Law students are very fortunate. They are able to tailor class schedules to suit sleep preferences, work out in the middle of the day and study wherever there’s wireless Internet. Still, there’s one season law students loathe the most: exam season. Stress, anxiety and panic attacks are all very realistic consequences that students face at this time in the semester. Often, a student’s entire grade comes down to a two-and-a-half hour exam — the pressure is undeniable.
One comfort: We are all in this together. This month, I sat down with four law students to get an idea of how they get through exams. I asked them to share any habits or tricks they’ve developed to alleviate (some) stress and ensure a more successful season. Here are their stories.
“What I've learned is to treat exams no different than school. I am diligent with taking care of my mind and my body. It's the key to my happiness. I eat well, sleep well and work out. These healthy habits help my brain function optimally. I refuse to sacrifice any one of those things for an extra hour (or three) of studying. The return on investment is not worth the risk of losing hours of productivity tomorrow. I make time for the gym and sleep seven hours per night. I know that I can get up the next morning, waste no time and be ready to study again within an hour of waking up. More, I make sure to prepare healthy meals a few days in advance. It may take an hour out of my study time but saves me many more hours in disorganized cooking time the rest of the week.”
“I always take at least a day to practise under exam-like conditions. I find it incredibly helpful to set a stop watch, use old exams or find hypothetical questions on the Internet and write like I would during the actual exam. It helps me identify what areas of the course I have trouble understanding, get to know where particular information is in my notes and puts me in the mindset of exam writing and not just studying. This will help to ease some anxiety on the actual date of the exam. I have also discovered that I need to do this a couple of days before the exam. If there are any major issues, I have enough time to work through them or seek help from the professor.”
“I am a bit of a night owl, so in order to perform well on exams I try to establish a routine when it comes to studying. If my exam is at 9 in the morning, I wake up every day in the weeks leading up around 8 a.m. and make sure I am prepped and ready to study by 9. This helps to alleviate some of the ‘morning of’ exam tiredness. Also, I find that helps me to ask for help if I am unsure of the material. Do not be afraid to reach out to your professors and ask questions! Generally, they can offer great advice and most will take the time to explain things to you. This way, when you are writing an exam, you have a better idea of the depth of knowledge that the professor is expecting.”
“I am a big believer in study groups. I find I learn best by talking through the material. I discovered this style in first year, and now, in second year, it is the only way I retain information. What is crucial about this method is finding the perfect amount of people who are all willing to work well and hard together. This year, I’ve been meeting with three other students during the exam period. We set a few goals for the study session being sure to allot an amount of time to each one. Once we’ve done a run-through of the material, we take turns quizzing one another. If someone is stuck on a particular issue, we take the time to bring that member up to speed. It took me a while to find the right group of people, but I am so glad I took the time.”
My four colleagues show how every student manages their time, and prioritizes their studies, differently. Harry knows if he sacrifices his health and fitness, his work will suffer in the long run. Janice and Carmel have discovered study habits that best prepare them for the specific conditions of exams. Jake has developed a learning style that calls on teamwork. Be sure to do what works for you, but know that there are many techniques to try and, in the end, do not be afraid to ask for help from friends, academic advisors and professors — they will be there for you.
Good luck with exams and have a wonderful holiday!