SWLAW Blog | Dean's Fellow Digest

Dean's Fellow Digest #8

April 27, 2020

Dean's Fellow Digest Issue #9 - Maximizing Your Reading Period Schedule

Issue: 2020-09

Dean's Fellows consistently strive to support students in realizing their full academic potential, leading ultimately to success on the bar exam and in the workplace. To support all Southwestern students in this goal, the Dean's Fellows created this Digest as a way to check-in at critical times throughout the semester with helpful tips, strategies, and encouragement. 


  • Maximizing Your Reading Period Schedule

Maximizing Your Reading Period Schedule
By: Katherine Vazquez*

Image - SW students studying

Reading Period is here! Below I share some tips I use to maximize my time during Reading Period.

Create a Schedule

I start by creating a schedule. Ideally, I would have this schedule ready before reading period starts, but if you haven’t created one, it’s not too late.

In that schedule, I include time for outlines, practice exams, multiple-choice questions, and office hours. Below is one example:

Monday, April 27, 2020:

  • 9:00 am: Condense Civil Procedure outline (e.g. remove superfluous explanations and lengthier wording to create a more paired down, concise learning tool that demonstrates a high-level knowledge of the subject at the end of the semester).
  • 11:30 am: Complete Civil Procedure 2017 and 2018 practice exams under timed conditions. Review provided cut-sheets in conjunction with my answer.
  • 3:00 pm: Complete 20 Civil Procedure multiple choice questions in Themis Quiz Builder on the topics/issues I am struggling with (weaker issues may also stem from completing practice exams).
  • From 4:00 pm – 6:00 pm: Civil Procedure office hours—ask questions stemming from practice exams and multiple-choice questions (have a list of questions ready prior to attending office hours).

Why are schedules important? Schedules provide structure to your day. Structuring your day is important because you have limited time to study, and without structure, you may lose track of that valuable time.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Your professors have probably provided you with more than a handful of practice exams.

You may feel overwhelmed by the amount of practice exams. One way to tackle practice exams is to start by writing out completely 1-2 exams untimed, open outline. Then, fold in timed practice, using your outline in the manner that you intend to do so on the final exam. Use additional practice exams for issue spotting practice and argue/analyze the exam out loud instead of writing it. This uses your time effectively while also testing your knowledge.

After completing a practice exam, check your response. Take a look at what you missed and why you missed it. Similarly, after completing multiple-choice questions, check your answers regardless of whether you got the question right or wrong. Go through each possible answer and talk yourself through why the right answer is right and why the wrong answer choices are wrong.

Why is practice important? Practice tests our knowledge and understanding. Simply reading your outline is passive and not an effective study strategy when dealing with an exam where our knowledge must be applied. Practice also allows you to think through the issues.

Office Hours

Your professors will give you a schedule of (remote) office hours during reading period. I usually have that schedule written down on a separate piece of paper so that I am not scrambling or forgetting when a professor will be available for my questions.

While I am working on my outline or practice exams/multiple-choice questions, I write my questions as they arise on a separate piece of paper.  Sometimes, my own notes or the professor’s PowerPoint presentations will answer my question. If so, I scratch out that question from my list. Any unanswered questions I address in office hours.

Image - Balance studyingWell-being

Lastly, your well-being during this time is crucial. Get plenty of sleep, eat healthy, and minimize stress. Your well-being should be a priority since your performance can be affected if you are sleep deprived or stressed.




Dean’s Fellows share their tips:

Image - quick tips

1. Study Tips for Remote Finals

Law school finals are difficult under ideal circumstances. While we all adjust to working from home, I suggest using the reading period at home the same way you would at school.  For instance, if you have a study partner or group that keeps you accountable for practicing essays, schedule a zoom call where you can all work independently, but bounce questions off of each other.  If you work best alone, schedule your study days and which courses you will be focusing on, and keep that schedule.

Stay focused, take little breaks, and when you do, repeat to yourself out loud what you just reviewed to help with memorization. Although we are all going to have open books and open notes, if you've attempted any practice exams from home, you'll realize that having a bunch of unorganized sources won't get your exam written. You still need to finish your outlines. Creating attack outlines that are set up to help you answer a specific issue spotted on your exam will also help you, so you know exactly what you need to write in order to complete the analysis.

If you have a printer, I've found that having my outlines and attack sheets next to me while doing practice exams has been extremely helpful. And if you don't have a printer and need help purchasing one, there is a new emergency relief fund at school that you can apply for to get financial help to purchase these necessities. Be kind to yourself at this time but also keep yourself accountable. Write down a to-do list for the day and don't allow yourself to deviate from it until the tasks you deem essential on your schedule are complete. Good luck, all. You've got this. 

- Haley Pollock, ‘21

2. Set Goals and Organize Your Day

Set a goal for how many hours you want to work (study) each day. For me, I aim to start at 9 am, but no later than 10 am. And when I say start, I mean notes are out, headphones are in, and I’m studying. The time before 10 am is used to set up my study space for the day. I usually wrap up the day around 10 pm and schedule in 1 hour for lunch and a few other planned breaks.

Set a goal for the number of practice exams to complete for each course and schedule in time each day to complete them, but also schedule time to review them once you are done writing!

Create a routine and tell someone about it who will hold you accountable! Especially now that we are working from home, accountability is a big deal for me. (Join our Friday Silent Study Halls on Zoom if you want a Community feel!)

- Samantha Dennis, ‘21

3. Friendly Reminders to Friends and Family

Give your close friends and family a kind but stern reminder that you will be MIA and working on your own time for the next couple of weeks. Tell them to please be patient with you and give you space. 

- Abraham Bran, ‘21

4. Reading Period Tips

Stay off your phone. Remove as many distractions as possible —start by turning on “do not disturb” and checking your notifications once an hour. Allowing little distractions to pop up while you’re working disrupts your learning! It all adds up.

Get your hands on the material. Don’t just study with your eyes. Actively learn by writing, drawing out concepts, etc. If you’re simply re-reading, you’re passively learning—and trust me, you won’t retain as much.

-Jessica Bulaon, ‘21

Good Luck with Finals!

*About the Author:


Image - Katherine Vazquez 1Katherine Vazquez is a 2L traditional day student. Before law school, Katherine interned with the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office in the Post-Conviction Litigation and Discovery Unit.

Last year, Katherine externed at the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. She was also a law clerk in the Removal Defense Clinic. This summer 2020, Katherine will be an extern at the Office of Legislative Counsel in Sacramento.

In addition to serving as a Dean’s Fellow, Katherine is a Staff Editor for the Southwestern Journal of International Law and a Contributing Editor for Litigation News, a publication of the American Bar Association’s Section of Litigation.

In her free time, Katherine likes to hang out at the beach with her friends and dogs, Django and Jami.

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