Finals advice from your new Academic Achievement team

Your new Academic Achievement team consists of Imran Malik, Assistant Director of Academic Achievement, and Kiyana Kiel, Assistant Dean of Academic Achievement. Both of them started working at Cal Western over the summer.

Luda Malik
Cute puppy alert: Prof. Malik’s dog, Luda

Prof. Malik grew up in the suburbs of Houston, Texas, where he did his best to avoid the sweltering heat. Determined to live somewhere with snow, Prof. Malik attended Pennsylvania State University for undergrad where he graduated with a BA in Political Science and a BA in History with a minor in Middle Eastern Studies. After a couple of years advocating for policy change at think-tanks and working for Congress in D.C., he moved to the West Coast to attend law school at Seattle University. After law school, he moved to San Francisco to work for Kaplan Bar Review, and most recently he worked as an Academic Director of Academic Support Programs at another law school. Prof. Malik is a political junkie, regularly practices yoga, and has been a vegetarian since high school. He is also very happy to show you a picture of his little puppy named Luda.

Dean Kiel earned her undergraduate degree in American Literature & Culture from UCLA and her law degree from UC Berkeley. Her prior law school administration experience includes working as Director of Academic Success and Bar Programs at University of San Diego School of Law. In addition to working in legal education, she also has worked as an attorney, focusing on real estate, land use, and environmental transactions. Her passion for environmental law stems from her upbringing on her family farm in Compton, California, where she grew up riding horses, climbing avocado trees, and collecting eggs from the chicken coop.

Here’s the advice Prof. Malik and Dean Kiel have for finals prep:

With final exams rapidly approaching, here are seven tips to keep in mind as you prepare. Remember, you are building the skills necessary for consistent success on both law school and bar exams.

1. Plan accordingly.

How many days are left until your first exam? How many more cases do you have left to read/brief? Is your legal memo completed? At this point in the trimester, you should be able to create a reasonably short to-do list with all your remaining tasks in the trimester. Prioritize your time and cross off each task as you complete it. This will help create a sense of accomplishment and incentivize you to continue being productive with your time.

2. Use your tutors.

Do you know who understands how stressful 1L finals are? Large group tutors! It wasn’t so long ago that your tutors were 1Ls struggling to master these concepts themselves. Learn from their experience and draw from their expertise. Tutors are an invaluable resource to help understand the material, the expectations of the professor, and how to achieve the grade you want.

3. Take practice exams.

Practice makes perfect, and law school exams are no exception. Law schools exams are uniquely difficult given the length of exams, amount of knowledge required to pass, and the fact that exams count for such a large percentage of your grade (in some cases, even 100%!!). One critical mistake on the exam can ruin your chances for an A in that course. With so much on the line, you want to make sure the first time you concentrate and write legal analysis is in a practice setting, not the actual exam.

Practice exams create low-stakes opportunities to work through your mistakes so that your actual exam is as accurate and detailed as possible. You deepen your knowledge of substantive law and how to apply it more by doing practice exams than from reviewing rules and cases multiple times. Because of this, it is essential to engage in practice, even when you feel you “do not know enough” to take a practice exam. As Michael Scott said quoting Wayne Gretzky: “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

4. Request and review feedback.

Now that you have completed practice exams, it is essential to receive feedback on them! Without review, you are: 1) unaware of the accuracy of your practice exam, 2) unlikely to correct mistakes, and 3) unlikely to develop a deeper, more meaningful understanding of the rules and their application to varying factual scenarios. Although it can be difficult to receive constructive criticism, it is absolutely imperative that you review in order to resolve any misunderstandings of the law.

5. Remember, outlining is a verb, not a noun.

In order to score well, a law school exam requires you to analyze the hypothetical by applying the rules, not simply reciting the rules. That’s why the act of creating your own outline is important, because it helps you synthesize the material and ensures you can explain the concepts in your own words. If you rely on someone else’s outline, you may have the correct information memorized, but will have no experience applying those rules, and that will be obvious to the professors grading your exam.

6. Stay focused and stick to your routine.

It is important for both your preparation time and your exam day to maintain your focus. While preparing for your exam, take regular breaks to keep your focus and energy levels high. I recommend a 5-10 minute break for every hour spent studying. Additionally, you need to stick to the routine/habits that got you through the trimester. If you work out every day, keep that routine going. If you’ve been waking up at 6 a.m. to study, don’t stop now. Don’t try to start a new diet or make any kind of radical change to your habits until after finals. This will help keep you as comfortable as possible during the process and allow you to focus on your studies.

7. Prepare for exam day.

Pump yourself up! This is your moment to shine! Wake up early, eat breakfast, and arrive early to the test location to get your preferred seat. You want to make sure that you are ready for the exam at least 15 minutes prior to avoid any parking mishaps, computer issues, etc.  I also recommend an exam day playlist, something upbeat that gets you motivated for the moment.

While most students dread exams, high-performing students understand that exams are the culmination of all their hard work throughout the trimester. Students who succeed see the exams as an opportunity to shine, prove their understanding of the doctrine, and finally earn that well deserved “A.” Remember, exams are only scary if you are unprepared or underprepared.

Follow the tips listed in this article, keep up the hard work, and do your best on your exams! Good luck!!

For Academic Achievement resources, contact Prof. Malik at or Dean Kiel at

Leave a Reply