an exam confuses me. I managed to do it for 3 midterms so I know what it feels like and how much of a struggle it is, but when I objectively think about it, it seems weird.

I can’t believe I’m this close to finishing my first semester of law school, and NOT failing! (or as of right now, not failing) I feel like I just moved into my apartment and was so nervous to start classes and make friends. In less than a month I get to go home again then I get a break in just over 6 weeks!