Sometimes the little things can really add up. Many new law students believe that all they’ll need to be successful is a great course outline and a few days to cram before the test. In fact, the most successful students are the ones who put forth consistent effort throughout the semester, often in seemingly small ways. So while a great course outline (made by you of course) is definitely a must-have for finals, there are many other important steps you need to take along the way in order to be prepared for exams. One of those important steps is to seek clarification on any confusing topics right away.

It seems like a little thing, but frequently checking in with yourself to determine if you really understand new topics – and getting help when you don’t – can make a big difference at the end of the semester. Law school classes move quickly and you may cover several new concepts each week. The majority of these concepts will build on each other so that if you don’t fully comprehend what you learned in week one, you’ll likely have trouble understanding the details of what you’re covering in week twelve. Students who don’t honestly assess their understanding of the material on a regular basis almost always end up confused, overwhelmed, and behind schedule during the reading week, by which time it’s too late to get caught up.

Fortunately, there’s a simple way to prevent this scenario: never walk away confused or unsure about a concept. After every single class, take a couple of minutes to review your notes and make sure you understand both the sub-topic covered during the particular lecture and how that sub-topic fits into the larger structure of the course. If you are not completely confident that you understand the material, you have to take the time to teach yourself the law before the next class.

Law school success requires independent learning and the onus is on you to learn the material. To help clarify confusing subjects, start by going over your class notes and reading materials. If you’re still struggling, refer to a reliable hornbook or supplement to get another explanation of the concept. If that hasn’t resolved your confusion, reach out to one of the many people who are here to help you – get in touch with your study group members, visit your professor during office hours, or come visit us in Suite 315.

If you simply go through the motions in each class without assessing your comprehension or appreciating the bigger picture, you’ll likely end up missing important details and connections. But, if you consistently understand the details of each concept and how the concepts relate to each other, you will be able to create a useful outline throughout the semester that will leave you feeling prepared and confident going into finals week. The little things can add up, so make a point to never walk away confused or unsure about a topic, and you’ll be getting this semester off to a good start.