December 12, 2003

Two Down

Torts. Three and a half hours. Even longer than contracts.

So, studying took priority over blogging for the last few days. Tuesday, H and I boiled our outlines down to the two-sided page of notes that we were allowed to bring to the exam. Turns out this two pages of notes thing was a bit of a farce for two reasons:

1. In order to finish the exam you had to know the material cold and be a very speedy typist. There was very little time to consult your notes, so spending an entire day constructing the cheat sheet of perfection was a bit of a waste of time, in hindsight.

2. We covered way too much in Torts to fit all of the relevant material on two pages. I say this despite the fact that I used crazy MS-Word-Foo and got 3 columns in 6.5 font with margins of 0.2 on all four sides for both pages. After removing so many useful things and staring at the page trying to decide what else could go before it fit on 2 pages, I realized that the two page notes trick was the professor's way of trying to get you to memorize the important stuff. There are easier ways to memorize...sheesh. So, at the end, you have most of it memorized and the stuff that would be really useful on the exam are the random analyses by dissenting judges, elements of minority opinions, etc. that you could pull-out in policy arguments. But, of course, that stuff didn't make it through the filter of importance to earn a spot on the 2-pager. So, basically, it's a security blanket unless you are so confident that you can fill it with random shit that may come in useful. I'm not that cocky.

Wednesday, H and I cranked through a few practice exams and read the model answers. From them, we determined that there's a pretty high reward for pull-it-out-of-your-ass arguments. The more novel and crack-potted, the more likely they are to keep the professor interested as they are grading their 85th essay. Turns out an engineering degree is a bad thing in these cases. It doesn't occur to me that I should develop a theory about explosions, crashes, etc. that goes against the laws of physics. Thankfully, there were no speculation about destruction questions on the exam.

So, I barely used the notes. And, I barely finished. The proctor called time when I was halfway through spell-check. Turns out I don't know how to spell "forseeability", [laugh] oh well. It's halfway correct and halfway not.

Overall, I was a little disappointed in the exam and my performance. It definitely covered more material in two questions than any of the prof's earlier exams did. I believe I identified most of the issues, and I did my best to analyze the important ones. But, there were too many important issues and not enough time to analyze them all. None of her practice exams had dealt with this problem and I didn't know if it was worth it to point out that I saw the issues I didn't have time to get to, or if I shouldn't bother unless I had time to also analyze them. In the end, I had to make some concessions for speed: I took the two sentence approach. One for "here's an issue" and a follow up of "the facts indicate blah-blah-blah, which leads to a insert-case-here-style approach where result will be the outcome. Or something like that.

I'm disappointed because there was too much to do and in the real world, I would have done it all. On the exam, I had to pick the best few issues to address fully and then use the time left to briefly touch on the others. I did all the basic stuff like sticking to the time allotment for the first question despite it's length, and taking one-third of the time to outline my answers before I started writing. But, the outlines identified WAY more material than I could write about in the remaining two-thirds of the exam. I did my best to rank them in order of importance and just go. I guess I'm a little disappointed because when you are so pressed for time that you don't have time to think, it becomes a game of instincts, and not necessarily a test of your knowledge or ability to communicate it. I guess I can hope my instincts were correct. I have to accept that law school sometimes grades on things like test-taking strategy and instinct instead of understanding, and move on.

Because Hey, I finished my first law school class. I spent the remainder of yesterday giving my brain a much needed break. Some of us went out for lunch and drinks after the exam, we avoided discussing the exam as if it was the plague, then I lounged on a couch watching H's built up TiVo collection (Cold Case Files, Law and Order, QueerEye), read some of the Economist, and finally, went out for dinner with E. Italian food, wine, and early to bed.

This morning, I woke refreshed for the first time in at least 3 days. I slept for 11 hours. I can't believe how physically exhausting this extended learning process is. But, Property is over in a scant 3 days. So, I'm off to make yet another 2-page condensed sheet of ridiculousness.

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