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October 14, 2021

Dean's Fellow Digest Issue #33 - The Final Countdown: 24-Hours Before an Exam, A Recommended Approach

Issue: 2021-10-14

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. 


  • The Final Countdown: 24-Hours Before an Exam, A Recommended Approach

Image - Dean's Fellow Digest - Final Countdown 24 Hours Before an Exam


Whether it’s midterm or final exams, you’ve spent the entire semester here-to-date preparing for this exam. What happens in the final 24-hours[1]? Here is a sample breakdown in preparation for a remote exam (note commute time is not included) if it were to start at 9:00 a.m.

8:00 a.m.

Good Morning!

  • Shower/hygiene routine
  • Breakfast/coffee
9:00 a.m.  

Study (be specific with your study schedule, or precious hours get lost…)

  • One full practice exam, particularly if timing and/or analysis is your challenge, OR
  • Two Issue Spotting Exams (if issue spotting is more challenging for you)
12:00 p.m.                                                    


1:00 p.m.                      


  • Based on the practice exam(s) above, review information missed, particularly using a professor-provided cut sheet/rubric/sample answer, spending more time on challenging areas.
  • Describe a few difficult issues with a lay person, if possible, to solidify understanding.
4:00 p.m.


  • Make sure your ExamSoft login works, and all updates are downloaded.
  • Make list of phone numbers or emails for technical emergencies.
  • IF OPEN BOOK (note many exams this semester are closed book): Print outline(s) to use during the exam, tab major sections, highlight headings.
5:00 p.m.


  • After dinner, spend two additional hours in strategic review. This might also include a set of multiple-choice questions and review (e.g., Themis Quiz Builder). This will round out an eight-hour study day.
  • For at least an hour prior to bed, take some personal time. You should not be overworking yourself the day before an exam. Try a light workout or a simple hobby to relax your mind.
9:00 p.m.

Good Night!

  • Try to ensure a full 8 hours of sleep (unless you are used to a certain amount of sleep; then stick to your routine)
  • Instead of panicking during the night, set 73 alarms for 6:00 a.m.!
6:00 a.m.

Good Morning!

  • Shower/hygiene routine
  • Breakfast/coffee: Never take an exam on an empty stomach, even if you usually skip breakfast, to ensure optimal performance.
7:00 a.m.

Light Review/Preparation to “prime” your mind (avoid if you’re too anxious—you should not be using this time to learn new information)

  • Practice writing out a short form outline from memory (e.g. attack sheet, main rules only)
  • Review issues you missed yesterday
  • Prepare your station: water, snacks, jacket, napkins, pens, highlighters, scratch paper, laptop charger, etc.…
8:00 a.m.


  • Listen to music, meditate, or do some deep breathing if you’re anxious like me!
8:40 a.m. Use the restroom so you don’t take time away from your exam!
8:50 a.m.

Print out Exam: Make sure you take advantage of this feature, if available (Professor-specific, so find out ahead of time). This is a good time to read the fact pattern and write out all the issues you spot.

  • Additionally, ensure you read all exam instructions, including what to do if you discover a discrepancy within the exam you wish to report at the conclusion of the exam.
9:00 a.m. EXAM TIME! Trust yourself and your preparation. You’ve got this—luck has little to do with it! 


Image - Hunger Games Meme


[1] Please note that this recommended timeline may work best for a final exam schedule, where regular classes have ended for the semester. However, this information should be considered for all exams.


*About the Author:


Image - Lilian Zohrab

Lilian is a 3L Evening student who graduated from Cal State Fullerton with a B.A. in Sociology. She is currently a Dean's Fellow and is externing at the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office. She intends to complete a concentration in Criminal Law to advocate for victims of violence.

Lilian has worked full-time throughout most of her academic career, so she knows what it feels like to have a busy schedule. She is excited to help you work through your busy schedule, as well. Lilian looks forward to being a resource for you as you dive into your Southwestern experience.



Southwestern Law School Dean's Fellows | Scheduling and Booking Website

Dean’s Fellows are upper-division students with strong academic skills who go through a rigorous application and training process. They are an integral part of the Academic Success and Bar Preparation Department. They are carefully selected based on their academic excellence and ability to teach other students best-practice study methods that will help them become acclimated to the study of law. Dean’s Fellows meet with students as academic mentors.

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